The Kindle Violates Civil Rights

I must write too much about the Kindle because every possible story involving my favorite little device gets e-mailed to me en masse. No I’m not complaining, let me thank those of you who e-mail this stuff because it’s always good. But this story boarders on stupid as shit.

Apparently in lieu of having real things to do the Justice Department threatened universities with lawsuits for taking part in the trials to see if Kindles would be a good replacement for text books. Their reasoning? Because the Kindle violates the civil rights of the blind.

It seemed like a promising idea until the universities got a letter from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, now under an aggressive new chief, Thomas Perez, telling them they were under investigation for possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

From its introduction in 2007, the Kindle has drawn criticism from the National Federation of the Blind and other activist groups. While the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature could read a book aloud, its menu functions required sight to operate. “If you could get a sighted person to fire up the device and start reading the book to you, that’s fine,” says Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the federation. “But other than that, there was really no way to use it.”

Emphasis mine. Why do I emphasis that? Because the Kindle has a text-to-speech feature while real books fucking don’t! OK the menus are not text-to-speech but it could be added in trivially and honestly a blind person could memorize the series of clicks and movements to activate the features. Even though the feature isn’t perfect (or even close) it’s still far better than regular fucking books which the universities were looking to replace.

Instead of looking to lawsuits maybe those idiots should have contacted Amazon and offered to help improve the text-to-speech functionality. Oh and this makes sense:

The Civil Rights Division informed the schools they were under investigation. In subsequent talks, the Justice Department demanded the universities stop distributing the Kindle; if blind students couldn’t use the device, then nobody could. The Federation made the same demand in a separate lawsuit against Arizona State.

So if blind people can’t use books than nobody can? That should save students buckets of money right there! Maybe this is the Obama administration’s solution to lower the cost of education. As usual the government isn’t actually representing the people they claim to be:

It’s an approach that bothers some civil rights experts. “As a blind person, I would never want to be associated with any movement that punished sighted students, particularly for nothing they had ever done,” says Russell Redenbaugh, a California investor who lost his sight in a childhood accident and later served for 15 years on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “It’s a gross injustice to disadvantage one group, and it’s bad policy that breeds resentment, not compassion.”

That’s right actual blind people don’t want this, the government pretending to represent them does. Oh and get this:

One obvious solution to the problem, of course, was to fix the Kindle. Early on, Amazon told federation officials it would apply text-to-speech technology to the Kindle’s menu and function keys. And sure enough, last week the company announced a new generation of Kindles that are fully accessible to the blind. While the Justice Department was making demands, and Perez was making speeches, the market was working.

Wow who would have thought that would happen? Anybody? It’s good to see all of your hands are up. You don’t need to pull out a lawsuit when the company is more than happen to correct the problem for its potential customers.

One of the major advantages to e-book readers over regular books is they can be made accessible to people with disabilities. You can never made a real book read to you but you can make an electronic device read text to you.