Yingling, Valerie Vyingling at nfb.org
Sat Aug 31 00:41:42 UTC 2013

We understand that some members may have had 
difficulty opening the previously attached 
documents.  If so, please reference the 
documents’ text, per the link included below, the 
attached Word documents, and the embedded text 
after the message of this e-mail.

This letter was originally sent to the 
legislative directors but we are circulating it 
to the entire membership for maximum outreach:

We need your help!  The Coalition of E-Reader 
Manufacturers has submitted a Petition for Waiver 
to the FCC asking that e-readers be exempt from 
the Twenty First Century Communications and Video 
Accessibility Act (CVAA) accessibility 
requirements.  Please view the petition at 
NFB has written an opposition to the request, and 
we are asking other groups to sign on.  The text 
of this opposition is included, below and 
attached.  But the FCC needs to hear from our 
members – blind people who want access to 
e-readers – and the more people they hear from, 
the better.  We are asking all Legislative 
Directors to find people in their respective 
affiliates to edit the skeleton letter (included 
below and attached) and return it to us.  The 
letter is already formatted and has an outline, 
but it is up to each person to make it personal 
and select which talking points they want to 
use.  Finished letters should be sent to Valerie 
Yingling at 
<mailto:vyingling at nfb.org>vyingling at nfb.org by 
8pm on Monday, September 2.  Valerie will 
proofread each document to make sure there are no 
typos and the customized points are still on 
message, and then we will submit the letters all 
at once when they are due on September 3rd.  We 
are short on time but I trust that this issue is 
pressing to our membership and we will get a good amount of letters.

For some background:  The CVAA requires that all 
mobile devices with advanced communications 
services (ACS) be accessible to blind people, but 
the law allows manufacturers to request a waiver 
for equipment that is not intended for ACS.  The 
Coalition (comprised of Amazon, Sony and Kobo) 
claims that the primary purpose of e-readers is 
reading, and that the ACS found in e-readers is 
so incidental and ancillary that it is not an 
intended purpose of the device.  We know this is 
not true – e-readers are outfitted with built-in 
web browsers and designed for social media.  The 
Coalition also claims that to make e-readers 
accessible would require a fundamental overhaul 
that would render e-readers obsolete, harm the 
public interest, and not provide substantial 
benefit to blind people.  We know that this 
offensive claim is also not true.  It is critical 
that the FCC hear from all of us – it is the only 
thing that can defeat the petition.  Regulation 
is legislation’s sister, so I know we can count 
on all of you to get a good amount of feedback to 
the FCC.  If you have any questions, don’t 
hesitate to email me or Valerie.   Looking 
forward to seeing everyone’s letters.


Lauren McLarney
Government Affairs Specialist
200 East Wells St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659 9314 ext. 2207
<mailto:lmclarney at nfb.org>lmclarney at nfb.org

Opposition to Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers’ Petition

Before the
Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of Implementation of Sections 716 
and 717 of the Communications Act of 1934, as 
Enacted by the Twenty-First Century 
Communications and 
Video             Accessibility Act of 2010 
Opposition to Coalition of E-Reader 
Manufacturers’ Petition for Waiver of Sections 
716 and 717 of the Communications Act and Part 14 
of the Commission’s Rules Requiring Access to 
Advanced Communications Services (ACS) and 
Equipment by People with Disabilities

To: Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

Submitted by:


