Philadelphia library faces lawsuit brought by blind members over e-readers

The Free Library of Philadelphia is facing a lawsuit brought by four of its members who are blind. The e-reader the library lends out — the Barnes & Noble Nook — is not compatible with software used by the blind to read.

And that, claims the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, is a violation of the federal Rehabilitation Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“As a public entity, you can’t have programs that people with disabilities can’t access,” said Krevor-Weisbaum. “You can’t buy inaccessible products when there are other options. And there are other options.”

E-readers that are accessible to the blind do exist. For example, the more expensive iPad. Krevor-Weisbaum says this isn’t the first time the library’s heard from blind patrons and advocates for the blind on its choice not to carry them.

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“The warnings started as far back as November 2009, following in 2010, 2011, and up until just several months back,” she said. “They even have expanded the program despite these warnings.”

A library representative says the foundation will not comment on pending legislation.

This lawsuit, filed last week, is unrelated to recent news that the library’s branch for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is facing deep budget cuts.

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