The National Federation of the Blind and Amazon released a brief statement March 2, announcing a new initiative to “collaborate on improvements to Amazon’s education content, platforms, and application,” as well as meet on an “ongoing basis” to address the advocacy groups’ accessibility concerns with its Kindle e-readers.
The NFB has been a constant critic of the online retailer ever since it launched the Kindle 2008. At issue is the method Amazon uses to convert written documents to digital formats. While most publishers use the ePub3 format to convert files, Amazon uses its own MobiPocket converter, which the NFB argues is inaccessible when reading anything but basic documents.
The issue has gained increased urgency as Amazon has partnered with school districts and higher education institutions to bring Kindles into the classroom, where they are often used to read mathematical tables and other complex materials. In August, the New York City Department of Education delayed a vote on a proposed $30 million contract with Amazon in response to protest letters from the NFB.
Neither the NFB nor Amazon included many details in the announcement, but stated that “initial results of this collaboration are expected this year and beyond.”
“The National Federation of the Blind is dedicated to using our expertise in the development and implementation of built-in accessibility in technology to ensure that the blind have equal access to the information and tools we need to live the lives we want,” NFB President Mark A. Riccobono said in the news release. “The NFB and Amazon have sought a productive collaboration to improve accessibility, and we now look forward to working together closely to improve the technologies that will make digital reading experiences better for all customers.”
The NFB’s page on Amazon’s Kindle provides more background, press releases and other information about the ongoing accessibility issues.