by Mark Sherman
From the Editor: This article first appeared in Special Education Today on March 8, 2016. It is gratefully reproduced with the permission of the publisher.
For several years, the National Federation of the Blind has been on Amazon's case for e-books and e-book distribution systems that are not fully accessible. In 2013, for example, it wrote to state education departments, saying, "The inaccessibility of Kindle e-books will grossly inhibit blind and print-disabled students from attaining the goals set forth in the Common Core State Standards. Moreover, school districts in your state that introduce Kindle e-books into the curriculum will, as explained below, be violating federal law." Likewise, NFB protested last year when the New York City Education Department was considering entering into a contract with Amazon.
"Amazon's lack of regard for accessibility when creating Kindle e-book content would leave blind students and teachers far behind their sighted peers if NYC DOE chooses to proceed with the proposed contract with Amazon," it said in a letter dated Aug. 13. On March 2, however, NFB announced an agreement under which it would help the company avoid such problems going forward.
"Amazon and the National Federation of the Blind will collaborate on improvements to Amazon's education content, platforms, and applications, and will meet on an ongoing basis to review progress and exchange ideas and feedback," it said. "Initial results of this collaboration are expected this year and beyond."
Amazon welcomes the agreement, according to spokeswoman Stephany Rochon. "We are seeing more educational institutions embrace digital learning, and this shift provides a great opportunity to improve accessibility for blind students," she said in an email. "We look forward to collaborating with the National Federation of the Blind to work together on Amazon's education content, platforms, and applications for the blind." Rochon did not discuss the contract with New York City except to say, "We look forward to working closely with NYC DOE to serve the educational needs of all their students."