RLI 281
uS aND caNaDiaN DiSaBiLity POLiciES, rEcENt cHaLLENGES, aND uS aND caNaDiaN cOPyriGHt Law
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DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
and services and the need to ensure effective access to information services and resources for all members
of the academic and research community.17
In 2010, the US Departments of Justice and Education entered into settlement agreements and/or
letters of resolution with a number of academic institutions regarding accessibility and use of e-readers in
the classroom. Case Western Reserve University, Reed College, Pace University, Arizona State University,
and Princeton University participated in pilot projects with Amazon.com to test the value and utility of
using the Kindle DX in a classroom setting. The DOJ determined that the Kindle DX was “inaccessible to
an entire class of individuals with disabilities—individuals with visual impairments.”18
In the settlement agreements, the academic institutions agreed to only purchase e-readers that were
fully accessible to individuals with visual impairments or provide “reasonable modification for this
type of technology.”19 Reasonable modification, in this instance, is defined as changes so that “blind
individuals may access and acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy
the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use.”20 The Departments of
Education and Justice also entered into an agreement with the University of Virginia Darden School of
Business regarding its use of the Kindle DX. It is important to note that ED and DOJ issued guidance
to colleges and universities stating that all programs including pilot programs are fully subject to the
nondiscrimination requirements of the ADA and Section 504.21
Students and other members of the campus community can raise accessibility concerns via the ED’s
Office of Civil Rights, through the DOJ, or locally within their own institutions. For example, a student
at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, recently raised accessibility concerns regarding scanning
technology in the library. This led the campus to enter into a structured negotiations process with a
disabilities rights organization, Disability Rights Advocates, to cooperatively resolve many cutting-edge
print access issues, including the question of the University Library’s responsibilities to make its large
collection of hard-copy bound books accessible to those with print disabilities—specifically, the degree to
which the library will convert hard-copy print into a digital format. Traditionally, some campuses have
relied upon the disability services office to convert books needed by students with print disabilities doing
library research for a course assignment or even for a graduate thesis. Of necessity, this has limited the
number of books converted to a relative few, compared to the vast resources of a research library.
In another instance, following five years of campus discussions, the Alliance for Disability and
Students at the University of Montana (ADSUM) filed a complaint with ED alleging that some disabled
students at the university face discrimination, as educational technologies are not accessible. In August
2012, the ED confirmed that it is investigating the complaint and is focused on the following services:
inaccessible class assignments and materials in the learning management system, Moodle; inaccessible
live chat and discussion board functions in Moodle; inaccessible documents that are scanned images
on webpages and websites; inaccessible videos, and videos in Flash format, that are not captioned;
inaccessible library database materials; inaccessible course registration through a website, Cyber Bear; and
inaccessible classroom clickers.22
In November 2010, as a part of the ED’s Early Complaint Resolution process, Penn State University
and the NFB entered into a voluntary agreement to ensure that all electronic and information technology
systems used on all Penn State campuses be fully accessible to blind students, faculty, and staff.
Information technology services include course management systems, websites, classroom technology,
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