On May 2, 2012 Brown and three other blind or visually impaired individuals filed a lawsuit against the Free Library of Philadelphia, the city's public library system, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking relief under Section 504 of the ...
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On May 2, 2012 Brown and three other blind or visually impaired individuals filed a lawsuit against the Free Library of Philadelphia, the city's public library system, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking relief under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12132.
The Plaintiffs alleged that they had been discriminated against by the Library, which had developed a program to make e-reading devices available to be borrowed at no cost by patrons 50 years old and older. To implement this program, the Library purchased 65 Nook Simple Touch e-reading devices, which the plaintiffs alleged were completely inaccessible to blind users. The plaintiffs alleged that accessible alternative devices were readily available on the market. The e-reader program was funded in part by a $25,000 federal grant from a program established by the Library Services and Technology Act, 20 U.S.C. § 9121, et seq.
The Plaintiffs, in their complaint, argued that the Library had been alerted by several groups of the federal requirement to acquire only accessible technology and its obligation to conform its practices to federal law. Among these sources were the American Library Association, of which the Library is a member; in 2009 it passed a resolution recommending that members ensure electronic resources comply with federal accessibility guidelines. In addition, a 2010 "Dear Colleague Letter" from the United States Departments of Justice and Education had warned educational institutions not to procure or use inaccessible e-reader technology because the use of such technology would violate federal law.
On October 22, 2012, the parties reached a settlement, and on October 23 the parties filed a Notice to Dismiss the case with prejudice, referencing the settlement. In the Settlement Agreement, the library denied any legal liability related to the allegations in Plaintiffs' Complaint, but agreed to make its e-reader program fully accessible to blind patrons. To this end, the settlement implements a timetable, committing to procure 10 mainstream e-reader devices accessible to both sighted and blind patrons within sixty days of the Settlement Agreement, which initially were to be available to patrons with visual impairments or other print disabilities. The library agreed that, within four years of the agreement, it would stop lending inaccessible devices and ensure the full accessibility of all the e-readers it made available.
The Library also agreed to train relevant staff members on the accessibility features of the devices, and to publicize the availability of the accessible devices. It further agreed to use its best efforts to ensure that all new contracts with its vendors contain an accessibility clause requiring that information technology products and services sold to the Library to not cause the Library to be in violation of its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act or Title II of the ADA. The agreement remains in effect until 2016.Alex Colbert-Taylor - 05/30/2013