|U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
|Disability Rights Section - NYA
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Hannah S. Ross, Esq.
Office of General Counsel
120 Alexander Road, Second Floor
Princeton, NJ 08540
Re: Letter of Resolution, D.J. No. 202-48-213
Dear Ms. Ross:
As you know, this matter began with complaints filed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) with the Department of Justice, on behalf of the organizations and their members who are current and prospective college students, alleging that Princeton University has violated title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12182, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 5 947(a), by using the Kindle DX, an innovative, hand-held electronic book reader that is not accessible to students with visual impairments, in a classroom setting. According to the complaints, Princeton University is offering a pilot program that began in the fall 2009 semester. The object of this pilot is to test the utility of the Kindle DX in a classroom setting.
The Department of Justice is responsible for the enforcement and implementation of titles II and III of the ADA. The Department decided to investigate this matter because the Kindle DX is inaccessible to an entire class of individuals with disabilities - individuals with visual impairments. According to its product descriptions, the Kindle DX provides several benefits that make it a potentially superior tool to a standard textbook, including the ability to download all textbooks instantaneously, the ability to carry all textbooks on a hand-held device that weighs just over a pound, the ability to search words and concepts instantly on the device's web browser, while retaining all the characteristics of a standard text book, such as annotating, highlighting, and taking notes. Under title III, blind students must be provided with "full and equal access" to all of the goods and services of the university, 28 C.F.R. § 36.201(a); must be provided with an equivalent opportunity to participate in and benefit from its goods and services, 28 C.F.R. § 36.202(a), (b); and, must not be provided different or separate accommodations unless doing so is necessary to ensure access to goods and services that is equally as effective as that provided to others, 28 C.F.R. 36.202(c).
The Department acknowledges both that Princeton University denies any violation of the Americans with Disabilities Acts and that it has stated its commitment to ensuring equal access to educational programs, activities and opportunities for students with disabilities.
Both the Department of Justice and Princeton University agree that the emergence of new electronic book reading technologies that benefit the sighted have the potential to benefit blind students and faculty as well. The Department of Justice and Princeton University have decided that it is in their interest to resolve this matter amicably. In consideration of the agreement by Princeton University to undertake the actions set forth below, the United States will close its investigation of this matter.
Princeton University agrees to the following actions:
This agreement does not constitute a finding by the United States that Princeton is in full compliance with the ADA, or an admission by Princeton University of fault or noncompliance with the ADA. This letter agreement does not alter nor enlarge the legal obligations of the University, and shall not form the basis for any enforcement action against Princeton University. The decision to close our file in this matter does not affect the rights of private individuals or of the complainants to enforce their rights under the ADA against Princeton University. As indicated in paragraph 4, above, this agreement also has no effect on Princeton University's current pilot program testing the Kindle DX.
Please countersign and return a copy of this letter to us, indicating your agreement with the representations and terms set forth herein. Once we have received your countersigned copy, we will consider this matter resolved. We will take no further action on this matter unless we become aware of new information suggesting that Princeton is not complying with its obligations under the ADA or this agreement.
We appreciate your cooperation. If you have questions or concerns regarding this agreement, please do not hesitate to contact the Department.
THOMAS E. PEREZ
SAMUEL R. BAGENSTOS
JOHN L. WODATCH
PHILIP L. BREEN
April 15, 2010