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Good Thursday TV Coverage of the Kindle Lawsuit

July 3, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

At around 4:00 Thursday afternoon, I was contacted by Melissa Blasius with Channel 12 News in Phoenix and asked if I could be available at 5:30 to be interviewed for a story that would run on the 10:00 newscast. I discovered I could prepare myself and make the necessary transportation arrangements for this sort of work within one hour after receiving the request.

You may now watch the video of the story on the 10:00 evening news. An article was also written based on this story, though its text is significantly different from the dialogue on the newscast. A copy of the article’s text is provided for easy accessibility.

My thanks go to Chris Skarstad (Toonhead) and CathyAnne Murtha of the Access Technology Institute for their vital assistance making it possible to bring to all of you a direct link to the video despite accessibility issues with the 12 News web site.

Lawsuit says ASU discriminates by using e-books

by Melissa Blasius – Jul. 2, 2009 11:13 PM

12 News

A journalism student has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Arizona State University.

Darrell Shandrow, a junior, wants the university to delay a pilot program for electronic textbooks and readers called Kindles. He says the devices, made by Amazon, are impossible to use by visually-impaired people.

Sandrow, who is blind, says Kindles have a text-to-audio function that can read the books out loud, but he claims on-screen menus have no audio functions. That means he could never navigate to page one. Blind students would have to continue ordering specialty texts in braille or audio formats, and those books can take months to arrive.

Shandrow said, “Asking us to continue on as we’re going is like saying to sighted students you are climbing on to jet age with your e-books, but blind students still need to use the horse and buggy.”

The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which claims ASU’s use of Kindles would put blind students on unequal footing.

An ASU spokesman sent a response to 12 News. It said Kindles would be used “for a single course where students may also access traditional textbooks.”

In the statement, Spokesman Virgil Renzulli also said all campuses have Disability Resource Centers “providing the necessary tools so that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuits.”

Categories: accessibility, Kindle, lawsuit, news, TV

Positive TV News Coverage of the Kindle Lawsuit Against ASU

July 1, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Shortly after 9:00 Tuesday morning, I was contacted by Tim Vetscher with Channel 15, a local ABC affiliate in Phoenix, and asked to participate in a story on the Kindle lawsuit. He picked me up at 10:15 and we went to a nearby bar-restaurant establishment called Four Peaks Brewry, where he and Toby Phillips, a senior broadcast journalism major at the Cronkite School, talked with me for almost 45 minutes. The interview included a demonstration of Braille reading and accessible technology, part of which made it into the TV story.

After viewing the story, Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Nice job on this. I see that they didn’t get the nuance that books can be read aloud by the Kindle DX; it’s the navigation that’s not accessible. Still, I think we got our point across.”

The story ran on the 6:00 evening newscast. I am happy to report that you can now watch the video or read the transcript below.

Reported by: Tim Vetscher


Darrell Shandrow, a junior at ASU, is suing the university over its use of the Amazon Kindle for textbooks. (Tim Vetscher)

TEMPE, AZ — A student at Arizona State University is suing the school over a new electronic textbook reader.

Junior Darrell Shandrow calls ASU’s new pilot program to use the Amazon Kindle e-book reader in some classes this fall discrimination.

“I believe it’s important for blind and visually impaired people to have the same opportunity to participate the sighted already enjoy,” said Shandrow.

Even though he can’t see, Shandrow doesn’t shy away from technology.

Thanks to a screen reading program, Shandrow uses a labtop computer that talks to him and tells him what’s on the screen.

That kind of accessibility, Shandrow says, helps him to attend ASU, where he’s a junior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When ASU announced plans to begin using the Amazon Kindle as a textbook reader, Shandrow immediately had concerns.

“It’s saying we’re giving sighted students a new avenue for reading but we’re not granting the same facility to blind and visually impaired students,”
said Shandrow.

Shandrow claims the Kindle lacks text-to-speech technology and therefore makes it accessible only to sighted students.

So Shandrow filed a lawsuit against ASU hoping to stop the use of the Kindle.

“We want the pilot program, we just want it to be accessible,” said Shandrow.

An ASU spokesperson released the following statement to ABC15: “Arizona State University is committed to equal access for all students. Disability Resource Centers are located on all ASU campuses. The Centers enable students to establish eligibility and obtain services and accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. These efforts are focused on providing the necessary tools so that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuits.”

“I feel the need for equal accessibility, that is to have an accessible Kindle reading device and accessible books, is a civil right,” said Shandrow.

Amazon claims to be working on adding navigation accessible to the blind for the Kindle.

Shandrow says until that happens, the Kindle e-book reader should be shelved.

In the interest of full disclosure, reporter Tim Vetscher is an adjunct professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Categories: accessibility, Kindle, lawsuit, news, TV