For Immediate Release - September 26, 2008

Attorney General Martha Coakley and the National Federation of the Blind Reach Agreement with Apple, Inc. to Improve Accessibility of iTunes®

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BOSTON - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley and the National Federation of the Blind reached an agreement with California-based Apple, Inc., that will provide blind consumers and students full and equal access to Apple's iTunes® and iTunes U®. Under the terms of the agreement, Apple will ensure that both iTunes and iTunes U are accessible to blind consumers and students using assistive technology called screen access software. Screen access software is software that renders on-screen information into Braille or speech so that blind persons can independently navigate the Internet, access information and interact with software programs on a computer using keyboard commands.

For several months, Attorney General Coakley's Office, the National Federation of the Blind, and Apple have worked towards this agreement. As part of these efforts, Apple released iTunes 8 on September 9, which was the first step toward enabling improved access for blind people.The agreement will provide meaningful benefit to blind persons nationwide, including over 35,000 blind residents and students in Massachusetts. In addition, under the terms of the agreement, Apple will contribute $250,000 to the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind to purchase assistive technology for blind consumers that will enable them to independently access computer programs and the Internet.

"In an age where certain technologies have become integral to our daily lives, it is vitally important that it is accessible to all members of society," said Attorney General Martha Coakley. "We are pleased with Apple's commitment to equal access, and to have worked with the National Federation of the Blind and Apple to achieve an agreement that will enable blind consumers to obtain the same educational, cultural and other information available to sighted consumers on iTunes. Blind residents seek to live independently and be active members of their communities, and this agreement will help them do that."

According to the agreement, Apple will make iTunes U® fully and equally accessible by December 31, 2008, and make the remainder of iTunes and the iTunes Store fully and equally accessible by June 30, 2009, for both Macintosh® and Microsoft Windows® operating systems. iTunes is a popular online service that allows customers to purchase and download music, television shows, movies, audiobooks and podcasts. iTunes U® is a collaboration between Apple and various colleges and universities that allows students to access educational content such as course lectures, language lessons, lab demonstrations, and course materials.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said, "The Massachusetts Attorney General is a leader in enforcing the civil rights of the blind and others with disabilities, and the assistance of her office has been invaluable in this matter. This landmark agreement will benefit blind people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and throughout the nation by allowing us to have equal access to one of the most popular computer applications available today. Access to iTunes and iTunes U will dramatically increase the access of blind Americans to information, education, and entertainment."

"Students and adults who are blind will have more opportunities through iTunes and iTunes U," stated Steven M. Rothstein, the President of Perkins School for the Blind. "The leadership, creativity and imagination of this agreement being announced today by Attorney General Coakley and her able team, Apple Inc., and the National Federation of the Blind is a living example of our belief that all we see is possibility."

Massachusetts Commissioner for the Blind, Janet L. LaBreck said "The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind is pleased to be a participant in this historic agreement. The blind community of Massachusetts greatly appreciates the commitment of Apple Inc., the Attorney General's Office and the National Federation of the Blind in reaching this agreement. This will enable individuals who are blind to fully experience the benefits of using iTunesU and iTunes. The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind looks forward to the implementation of this agreement which will improve the access to technology for residents of the Commonwealth who are blind."

Under the terms of the agreement, Apple has agreed to make future versions of iTunes fully and equally accessible at the time of their release, to provide dedicated customer service to blind consumers, and to include blind customers in its tests of the accessibility of iTunes in connection with the development of new versions and technologies.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clements, Chief of Attorney General Coakley's Public Protection and Advocacy Division and Assistant Attorneys General Maura Healey and Adam Hollingsworth and Paralegal Bethany Brown of Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division.


Event Photos

AG Coakley
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Attorney General Coakley discusses today's agreement; accompanied by (left to right) Olivera, LaBreck, Maurer, and Rothstein.

AG Coakley
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Students Cory Kadlik, 17, and Laurie Cherry-White, 17, utilize assistive technology to access iTunes.

Also pictured: Jim Denham, Assistive Technology Coordinator, Perkins School for the Blind; AG Coakley; Maurer; and Rothstein.

Press Conference Audio and Transcript

Listen to the press conference audio from September 26, 2008:

Read a transcript of the press conference: