New guide paves the way for thousands more accessible books

April 2017
A close-up of a girl's hands as she reads from a braille document.

“For too long there has been a ‘book famine’ because of copyright limitations across borders”

A guide that explains how to solve the legal challenges of producing books in accessible formats has recently been published by the World Blind Union.

The guide aims to help governments implement the Marrakesh Treaty, which was brought into force last year. Countries that ratified the Treaty have agreed to impose exceptions to copyright laws so that books and reading materials can be reproduced in braille, large print and audio formats, and shared across borders, without needing the permission of the publisher.

Copyright laws previously prevented many people from accessing these formats, and the Treaty means that thousands more accessible books will be available to people around the world who are blind and partially sighted.

The World Blind Union expressed its thanks to Sightsavers and other organisations that helped to fund the creation and production of the guide.

“For too long there has been a ‘book famine’ that has prevented people who are blind or visually impaired from accessing and reading published works because of copyright limitations across borders,” said Sightsavers social inclusion policy advisor Fred Smith. “We very much look forward to a time when no one is excluded from reading books because they are not available in accessible formats, and are delighted at the progress that is being made.”

More than 75 countries have signed the Treaty, which was adopted in June 2013. Canada was the 20th nation to accede, enabling the Treaty to come into force last year.

The guide will also be a useful resource for disability rights organisations, other civil society groups and individuals who want to advocate for the ratification and full implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.

The World Blind Union Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty is available to order on the Oxford University Press website. There is also a free accessible version of the guide available on the World Blind Union website.

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