Education International
Education International

EI urges support for the treaty on access to printed materials for the visually impaired

published 25 June 2013 updated 1 July 2013

EI has called on the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to conclude a new treaty allowing those with visual disabilities to have better access to print materials.

Making written materials available and usable to all

“Educators are dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge for all,” said EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, when commenting on the diplomatic conference to conclude a treaty to facilitate access to published works by visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities which is being held from 17-28 June in Marrakesh, Morocco. “Students and teachers with visual impairments and print disabilities must be allowed to have written materials readily available in alternative formats.”

The above-mentioned treaty, if adopted, would permit exceptions to national and international copyright laws to allow for the visually impaired to adapt copyrighted material into alternative formats such as Braille, large print or audio.

It is estimated that there are more than 300 million blind and visually impaired persons in the world, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. A WIPO survey in 2006 found that fewer than 60 countries have limitations or exceptions in their copyright laws permitting conversion of written materials into accessible formats, and that, where these exemptions exist, they usually do not cover the import or export of adapted works.

As a result, according to the World Blind Union, of the approximately 1 million books published each year in the world, less than 5 per cent are made available in formats accessible to visually impaired persons.

Equal opportunities to learn and access printed material for all

“At stake in the negotiations this week is nothing less than right of visually impaired persons to access the world’s written culture,” added van Leeuwen. “Unfortunately, the success of the negotiations is very much in doubt because of pressure from industry groups who are putting their narrow economic interests ahead of the rights of people with visual and print disabilities.”

“Years of work have gone into this treaty and the progress made to date must not be jeopardized by last minute corporate lobbying,” he also stressed. “Diplomats need to focus on the enormous benefits the treaty would have in equalizing the opportunities of millions of people with visual disabilities to learn and to access printed material.”