Some of the top names in the e-reader market are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to waive the accessibility requirements for their devices. Amazon, Sony, and Kobo have all petitioned the FCC to waive the accessibility requirement for their e-readers. They do not want to have to make their devices "accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities."
The FCC requires advanced communication services (ACS) to be accessible to people with disabilities. The e-reader companies are arguing that their devices do not fall under the ACS classification because they are dedicated to e-book reading. The three companies also claim that adding accessibility features would decrease battery life, increase cost and increase bulk. They claim in the FCC document,
"Rendering ACS accessible on e-readers would require fundamentally altering the devices and it may not be possible to meet that requirement and maintain e-readers as inexpensive mobile reading devices, and yet the necessary changes, if they were made, would not yield a meaningful benefit to individuals with disabilities. It’s not merely cost but the very nature of a specialized e-reader device that is at issue."Disabilities rights advocates content that because e-readers are not only being used for leisure, but also education the devices should be required to be accessible. Furthermore, Amazon has over a 100 million Kindle-exclusive titles according to the Wall Street Journal. If Kindles are not usable by the blind and people with other disabilities such as dyslexia they are shut out from this content.
It is questionable if adding accessibility features will really slow down and bulk up e-readers as the companies claim. A more realistic possibility is that the companies see adding accessibility features as an unwanted cost and challenge. Instead of requesting waivers from the government these e-reader companies should focus on making devices that are usable to the masses. Adding accessibility feature to devices is important and benefits the consumer as well as the company. With accessibility features e-readers can be purchased in public school, there are more potential customers, and the public will view the company in a better light.
The FCC is requesting the public's input in this matter through Tuesday, September 3. People interested in making a comment can do so by clicking here. The full petition can be read here.
Update: Amazon's newest Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HDX include new accessibility features. Click here to learn more about the new accessibility features.