Feds: Make eReaders accessible to all students

“We feel very strongly that eBooks are going to catch on very fast in higher education, and if we’re not vigilant about it, blind students will be left behind,” he said. “There’s no good reason eBooks should be inaccessible to blind people. … This technology has the potential to benefit everybody, but it won’t benefit everybody if it’s not properly designed.”

Danielson said there’s a good reason that federal education officials haven’t logged complaints about Apple’s iPad: the large menu screen is far more accessible than other eReaders.

“The iPad is considerably closer to an eReading solution that will be effective for blind students than other products are out there,” Danielson said. “I don’t know whether it’s perfect or not, but Apple has clearly thought about accessibility and made and effort to improve it.”

The Darden School of Business’s Kindle DX pilot showed students weren’t quite ready to embrace the eReader over traditional textbooks.

When asked if they would recommend the Kindle DX to an incoming business school student, nearly eight in 10 respondents said “no,” according to a university release. A different question solicited a much more positive result: When asked if they would recommend the Kindle DX to an incoming student “as a personal reading device,” nine out of 10 respondents said “yes.”

“You must be highly engaged in the classroom every day,” said Michael Koenig, the business school’s director of MBA operations who headed the pilot program. He added that the Kindle is “not flexible enough. … It could be clunky. You can’t move between pages, documents, charts, and graphs simply or easily enough, compared to the paper alternatives.”

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