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Vision Groups Want Colleges To Stop Buying Kindle

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Amazon's Kindle is taking some knocks from the National Federation for the Blind. The electronic reader can read books aloud, but the federation says that function is difficult to turn on when you can't see. Now, two universities say they won't buy more Kindles for their students unless Amazon comes up with a fix.


Now, one of Wal-Marts big online competitors, Amazon, is running into a little trouble with its popular e-reading device. The Kindle has the ability to read text out loud, so it should, in theory, appeal to the visually impaired. Its not working out that way, as reporter Chris Bolt of member station WAER reports.

CHRIS BOLT: Syracuse University's library decided not to purchase any more Kindles after complaints by disability groups. Library spokesperson Pamela McLaughlin explains the text-to-speech function is just about impossible for a blind person to use.

Ms. PAMELA MCLAUGHLIN (Library Spokesperson, Syracuse University): If people dont start to push back and say we won't buy it if it isn't accessible, that's when there's incentive for those vendors to actually change their business practices.

BOLT: Amazon publicizes the audio feature as a convenience.

(Soundbite of Kindle commercial)

Unidentified Man: With Kindle's text-to-speech function, you can switch from reading to listening on the fly.

The girl squinted toward the window, and it seemed for a minute that

BOLT: The problem is you need to see on screen controls to use it. Amazon did not return phone calls for this story, but spokesperson Drew Herdener told the Associated Press the company is working on it.

Eve Hill with the Burton Blatt Institute for Disability Studies is not convinced.

Ms. EVE HILL (Senior Vice President, Burton Blatt Institute): That's simply not an adequate answer. It's not that hard a fix, and a sort of vague promise just doesnt remedy ongoing discrimination.

BOLT: Leaders of the boycott are urging universities and libraries not to purchase any electronic readers until they're fully accessible.

For NPR News, I'm Chris Bolt in Syracuse.

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