Blog Date: 
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Anil Lewis

We Must Stop the Amazon Fail!

Once again, Amazon, Inc. is trying to push its inaccessible technology into public schools, despite our years of advocacy, and clear warnings against the adoption of inaccessible technology by the United States Departments of Education and Justice. In this case, blind students throughout the New York City public school system will be denied an equal education if the city goes through with a proposed $30 million deal under which Amazon would construct an electronic storefront for New York City schools and become the primary provider of electronic textbooks and related educational materials for students. Unfortunately, Amazon e-books inhibit the ability of blind students to access complex material like tables and equations and the ability to easily navigate through a book, among other significant accessibility barriers. We have informed New York City Department of Education officials of these issues in two separate letters, sent on August 7 and August 13, but so far we have received no acceptance of our offer to meet with these officials, nor any firm indication that the proposed deal will be altered or scrapped.

Since we have not been offered a meaningful reply to our concerns or an in-person meeting with relevant officials, we have decided to take more public action. The school system’s Panel for Educational Policy, which has the final say on the deal, will meet next Wednesday, August 26, to vote on it, and blind Americans will be there in force to let the panel members and the public know that this is a bad deal for blind students and faculty and, therefore, for New York City schools. We plan to tell the panel that a vote for this deal is an outrageous act of deliberate discrimination against blind students and an equally outrageous and deliberate violation of federal law. Following the demonstration, we will enter the auditorium where the meeting is taking place and participate respectfully so that we can encourage the Educational Policy Panel to do the right thing and shut down this “Amazon Fail!”

If you would like to attend the protest, you can get more details by viewing our Facebook event, which we hope you will also take the time to share with others. If you are not able to attend the protest, you can still get involved by posting on social media using the following information.

Be sure to tweet the New York City public schools (@NYCSchools), the mayor of New York (@NYCMayorsOffice), and Amazon (@Amazon) to tell them that blind children deserve equal access to e-textbooks. Use the hashtag #AmazonFail when you tweet so that our collective posts can all be found in one place.

It is imperative that we protect the rights of blind students in New York City and throughout America by stopping this deal and sending a clear message to the New York City public schools, to Amazon, and to school systems across America that we will not tolerate blind children being treated like second-class citizens in our nation’s classrooms. Help stop the #AmazonFail!