September 3, 2013




A.    E-readers employ ACS as a co-primary purpose. 

B.    ACS features are marketed as desirable uses 
of an e-reader.........................................4







I.                INTRODUCTION

On May 16, 2013, the Coalition of E-Reader 
Manufacturers (“the Coalition”) submitted a 
Petition for Waiver (“the Petition”) requesting 
an exemption for e-readers from accessibility 
requirements under the Twenty-First Century 
Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 
2010 (CVAA).  The National Federation of the 
Blind [and whoever else signs on] objects to this 
request, and strongly urges the Commission to reject the Petition.
The Coalition argues that it is entitled to a 
waiver because CVAA accessibility requirements 
are intended to apply to equipment used for 
advanced communication services (ACS) and 
e-readers are in a distinct class of equipment 
that is only designed, marketed, and used for the 
primary purpose of reading.  The Coalition also 
claims that e-readers have limited and 
rudimentary ACS capability, and to meet the ACS 
accessibility requirements would require a 
“fundamental altering” of the devices that would 
harm public interest and fail to benefit 
individuals with disabilities.[i]  The Coalition 
proposes that the waiver apply only to devices 
that: (1) have no LCD screen; (2) have no camera; 
(3) are not offered or shipped to consumers with 
built-in ACS client applications; and (4) are 
marketed to consumers as reading devices and 
promotional material does not advertise the capability to access ACS.[ii]
Although we recognize that the CVAA was not 
intended to cover every wireless device that may 
have incidental ACS, the Petition should be 
rejected because the Coalition has failed to 
demonstrate that e-readers meet the three 
criteria used by the Commission when deciding to 
grant a waiver.[iii]  First, e-readers are 
capable of accessing ACS and have many ACS 
features that are central to the primary use of 
the devices.  In fact, one cannot read[iv] any 
content on the e-reader without using the ACS 
features.  Without access to an Internet browser, 
a user cannot purchase a book from the respective 
manufacturer’s store.  ACS functionality directly 
affects the functionality of the non-ACS feature 
of reading.   Accordingly, ACS is the co-primary 
purpose of an e-reader’s design and use.  Second, 
the Coalition falsely claims that e-readers are 
not marketed for their ACS functions because 
customers are not looking for those features in 
an e-reader.  The Coalition cites selective 
quotes from consumers and review articles but 
fails to mention that the Coalition members tout 
the ACS features of their e-readers on all of the 
web pages devoted to those devices and in their advertising materials.
The Coalition also fails to limit its waiver 
request temporally based on the product 
lifecycle.  Essentially, the Petition requests a 
blanket, indefinite waiver for all e-readers, 
contrary to the purpose of the CVAA and the 
Commission’s express requirements for a class 
waiver petition.[v]  The Petition fails to 
meaningfully define the class of products for 
which it seeks a waiver.  These omissions invalidate the entire request.
In addition to not meeting the Commission’s 
criteria for a waiver, the Coalition puts forth 
an almost farcical argument that requiring 
e-readers to comply with CVAA accessibility 
requirements would harm the public and not 
benefit individuals with disabilities.  Since the 
emergence of e-readers, blind people have been 
lobbying manufacturers to make the devices 
accessible, which would allow blind people access 
to books and provide the Coalition with more 
customers.  Furthermore, the Coalition is already 
under intense scrutiny from the Department of 
Justice to make e-readers accessible because of 
the proliferation of their use in the classroom. 
[vi]  At its passage, the CVAA complemented the 
existing legal protections for persons with 
disabilities under the Americans with 
Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation 
Act of 1973, applying long-standing policies of 
inclusion to twenty-first century technology.  To 
grant a waiver from the CVAA requirements would 
undermine these other statutes and buck national 
and international trends toward increasing access 
to books for the blind.  Furthermore, granting a 
waiver for e-readers would create a disability 
tax that places added burdens on disabled users, 
requiring them to purchase more sophisticated and 
expensive electronic devices that are accessible 
if they wish to read on a portable electronic 
device, while non-disabled people have the option 
to purchase e-readers at a very low cost.


The Commission is only authorized to waive the 
requirements of Section 716 for any class of 
equipment that (A) is capable of accessing an 
advanced communications service; and
(B) is designed primarily for purposes other than 
using advanced communications services.   If the 
ACS functions are a co-primary purpose of the 
device or if the equipment is marketed for the 
ACS features and functions, the Commission may 
not grant a waiver.[vii]  Given the Commission’s 
waiver analysis, the Coalition’s petition fails 
to meet any of the criteria needed for a waiver.

