Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kindle, Amazon + the FCC: An Update

In my previous post, I talked about what's happening with Kindle, Amazon and the FCC. It seems Amazon would rather be known as a company that is unfriendly to persons with disabilities than to make the simple changes needed.

Although the initiatives from the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries are general to e-readers, they relate more strongly to Kindles because of specific features of Kindles that constitute advanced communications under federal law.

Amazon made changes to the Kindles that make it so certain people with disabilities can't use Kindles. Specifically, Amazon removed a 3.5mm audio jack from its Kindle e-readers, among other changes, which makes the basic Kindles unusable to persons with print disabilities. Federal law requires equipment used for advanced communication services (ACS) be accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.

The FCC granted a one-year waiver to allow Kindle and others to continue to be available on sale. Now that the waiver is expiring Amazon may be forced by the FCC to upgrade the capabilities of all Kindles to accommodate the needs of the disabled. Amazon is fighting for more waivers and extensions.

The 3.5mm audio jack itself is a ~.05 component that is connected to a signal converter (and not any kind of speaker) that is itself a ~.05 to ~.10 component. The $1.25 cost of the changes is an estimate of Amazon's total cost per unit for design changes (for example an opening must be added to the case where the audio jack will go) and the required components, though the actual cost is more likely closer to .50 per unit.

If these changes aren't made, Amazon may have to remove the contentious features from basic kindles to remain in compliance with federal law.

The American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries are urging Amazon to make these changes. I support the changes and hope you will too in your social media.

E-readers allow those with visual impairments to enjoy printed words they otherwise might not have access to--and just as importantly, in ways they otherwise would not be able to. In the US alone, there are around 7 million people with a visual disability, according to a 2012 report from the National Federation of the Blind.

Without such ready access to printed words in books, newspapers, magazines, and beyond, those with visual impairments must often go without or rely on less tenable means of access.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

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