This morning I wrote a blog post about my frustration trying to read books from the University of Michigan Press. My essential point is that disability is harder than many people like to think, even within the disability community, and if you’re blind and you want to read books you experience many setbacks—so many it feels like you’ve chosen to climb a mountain. I did something I don’t like to do. I “outed” the U of Michigan Press for having a confounding and largely inaccessible ebook delivery system. I don’t like doing this kind of thing. But as I said in my piece, I’m 60 years old and I’m getting tired of inaccessibility, especially in universities.
I was grateful to receive the following note from Charles Watkinson:
Professor Kuusisto, thank you for your thoughtful post. I am commenting as Director of University of Michigan Press. While we do try and make our books available in a variety of ebook formats (including Kindle and Kobo editions in addition to ePDF, in DRM-free versions on Project Muse as well as in DRM-included formats), we are very aware that we have more to do in making our works more widely accessible. As part of the University of Michigan Library, we are particularly sensitive to the needs of a diversity of users and our disability studies editor, LeAnn Fields, has recently been involved in the recruitment of an Accessibility Specialist for the Library who will be working with us on exactly the issues you raise. This blog post comes at a particularly valuable time, as did the recent open letter/guidelines to publishers written by our author Professor Lennard Davis and his colleagues in June. Please know that we are actively working on the issue and hope to provide a better service to both our authors and readers soon.
When I say I was grateful I really mean it. Grateful means, among other things, pleasing by reason of discomfort alleviated. Mr. Watkinson is candid, thoughtful, and relieving.
There are fewer blind people in higher education than one might think. We are easy to overlook. In this instance I don’t feel overlooked.