“I Can’t See the Objection”

The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind are seeking a preliminary injunction in federal court to stop ASU’s plan to use Kindles in place of traditional textbooks. Their objection was based on the point that it is far from easy for a blind individual to access the Navigation Features of this device.  And they’re right – the “Home Menu” lists the books stored but that order changes as soon as they’re accessed and that list is not available on audio.  The titles, for example, aren’t read aloud.

But, the early versions of any technology are often clumsy.  Books, after all, have long been less accessible to the visually handicapped.  This is not unusual; many visual projects – movies, TVs, plays, operas – all remain inaccessible.  But, the goal of civilization is not the utopian goal of making everything available for everyone but rather to make the world more accessible to more people and Kindle certainly advances that goal.  With some skill or with the assistance of a sighted individual, Kindle allows the blind the opportunity to “read” vastly more books than ever before.  While, readers have always been available and audio books are increasingly common, these are generally more expensive.  Moreover future Kindle products will almost certainly embody audio instructions to guide the blind through the various menu functions.

Utopian passions are dangerous.  The search for the perfect can too easily make it impossible to attain the good.