The Advocacy Effect: An Update on Amazon and New York City Public Schools

The Advocacy Effect: An Update on Amazon and New York City Public Schools

Comments of the National Federation of the Blind before the Panel on Educational Policy, New York City Department of Education

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Good evening, members of the Panel for Educational Policy and other officials of the New York City Department of Education. I am Chris Danielsen, Director of Public Relations for the National Federation of the Blind. I extend warmest greetings to you from our President, Mark Riccobono, who regrets that he was unable to be here in person. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you this evening. It is our understanding that you will consider a contract for digital content and services to be provided by Amazon, Inc. at this evening's meeting. As you know, when you were first scheduled to consider this contract, the National Federation of the Blind had serious concerns about whether the content and services to be provided would be accessible to students who are blind or have low vision. We would like to take this opportunity to commend you for taking our concerns seriously, for engaging directly with us as representatives of blind Americans, and for acting decisively to ensure that our concerns were addressed. As the largest school system in the United States, New York City is a national leader with respect to education policy, and you exercised that leadership in a wise and judicious manner. Furthermore, you played a constructive role in bringing Amazon to the table with the National Federation of the Blind. As a result, discussions between the National Federation of the Blind and Amazon have yielded a new and productive relationship, and we feel confident that our accessibility concerns are being addressed, and will continue to be addressed by Amazon going forward. We will be meeting quarterly with Amazon to assess progress and provide feedback, and the first of these meetings has already taken place. That meeting confirmed our belief that Amazon's commitment to accessibility with regard to its education content, platforms, and applications will serve blind students in New York City and throughout the nation well. The New York City Department of Education has therefore played a critical role in ensuring an equal education for blind children across the country in the digital age, and on behalf of our President, our membership, and blind children across America, I stand before you to express our deep appreciation for your role as a forceful agent for positive change. The National Federation of the Blind is, of course, glad to serve as a resource should you have future questions or concerns about any issue affecting blind students, and we look forward to continued collaboration with you. Thank you again for allowing us the opportunity to speak to you this evening.