The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education have sent a letter to colleges and universities about the use of electronic book readers that are not accessible to students who are blind or have low vision. The letter points out a serious problem with some of these devices that do not have an accessible text-to-speech function. Requiring use of an emerging technology in a classroom environment when that technology is inaccessible to an entire population of individuals with disabilities–individuals with visual disabilities–may constitute discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
“Technology is the hallmark of the future, and technological competency is essential to preparing all students for future success. Emerging technologies are an educational resource that enhances learning for everyone, and perhaps especially for students with disabilities. Technological innovations have opened a virtual world of commerce, information, and education to many individuals with disabilities for whom access to the physical world remains challenging. Ensuring equal access to emerging technology in university and college classrooms is a means to the goal of full integration and equal educational opportunity for this nation’s students with disabilities. With technological advances, procuring electronic book readers that are accessible should be neither costly nor difficult.”
–excerpt from letter