Release Date: 
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Los Angeles Public Library Suspends Purchase of Adobe Digital Editions

Reading Rights Coalition Commends Decisive Action

Los Angeles, California (October 6, 2009): The Reading Rights Coalition (RRC), which consists of thirty-one organizations dedicated to equal access to the printed word by people who are blind or who have other print disabilities, announced today that the Los Angeles Public Library system has agreed to suspend purchase of inaccessible e books using the Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) format. The library was informed by the RRC that ADE e-books cannot be accessed by technologies used by the blind and others with print disabilities, including devices that read text aloud or convert it into Braille.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The Reading Rights Coalition commends the Los Angeles Public Library for its swift and decisive action upon learning of our concerns and for its commitment to ensuring access to books by all of its patrons. Companies like Adobe have adopted digital rights management schemes which do not allow the blind and other Americans with print disabilities to access their books, even though e-books are inherently accessible and should provide an unprecedented opportunity for print-disabled Americans to access the wealth of knowledge contained in books. We will continue to inform libraries, universities, and other entities of the inaccessibility of these materials and urge them to comply with accessibility standards and applicable laws by requiring that any e-books they purchase be accessible to those with print disabilities. We will no longer tolerate the gratuitous inaccessibility of e-books; we demand that Americans who cannot read print be treated like first-class citizens and be given access to all of the printed information to which other Americans have access.”

Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and former ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance Officer for the city of Los Angeles, said: "I am extremely pleased with the Los Angeles Public Library's decision, both as ACB President, and as someone who worked closely for fourteen years with library staff to ensure that its programs and services were fully accessible to persons who were blind or had other disabilities. The example set by officials of the library will certainly be taken seriously and followed by major libraries throughout the nation."

In a letter to the Reading Rights Coalition, the Los Angeles Public Library stated that the books were accessible when purchased from one of its e-book providers, OverDrive, but that Adobe had altered its software to block text-to-speech technology and then forced OverDrive to implement the new software. While the 773 ADE titles in the library’s collection will still be available to patrons, City Librarian Martín J. Gómez stated that no additional ADE books will be purchased until they are fully accessible to the blind and others with print disabilities. The library also said that all of its other digital offerings are currently accessible to such readers. The library’s action comports with a resolution passed in July by the American Library Association, which strongly recommended that libraries purchasing electronic resources should take steps to ensure that such resources comply with accessibility standards. In the letter to the Reading Rights Coalition, the Los Angeles Public Library stated that it “will make every effort to apply pressure to our vendors by requiring verification of accessibility standards and making it clear that we will not purchase electronic resources that fail to meet accessibility standards.”