Last September, I wrote a Beneblog post: Objecting to Accessibility Weaseling, about Amazon and other ebook reader makers trying to dodge out on making their devices accessible. This is an update on that fight.
It's always been highly ironic to me that the most natural buyers of ebooks, people with disabilities that make regular print useless, are constantly blocked in getting digital content that will talk to them, show up enlarged or in Braille! So, last year, Benetech joined with the National Federation of the Blind and over twenty other groups that care about consumers with disabilities to object to an attempt by Amazon and their competitors to secure a permanent exemption from accessibility requirement for many of the ebook readers.
Something that particularly bothered the advocates was Amazon's dropping features already in their basic ebook readers in what looked like an attempt to get out of accessibility requirements.
This week, in an important decision by the FCC, the advocates won a mixed, but I think major, victory. The FCC noted the importance of accessibility and the rapid evolution of technology, and granted the manufacturers only a one year waiver on the need to make their devices accessible. The refusal to grant an indefinite waiver is a big deal, because it will keep accessibility on the agenda. So, Amazon and the other ebook reader makers can decide whether to keep fighting this, or just make their devices accessible, which should cost almost nothing and help them sell a lot more readers and ebooks.
Congratulations to NFB and the other groups that lead this effort!