Justice Department Targets California Library Over E Reader Program That Excludes the Blind

(Photo: AP via Politico)

The Justice Department recently targeted a Sacramento, California public library over a trial program that let patrons borrow Barnes and Noble “Nook” e-book readers, CNS News reported.

According to the Justice Department, the program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and was discriminating against the blind, because they cannot always use the devices.

CNS News explains:

A DOJ official told CNSNews.com it interviewed a woman who could not participate in the library’s e-reader program due to her disability and concluded that the program had violated the ADA.

Amy Calhoun, an Electronic Resources Librarian at the Sacramento Public Library who helped launch the ebook reader project, said she was unaware of any objections from a blind person regarding the program. “I have not heard of a specific complaint directly from a patron,” she told CNSNews.com. “But I do know that patrons who are part of the statewide Braille and talking-book program do get in touch with us for audio books.”

[...]

As part of the settlement agreement, the Justice Department directed the library system to purchase at least 18 e-readers that are accessible to the blind, something that comes in the midst of budget cuts that have forced Sacramento libraries to implement one employee furlough day each month for two years.

The library says it will add iPod touch and iPad devices, which read e-books aloud with a computerized voice. [Emphasis added]

Justice Department Targets California Library Over E Reader Program That Excludes the Blind

A Barnes & Noble Nook Color eReader, left, is shown next to a Nook Simple Touch eReader, right, on display at a Best Buy in Mountain View, Calif. , Monday, April 30, 2012. (Photo: AP)

CNS News estimates the mandatory purchase will cost anywhere from roughly $3,500 to $15,000, depending on whether the library opts for the most basic or high-tech version of the devices.

But that’s not all.

The settlement agreement also directed the library not to buy any additional e-readers that “exclude” the blind or disabled, and required the library to train its staff on the requirements of the ADA.

“Emerging technologies like e-readers are changing the way we interact with the world around us and we need to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from the programs where these devices are used,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez in a news release.

The Department of Justice has come under heavy fire in recent years for, among other things, failing to investigate the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation, and for allowing guns to be trafficked into Mexico in Operation Fast and Furious.

(H/T: CNS News)

 

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