Access to information and knowledge is a basic human right and a necessary first step towards personal, economic, and social development. Yet around the world, over 100 million individuals are denied this basic right. They include people who are blind, visually impaired, have dyslexia, or have a physical disability that prevents them from reading regular printed books. The good news is that there are now unprecedented opportunities to transform the lives of these millions by removing barriers of access to information — and this is where you can help.
The international legal landscape for people with these disabilities dramatically changed on June 28, 2013, when the World Intellectual Property Organization adopted the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. This historic international copyright exception treaty paves the way for a future in which people who cannot read regular printed materials can have equal access to books, regardless of where they live. There is still much to do, however, before the Treaty takes full effect.
As the nonprofit operator of Bookshare, the world’s largest online library for people who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic, or have a physical disability that prevents them from reading books, Benetech strongly recommends the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.
Here’s why the Marrakesh Treaty is so important and why your country can help ensure it benefits the millions who need it.
What Does the Marrakesh Treaty Do?
The World Blind Union’s Right to Read Campaign estimates that less than ten percent of all books published are available in accessible formats such as braille, large print, and audio talking books. The Marrakesh Treaty makes it easier for nonprofits, schools, government agencies, and individuals with disabilities to convert inaccessible print books into accessible equivalents. It does so by making it legal under copyright to create accessible books without needing to seek permission or (in most countries) paying a royalty. It also allows for the import and export of such accessible books across international borders.
How Does the Treaty Help My Country?
- It remedies the book famine faced by people who are blind or have another disability that prevents them from reading books, improving their access to education, employment, and social inclusion.
- It supports international human rights treaty commitments, especially the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- It supports the Sustainable Development Goals, which mention inclusiveness repeatedly, especially in the context of education.
- It is the primary successful example of the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda, and will lay the groundwork for more advances in the Development Agenda.
- It supports domestic human and civil rights laws around access to information and education.
- It greatly lowers the cost of providing accessible books by both easing domestic efforts as well as by opening up existing accessible book collections in other countries (either regionally or large worldwide English libraries, such as Bookshare’s collection of 370,000+ titles).
- It helps hasten the development of a domestic electronic book industry in your country, since ebooks are one core format for providing accessible books.
- It is politically popular. Helping people with disabilities gain access to education and books is a cause everyone can identify with. Most people know someone who might benefit from books that talk.
- The publishing industry has come out in favor of the Treaty.
How You Can Help
Benetech is happy to support the World Blind Union in its campaign for the Marrakesh Treaty ratification and implementation. Check out the World Blind Union’s resources for getting involved with efforts to advance the Treaty’s ratification in your country. We also recommend that you coordinate with your national association of the blind as you consider ratification. Please join us in ending the accessible book famine facing the world’s blind population. Advocate for your country to ratify Marrakesh!