A.     E-readers employ ACS as a co-primary purpose.

The Commission’s waiver inquiry must consider 
whether the equipment is capable of accessing 
ACS.  By the Coalition’s own admission, e-readers 
can access ACS and have multiple ACS 
functions.  Because “in instances where equipment 
and services may have multiple primary or 
co-primary purposes, [that include ACS] waivers 
may not be warranted,”[viii] the Commission must 
determine whether the equipment in question is 
designed primarily for a purpose other than 
accessing ACS.  The Coalition argues that 
differences in ACS functions between e-readers 
and tablets  illustrates that ACS is not integral 
to the use and functionality of e-readers. To the 
contrary, ACS is a critical e-reader function 
that facilitates the primary use of the 
device­reading­thereby making ACS functionality a co-primary purpose.[ix]
As an initial matter, e-readers are only useful 
if the user can access books.  On all of the 
devices covered by the Petition, users access 
books by accessing the Internet through the 
devices’ browsers.  Under § 718 of the CVAA, 
browsers themselves must be accessible by October 
2013.  The Commission has made clear that 
browsers are “generally subject to the requirements of § 716.”[x]
In the Petition, the Coalition first states that 
these devices are not designed with ACS as an 
intended feature,” but then contradicts itself by 
stating that built-in browsers are “designed to 
facilitate simple browsing activities directly 
related to reading.”[xi]  If reading is the 
primary purpose of the device, and the ACS 
features facilitate activities directly related 
to reading, then the Commission must conclude 
that the features are not only an “intended” use 
of the devices, but that they are the intended 
co-primary purpose.  Every type of ACS found on 
e-readers, including Wi-Fi access, web 
browsing/built-in browsing, and social media is 
intended to enhance the user’s experience with the device.
The Coalition does not dispute that the browsers 
on its devices are inaccessible – rather, the 
Coalition claims that the browsers are so 
incidental to the purpose of an e-reader that the 
use of the browser does not defeat its 
Petition.  This is simply inaccurate.  For 
example, to purchase books or borrow from the 
public library, the Sony PRST2HBC, the Kobo Glo, 
and the Kindle Paperwhite use Wi-Fi accessed 
through a browser.  In addition, the Kindle 
Paperwhite also has 3G support so that the 
consumer can lend books to others, play games, 
and use apps -- all through the browser.  A 
Kindle Paperwhite user might utilize the built-in 
web browser or 3G network to quickly purchase a 
book or sync up to a previous purchase.  That 
user then connects over social media with 
friends, and ultimately decides to loan the book 
to another Kindle user or share a favorite 
passage with a friend. All of these models have 
social media features to allow users to send 
messages and other information, which are clearly 
ACS functions.  Kobo Glo’s online marketing, for 
example, prominently announces: “Share to your 
Facebook Timeline. Get social with your reading 
by connecting your Kobo account to your Facebook 
Timeline, so it’s easy to share your favorite 
passages with your friends and find out what 
they’re reading. It’s the latest in digital book 
clubs.”[xii] Not only do all of these features 
enhance the experience of reading, they are 
fundamental to the user’s ability to read in the 
first place.  The ability to buy books with the 
touch of a button and share information with 
friends instantaneously is the fundamental 
difference between reading a print book and reading an electronic book.
Because e-readers clearly have access to ACS, the 
Coalition attempts to deemphasize the role of ACS 
by mischaracterizing it as “theoretical,” 
“ancillary,” or “rudimentary.”  Kobo’s boasting 
of the ease with which a user can post to 
Facebook or Amazon’s crowing over the speed at 
which a Kindle user can share and receive data 
over the 3G network could hardly be called 
“rudimentary,” and these features are certainly 
not theoretical.  Built-in web browsers enhance 
the experience of buying books and accessing 
book-related content, and since the Coalition is 
claiming that the primary purpose of e-readers is 
reading the very books the manufacturers are 
encouraging users to purchase, read, discuss, and 
share, this feature is not “ancillary.” In 
addition, the Coalition falsely claims that 
“[e]-readers do not contain apps for ACS,”[1] 
even though the Kindle Paperwhite supports such applications.
Moreover, the development of e-reader ACS 
functionality over the last several years 
undermines the Coalition’s claim that ACS 
functions are incidental to e-reader use.  The 
Coalition claims that the “slow refresh rates on 
e-readers further discourages interaction” and 
that these limitations “would not encourage 
future use for ACS.”  Yet, over the last several 
years, the Coalition members have increased the 
ACS capabilities in their e-readers.  The 2010 
Kindle DX Graphite, the 2010 Kobo Wi-Fi, and the 
2010 Sony PRS-350 lack some features that their 
2012 counterparts have:  built-in web browsers, 
supports for games and apps, and/or access to 
social media.[xiii]  If users were truly 
demanding a simple, single-purpose reading 
device, manufacturers would have no need to 
improve the ACS functionality of their products 
and add more features each year.  The evolution 
of ACS capabilities in e-readers shows that the 
ACS functionality enhances and facilitates the 
functionality of the non-ACS function of reading, 
and that the Coalition members intend for users 
to access these functions as part of their reading experience.
When deciding whether to grant a waiver, the 
Commission must look at whether the equipment is 
capable of accessing ACS, not how the equipment 
fares in comparison to multipurpose or different 
types of equipment that are also designed for 
ACS.  E-readers have access to ACS and ACS is 
critical to the functioning of 
e-readers.  Accordingly, a waiver is not legally available.

B.    ACS features are marketed as desirable uses of an e-reader

As part of the second criterion in the waiver 
analysis, the Commission must examine whether the 
petitioners market their products as ACS 
devices.  Although the Coalition states “[t]he 
webpage listings for e-readers do not mention or 
describe any ACS features
”[xiv] a brief 
examination of those webpages demonstrate that 
each member of the Coalition advertises the ACS features of its e-readers.
The Kindle Paperwhite webpage advertises the 
product as “designed with readers in mind,” 
allowing users to “[s]hare highlighted sections, 
notes, and meaningful quotes on Facebook and 
Twitter directly
without leaving the page, or 
“[t]ake a break from reading to enjoy a selection 
of great games and applications specially designed for Kindle.”[xv]
Reviewers considered Kobo’s “Reading Life,” the 
company’s built-in social networking technology, 
a major selling point at the 2011 launch of Kobo 
Touch.[xvi] The webpage for the Kobo Touch says a 
perk of being a “Kobo Reader” is that “Kobo 
Reading Life lets you
connect with your Facebook 
friends,” and “every time you reach a reading 
milestone, you'll earn Reading Life awards that 
you can share to your Facebook Timeline. You can 
also share your latest reads with your Facebook 
friends, and discover their bookshelves and 
reading stats.  Get to know yourself a little 
better and connect with friends as you read.”[xvii]
Although the Coalition warns that e-readers have 
“rudimentary browsers” with slow refresh rates 
that discourage use for ACS, the Sony e-reader 
headline touts that “you can also save your 
favorite web content to enjoy any time with the 
Evernote® Clearly feature.”[xviii]  The only use 
of the “Evernote® Clearly” feature is to allow 
users to pull content from the web, from the 
browser, for reading later.  This does not sound 
like a feature with limitations but rather a 
browser designed to be fast and user-friendly and even encourage use of ACS.
Although certain common ACS features including 
e-mail, instant messaging, or VoIP, are not 
generally mentioned in the marketing of 
e-readers,[xix]  manufacturers clearly market 
their products’ ability to access other ACS 
features like social networking and use of web 
browsers as desirable features of the products.


