National Federation of the Blind Urges Maryland Libraries to Purchase Accessible E-readers
Baltimore, Maryland (August 24, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for accessible technology, sent letters today to the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Howard County Library System urging these libraries to purchase e-book readers that can be used by the blind. The libraries are currently lending Barnes & Noble’s NOOK device to patrons, but this device—unlike some other e-book readers and platforms—cannot be used by the blind or others who cannot read print. E-readers can be made accessible through text-to-speech technology and/or the ability to output content to external Braille displays, but the NOOK does not have any of these features.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “E-books and the devices with which to read them present a historic opportunity for blind readers to have access to the same books at the same time as sighted readers, but only if publishers and manufacturers design their products in a way that allows access by blind and print-disabled readers. It is disturbing that institutions committed to free access to information for everyone would purchase e-readers that cannot be used by all of their patrons when technology that would serve everyone, including those who are blind or print-disabled, is readily available. We hope that our Maryland libraries will honor their legal and moral obligation to provide equal access to their blind patrons and send a clear message to publishers and technology vendors that access to information and literature is critical for all Americans, not just those who can read print.”