Barnes & Noble Nooks At Center Of National Federation of the Blind Discrimination Complaint

August 31, 2012

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Americans With Disabilities Act (the "ADA") protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the services, programs, or activities of state and local government entities.  Under title II of the ADA, state and local governments must afford individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from aids, benefits, or services provided.

The National Federation Of The Blind ("NFB") filed a complaint with The United States Department Of Justice ("DOJ") about the acquisition and deployment of Barnes & Noble NOOK e-book readers ("NOOKS") in a patron lending program by the Sacramento, California Public Library Authority (the "Library") .  NFB alleged that the NOOKs were inaccessible to the blind and others with vision disabilities.  The cited inaccessibility included

  • the inability to access the devices' menus and controls through means other than a touch screen interface (that at present lacks audio and tactile feedback); and
  • the devices' lack of a text-to-speech engine that renders e-content aurally.

Accordingly, NFB alleged that the Library's use of the NOOKs violated title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et seq.

Although the Library denied any violation of the ADA, it entered into a settlement on August 29, 2012 with DOJ and NFB. Under the settlement agreement, the library will not acquire any additional e-readers for patron use that exclude persons who are blind or others with disabilities who need accessible features such as text-to-speech functions or the ability to access menus through audio or tactile options.   The library has also agreed to acquire at least 18 e-readers that are accessible to persons with disabilities.   The settlement agreement also requires the library to train its staff on the requirements of the ADA.

Bill Singers Comment

Truly an interesting and provocative case that has likely caused libraries around the country to reconsider their use of Nooks, Kindles, and iPads.

READ the full-text Settlement