In addition to failing to meet the substantive 
waiver requirements, as discussed above, the 
Coalition fails to comply with the Commission’s 
procedural requirements.  First, the Commission 
requires that “parties filing class waiver 
requests must explain in detail the expected 
lifecycle for the equipment or services that are 
part of the class
the definition of the class 
should include the product lifecycle.”[xx]  This 
requirement exists so that the Commission has the 
opportunity to “examine the justification for the 
waiver extending through the lifecycle of each 
discrete generation” of a particular product.[xxi]  Waivers are not indefinite.
The Coalition fails to provide any information 
about the expected lifecycle of e-readers, other 
than to say “e-readers are a well-established 
class of equipment that is not experiencing 
‘convergence’ toward becoming a multipurpose 
device.” [xxii]  Simple research shows that 
Amazon, Sony, and Kobo have released a new 
generation of e-readers with increasing ACS 
upgrades each year since 2010, and by the 
Coalition’s own admission “the number of 
manufacturers and models [of e-readers] has 
expanded substantially” since Sony launched the 
first e-reader in 2006.[xxiii]
By failing to provide information on the 
lifecycle of e-readers, the Coalition fails to 
provide a length of duration for its request.  It 
appears as though the Coalition seeks a permanent 
waiver for e-readers in order to avoid all 
accessibility requirements for future iterations 
of these devices.  The Commission should not 
grant a waiver for multiple generations of 
equipment without requiring a petitioner to 
provide information on the product’s lifecycle.
The Coalition’s characterization of the class of 
devices for which it seeks a waiver demonstrates 
the dangers in the Coalition’s request for an 
open-ended waiver. For example, the Coalition 
requests that the waiver apply only to devices 
that do not have an LCD screen[xxiv], presumably 
because LCD screens are more commonly found in 
tablets and devices designed for ACS while 
e-readers commonly have e-ink screens.  This 
limitation, however, is dependent upon the 
popularity of LCD screens, which given the rate 
at which technology evolves, is impossible to 
predict.  LCD could easily become obsolete, and 
whatever new technology replaces LCD would be 
exempt from CVAA requirements under this waiver 
as long as the device meets the other limitations.
Furthermore, the Coalition’s request that the 
waiver apply only to devices that are not offered 
or shipped with built-in ACS client apps but that 
do include browsers and social media applications 
is equally problematic for the purpose of the 
CVAA.   This factor initially sounds as if the 
Coalition wants the waiver for devices that have 
no ACS capability, which would be consistent with 
the goals of the CVAA, but the footnote to this 
factor shows that the Coalition crafted this 
categorization specifically to exempt the ACS 
functions that are commonly found in e-readers – 
browsers and social media applications.  This 
“pick and choose” approach to policy is 
completely inconsistent with the CVAA.  It would 
be the equivalent of a wireless handset 
manufacturer asking for a waiver for any 
smartphone that lacks video conferencing or 
browsing, even if the phone offered text 
messaging, voicemails, social media, and other 
types of ACS.  Browsing and social media are 
clearly ACS functions, and the statute does not 
recognize particular ACS functions as more 
critical or fundamental for equal access than others.
If  the Commission grants a waiver using the 
categorization the Coalition has provided, it 
would invite  developers to create low-end 
devices designed with the technical 
specifications in the waiver (no LCD screen, no 
camera, including a browser and social media 
access, marketed as a hybrid of a 
tablet/e-reader) to avoid accessibility. Section 
718 of the CVAA requires manufacturers and 
service providers to make mobile Internet 
browsers accessible to blind people partly 
because of persistent barriers to accessibility 
found in new communications 
technologies.[xxv]  To grant the waiver under 
these limitations is inconsistent with the goals of the CVAA.
Finally, the waiver request is invalid, because 
the Coalition provided no detailed information 
regarding (1) the lifecycle of the equipment, (2) 
the time-frame for the waiver, and (3) meaningful 
limitations that are technology agnostic and 
consistent with the ACS functions covered under the CVAA.


