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Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty for Persons with Print Disabilities

November 4, 2018

Imagine not having access to printed works due to blindness, a visual impairment, or a perceptual or reading disability, such as dyslexia. Imagine not having the ability to focus your eyes on printed material or not being able to handle or manipulate a book in your hands due to autism or Parkinson’s disease. The miracle of picking up a book, reading it, comprehending the material on the page, and filing it away for future access and dissemination is something which the majority of us simply take for granted. A trip to your local public library might reveal a selection of audiobooks and large print titles, which certainly are accessible alternatives to the standard print format. Be that as it may, astonishingly less than 7% of published books are made available globally in these alternative formats, which in addition to audio and large print, also includes Braille and Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) formats.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, declares that this lack of equal accessibility has been a key factor of the book famine which plagues our world. The Marrakesh Treaty, which states that “without books, journals, and magazines, people are cut off from life,” was developed by the WIPO in 2013 and later entered into force in September of 2016. It created obligatory changes which, by becoming national law, would grant equal access to printed materials. Since then, many countries have been bringing their copyright laws into accordance with the Marrakesh Treaty on the grounds that they are either party to the Treaty or because they intend to join the Treaty in the near future. Obstacles due to copyright law are a partial reason behind the limited access to alternative formats of printed materials, and the Marrakesh Treaty seeks to address these obstacles.

We believe that the Marrakesh Treaty is the most significant development in the lives of blind and visually impaired people since the invention of Braille, nearly 200 years ago.”

Penny Hartin, Chief Executive Officer 

World Blind Union

The World Blind Union (WBU) first proposed a draft of the treaty to the WIPO members. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), along with other library partners, strongly supported negotiations which lasted over five years at the WIPO, and participated in the Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh, Morroco, which saw the Treaty’s implementation. Hence, libraries are really at the forefront of this necessary accommodation.

The Marrakesh treaty may be accessed here.

Information has been retrieved from the document Getting Started: Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities: A practical guide for librarians.

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