Making books accessible to all-Crux of Ediorials

Today, as the Marrakesh Treaty comes into force, India’s multi-stakeholder approach to providing texts for the blind/print-disabled offers an excellent model for other countries to follow

  • It is called the “Marrakesh Treaty”

  • India’s lead — as the first nation to join the so-called ‘Books for Blind’ treaty and then as a trailblazer in implementing the pact that will benefit not only India’s visually impaired citizens but millions more around the world.

  • According to the World Health Organisation, some 285 million people worldwide live with visual impairments. Meanwhile, the World Blind Union estimates that children who are blind have a less than 10 per cent chance of going to school — a situation that could be improved if schools had ready access to texts adapted for use by visually impaired children.

India, leading the way:

The Marrakesh Treaty represents a significant step towards making books available to everyone, by

  • easing the creation and transfer across national boundaries of texts in accessible formats such as Braille, audio, or large print.

  • With access to information and educational materials, blindness need no longer be a barrier to learning, employment and full participation in society.

Global Scenario:

  • So far, 22 countries have joined the Marrakesh Treaty, but many more are needed: each new nation that joins brings along not only a population in need, but a wealth of printed matter that can more easily be made accessible in other countries.

  • Ensuring that books become widely available to people who are blind or print-disabled takes perseverance, patience, and logistical effort.

Challenges Ahead:

  • First, the books need to be adapted into accessible formats either by libraries for the blind, organisations serving the print-disabled, or at the source by publishers (including Departments of Education) so that the texts can be “read” using assistive technology on computers, phones or electronic Braille devices.

  • Once produced, these accessible books need to be distributed to the people that need them, including to populations that may live far from major urban areas.

India’ Stand:

  • India has been a leader, having in June 2014 become the first country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.

  • India has not delayed in readying itself to ensure the Marrakesh Treaty benefits its people.

For example, the ‘Accessible India Campaign’ has provided a nationwide flagship campaign for universal access for people with disabilities.

  • India has begun implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty through a multi-stakeholder approach, which includes collaboration among key players such as government ministries, local champions like the DAISY Forum of India, and the private sector.

  • This led to the launch in August of India’s largest collection of online accessible books called “Sugamya Pustakalaya”, which counts 2,00,000 volumes.

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO):

  • A United Nations organisation based in Geneva, administers the Marrakesh Treaty and leads an alliance of private and public partners known as the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), which was established in June 2014 to support the goals of the treaty.

What is Accessible Books Consortium (ABC):

  • A centralised electronic multilingual catalogue of accessible books produced by libraries for the blind around the world.

  • Through the ABC Book Service, which is free, organisations serving the print-disabled can supplement their collections of accessible books from their counterparts in other countries.

  • Assist in preventing the same book from being produced in accessible formats by more than one library, thereby avoiding duplication.

  • Continuing to establish projects in India, including by training publishers, libraries and NGOs in the production of accessible books, as well as providing funding to produce educational materials in accessible formats.

  • In addition to implementing projects in India, ABC has also established training and technical assistance projects in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

  • Today, as the Marrakesh Treaty takes effect in India and elsewhere, India’s multi-stakeholder approach provides an excellent model for other countries to follow. WIPO looks forward to many more countries implementing the Marrakesh Treaty so that print-disabled people around the world can benefit from the new avenues to access now available to Indians.

What’s the goal of the Treaty?

  • The goal of the Treaty is to help to end the book famine faced by people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.  Currently only some 1-7per cent of the world’s published books ever make it into accessible formats. This is partly due to access barriers in copyright law- something the treaty helps to remove. It does that in two main ways.
  • Firstly, by requiring countries which ratify the Treaty to have an exception to domestic copyright law for visually impaired and print disabled people. This means that countries which ratify the treaty must ensure their laws allow blind people and their organisations to make accessible format books without the need to ask permission first from the holder of copyright (e.g. author or publisher).
  • Secondly, by allowing for import and export of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works, again without copyright holder permission.  This will help to avoid the duplication of transcription efforts in different countries, and also allow those with larger collections of accessible books to share these collections with visually impaired people in countries with fewer resources.
  • Only so-called “authorised entities”, such as blind people’s organisations, can send accessible books under the treaty’s terms. However, the Treaty allows accessible books to be imported / received either by other “authorised entities” or directly by visually impaired / print disabled individuals.

Source: The Hindu & World blindunion


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