The Coalition makes the remarkable assertion that 
“[r]endering ACS accessible on e-readers would 
require fundamentally altering of devices
would not yield a meaningful benefit to 
individuals with disabilities.”[xxvi]  The 
opposite is true: e-readers can be made 
accessible without a fundamental altering of the 
device and a waiver would harm the public by 
excluding print-disabled people from access to 
digital books and creating a disability tax for 
consumers with print disabilities.  The 
disability community submits these comments to 
voice its unified opinion that the waiver the 
Coalition seeks would harm the public interest – 
the undersigned parties are in a better position 
to speak to the effects they would experience as 
a result of the waiver than a coalition of 
manufacturers who have been consistently hostile 
to incorporating accessible technology into their products.
The conversion from print to digital books 
provides a unique opportunity to expand the 
circle of participation for users with all 
disabilities.  Print is inherently inaccessible 
to the blind, but accessible digital content 
allows a blind person to transform into a 
mainstream user.  This opportunity eliminates 
barriers to books, education, and communication 
for disabled people while increasing the number 
of eligible consumers in the marketplace.  Sadly, 
the purveyors of digital books have missed out on 
this opportunity for market expansion by 
consistently producing inaccessible products, a 
trend that started with e-readers.  Now, not only 
does the Coalition attempt to perpetuate this 
exclusion, but it claims that to rectify the 
situation would actually cause more harm than 
good­apparently equating their profitability with the public interest.
E-readers can be made accessible without a 
fundamental altering of devices, a fact evident 
in the fact that certain manufacturers have 
actually removed accessibility solutions from 
their newer generation e-readers.  After repeated 
urgings from the National Federation of the 
Blind, the 2009 Kindle 2, the 2010 Kindle 
Keyboard, and the 2011 Kindle Touch were 
outfitted with text-to-speech 
functionality.  However, in 2012, Amazon 
discontinued its efforts to provide even 
rudimentary accessibility when it released the 
Kindle Paperwhite, a device without any audio 
output.  Neither choice, to include or exclude an 
accessibility feature, fundamentally altered the nature of a Kindle e-reader.
The Coalition claims that making ACS accessible 
on e-readers would drastically alter the weight 
and battery life, and undercut distinctive 
features like price points.[xxvii] The Kindle 
Touch (which has accessibility features) weighs 
7.8 ounces and a single charge lasts up to eight 
weeks.[xxviii]   The Kindle Paperwhite (which 
does not have accessibility features) weighs 7.5 
ounces and a single charge also lasts up to eight 
weeks.[xxix] Thus, the product specifications 
themselves demonstrate that there is no 
meaningful correlation between an increase in 
accessibility features and an increase in weight 
or a decrease in battery life.  Removing the 
external speakers or headset jack and 
de-programming content so it cannot be read 
audibly did nothing to change the other desirable 
features of the device; rather it merely denied 
blind people access to books.  The Coalition 
attempts to show that inaccessibility is a 
necessary evil when in reality it is an unjustifiable business choice.
The Coalition also claims that the devices would 
need to be redesigned to be optimized for ACS 
because the current inaccessible ACS features 
provide a very low-quality 
experience.[xxx]  Embracing accessibility would 
simply give print-disabled users access to this 
low-quality experience; web content can be made 
accessible regardless of whether a site is 
dynamic or boring, or has fast refresh rates or 
slow processing time.  Accessibility is independent of optimization.
  Granting the waiver would perpetuate the 
misconception that accessibility is difficult to 
accomplish and requires a fundamental overhaul 
that will render e-readers obsolete.  It would 
also stand in sharp contrast with other 
preexisting legal obligations and societal trends 
towards equal access in the digital world.  The 
Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 
of the Rehabilitation Act prohibit the use of 
inaccessible technology in the classroom as a 
violation of print-disabled students’ 
rights.  Subsequent guidance issued by the 
Department of Justice and the Department of 
Education specifically directs postsecondary 
institutions to “refrain from requiring the use 
of any electronic book reader, or other similar 
technology, in a teaching or classroom 
environment as long as the device remains 
inaccessible to individuals who are blind or have 
low vision. It is unacceptable for universities 
to use emerging technology without insisting that 
this technology be accessible to all students.”[xxxi]
To grant the Coalition’s waiver would undermine 
the efforts of the Department of Justice and the 
Department of Education to promote the creation 
and use of accessible e-reader devices.   The 
Coalition’s resistance to embracing accessibility 
has created a barrier to the increased use of 
digital technology in K-12 education.  A section 
of the Kindle Paperwhite’s webpage is dedicated 
to “Kindle for Education and Business,” saying, 
“the same great features that help you lose 
yourself in a book on Kindle translate seamlessly 
to the classroom, helping students learn to read 
or study more effectively,” and touting Amazon’s 
online free tool Whispercast.  Amazon is 
obviously targeting K-12 school districts and 
postsecondary institutions as large purchasers of 
the Kindle Paperwhite, and yet those entities 
cannot take advantage of Amazon’s innovations 
because the products are inaccessible.  It would 
be beneficial for the company to make the product 
accessible in order to take full advantage of 
that market.   It would also allow blind students 
to access the same mainstream materials as their 
sighted peers.  The CVAA is in harmony with 
current law, which prioritizes equal access by 
mandating accessibility.  A waiver or exemption 
from the new accessibility requirement would 
provide a disincentive to comply with preexisting legal requirements.
Furthermore, a waiver would create a “disability 
tax.” The Coalition’s primary argument that its 
requested waiver would benefit the public 
interest is based on the market for low-cost 
e-readers.  Although the manufacturers’ evolution 
away from previously included accessibility 
features included in equally low-cost earlier 
e-readers suggests that the Coalition’s claim is 
without factual basis, low-cost e-readers 
stripped of accessibility features would require 
people with print disabilities to purchase the 
Coalition’s higher-end products, with many more 
features than they would want to use, just to be 
able to read digital books.  The Coalition notes 
that there are free and accessible reading apps 
for mobile phones, tablets, PCs and 
Macs,[xxxii]  while ignoring that these devices 
are more expensive than e-readers.  If the 
Coalition got its wish, blind users would be left 
with two expensive choices: pay a human reader to 
read a print book or buy a significantly more 
expensive tablet, computer, or phone to have 
access to the free reading app.  This situation 
puts a large burden or tax on disabled readers, 
while meeting accessibility requirements would 
put a small burden on the Coalition.
The Coalition endorses a “separate, but equal” 
standard of access that is inconsistent with the 
spirit of the CVAA.  The purpose of the CVAA is 
to “increase the access of persons with 
disabilities to modern communications”[xxxiii] 
yet the Coalition’s petition purports that it is 
completely acceptable to deny disabled people 
access to modern products like e-readers as long 
as “high quality free alternatives” are 
available.  Not only are these alternatives not 
free but, by their very nature these alternatives 
are inherently different and therefore, 
unequal.   The scenario described above (the 
blind users’ two options if the waiver is 
granted) is an example of the digital divide that 
the CVAA is trying to rectify.  History has shown 
that having two different standards of access is 
unacceptable and that a dual system of management 
fails to provide equality every single time, so 
we urge the Commission not to perpetuate this 
failed system by granting the waiver.
The Coalition’s waiver would also buck 
international trends toward the promotion of 
accessible digital technology.  Simultaneous to 
the Department of Justice and the Department of 
Education’s review of this issue and demand for 
equal access for blind students, the trend of 
increased access to books has gone 
global.  International negotiators meeting under 
the auspices of the World Intellectual Property 
Organization (WIPO) adopted the Marrakesh Treaty 
to Facilitate Access to Published Works for 
Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or 
Otherwise Print Disabled, a treaty permitting the 
reproduction and distribution of published works 
in accessible formats across borders to eliminate 
duplication, increase efficiency, and address the 
“book famine” plaguing blind people across the 
World.[xxxiv]  The parties involved in the WIPO 
treaty are committed to increasing the 
availability of published works as quickly as 
possible, while the Coalition appears committed 
to inaccessibility and exclusion.

V.              CONCLUSION

The creation of accessible e-readers would 
benefit not only people with disabilities, but 
the Coalition members themselves.  To grant a 
waiver for e-readers would not only support the 
Coalition members in their long-standing 
resistance to making their products accessible, 
but undermine preexisting legal obligations and 
the trends toward accessibility demonstrated by 
the DOJ, the DOE, and the WIPO treaty.

For the reasons set forth above, the undersigned 
organizations urge the Commission to reject the 
waiver request from the Coalition of E-reader 
Manufacturers.  That action is consistent with 
the objectives of the CVAA, the criteria for a 
waiver, and the best interest of the public.

Respectfully submitted,

Marc Maurer, President
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314

[i] Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers Petition 
for Waiver (“Petition”).  Docket No. CG 10-213, filed May 16, 2013.
[ii] Coalition Ex Parte Letter Supplementing the 
Coalition Petition (“Supplementing letter”), filed July 17, 2013.
[iii] Implementation of Sections 716 and 717 of 
the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the 
Twenty-First Century Communications and Video 
Accessibility Act of 2010, CG Docket No. 10-213, 
WT Docket No. 96-168, CG Docket No. 10-145, 
Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 16 (2011) (“ACS Report and Order”).
[iv] In the Petition, the Coalition repeatedly 
touts “reading” as the primary purpose of e-readers
[v] ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 18.
[vi] U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights 
Division and U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Civil Rights. "Joint ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter: 
Electronic Book Readers” 29 June 2010.  Online at:
accessed August 15, 2013.
[vii] ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 179.
[viii] ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 184.
[ix] The Commission has recognized that a device 
with ACS capabilities can have a co-primary 
purpose with a non-ACS function.  For example 
“many smartphones appear to be designed for 
several purposes, including voice communications, 
text messaging, and e-mail, as well as web 
access to applications
The CVAA would 
have little meaning if [the Commission] were to 
consider waiving Section 716 with respect to the 
e-mail and text messaging features of a 
smartphone on the grounds that the phone was 
designed in part for voice communications
could be co-primary purposes of a wireless 
handset.” See ACS Report and Order 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 187.
[x] ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 27.
[xi] See Petition at 7.
[xii] http://www.kobo.com/koboglo/readinglife/, accessed August 19, 2013.
[xiii] The 2010 Sony Reader PRS-305 did come with a built-in browser.
[xiv] See Petition at 7.
[xv] http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007OZNUCE, accessed August 16, 2013.
[xvi] Owen, Kobo’s New E-Reader Aims Turn Reading 
into a Game, 
accessed on August 16, 2013.
[xvii] http://www.kobo.com/kobotouch, accessed August 19, 2013.
accessed August 19, 2013.
[xix] See Petition at 7.
[xx] ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶¶ 18, 194.
[xxi] See ACS Report and Order. 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶ 18.
[xxii] See Petition at 11-12.
[xxiii] See Petition at 3.
[xxiv] See Supplementing Letter at 1.
[xxv] See ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14557 at ¶¶ 6, 7.
[xxvi] See Petition at 8
[xxvii] See Petition at 9
accessed August 26, 2013.
accessed August 26, 2013.
[xxx] See Petition at 8.
[xxxi] U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights 
Division and U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Civil Rights. "Joint ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter: 
Electronic Book Readers” 29 June 2010.  Online at:
, accessed August 15, 2013.
[xxxii] See Petition at 11.
[xxxiii] Pub. L. No. 111-260

E-Reader Skeleton Letter

First Name Last Name
Title, if any

September 3, 2013

Kris Monteith
Acting Bureau Chief
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Re: Reply to the Coalition of E-Reader 
Manufacturers’ Petition for Waiver from CVAA 
Accessibility Requirements, CG Docket No. 10-213

Dear. Mr. Monteith:

[Introduction paragraph: Explain who you are, 
your profession, and make note of the fact that 
you’re a blind person.  Explain what access to 
digital books would mean to you].

I strongly oppose the Petition for Waiver 
submitted by the Coalition of E-Reader 
Manufacturers’, requesting that e-readers be 
exempt from the Twenty First Century 
Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).

[Select a few of the following talking points and 
put into a narrative using your own words.  Or 
you can write your own arguments that are 
consistent with the NFB’s official comments put out by the national office:

1.     The spirit of the CVAA is to increase the 
accessibility of mobile advanced communications 
services (ACS) and e-readers have ACS 
functionality.  Most e-reader users I know post 
to Facebook and exchange books with friends.  It 
would not make sense to grant a waiver for a 
class of products that are clearly intended to be covered by the CVAA.
2.     The Coalition claims that the primary 
purpose of e-readers is reading, not ACS, and yet 
I believe that the ACS found in e-readers is part 
of the intended purpose.  The ability to connect 
with friends, share content, and access the 
internet are the very features that set e-readers 
apart from print books.  ACS facilitates the 
reading experience and is, therefore, a co-primary purpose of e-readers.
3.     E-readers can easily be made 
accessible.  All digital content can be made 
accessible to a blind person if the content is 
programmed to be read audibly, audio output like 
speakers or a phone jack are added, and 
accessibility is considered during the design 
phase.  The Coalition’s claim that to make 
e-readers accessible would require a fundamental 
overhaul of the equipment is false.
4.     I want access to digital books.  Since the 
first e-reader came out in 2006, I have felt like 
a second class citizen missing out on all of the 
innovative benefits of digital books.  If I want 
to read a Kindle book, I have to buy a 
very-expensive Apple iPad.  Then I can download 
the free Kindle app, but that application is not 
fully accessible.  I want to be a mainstream user 
and would happily buy an e-reader if one was 
accessible, but the manufacturers continue to 
exclude me from their customer pool.  I reject 
the Coalition’s notion that to make their product 
accessible would not provide me with any 
substantial benefits.  In reality, it will give 
me options as a consumer and equal access as my sighted peers.
5.     The Department of Justice and the 
Department of Education prohibit K-12 school 
districts and institutions of higher education 
from using inaccessible e-readers, yet the 
Coalition continues to knowingly sell 
inaccessible equipment to schools.  The CVAA is 
consistent with preexisting legal requirements, 
and the FCC should not give the Coalition 
incentive to continue resisting accessibility.
6.     The Coalition suggests that the waiver 
only apply to e-readers that do not have ACS 
capabilities, but then says that the products may 
have browsers and social media.  This is not a 
meaningful limitation.  The CVAA requires that 
ACS be accessible, and the FCC should not allow 
some services to be more important and others worthy of a waiver.
7.     The Coalition fails to provide any details 
on the lifecycle of its products or a potential 
time frame for the waiver.  An indefinite, 
blanket waiver would harm the public, is 
inconsistent with the CVAA, and should not be 
granted in the face of these omissions.

[Provide an anecdote of a time when you wanted to 
buy an e-reader, or could not use an e-reader, or 
saw a sighted person using an e-reader for 
ACS.  If you do not have an anecdote, you can 
just repeat what access to digital books would mean to you].

I strongly urge the FCC to reject the Coalition’s 
petition and uphold the spirit of the 
CVAA.  E-readers and the ACS features found in 
that equipment must be made accessible and 
granting a waiver would perpetuate the digital 
divide and discrimination in the marketplace that I face every day.


Your name

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