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Achievements of the WBU (Updated September 2015)

Since it was founded in 1984, the World Blind Union (WU) has worked on various human rights and disability-related issues a​​​round the world that affect the day-to-day lives of millions of blind, partially sighted and disabled people. We have made significant progress towards our objectives in all areas of our work.
Here is a summary of some of our key achievements over the past 30 years:

1.   The WBU, as a non-governmental organization, has consultancy status with multiple United Nations agencies of relevance to our mission, and we work with them on various policies that would affect the lives of blind and partially-sighted persons.
The UN agencies with which we enjoy a consultative relationship include: ECOSOC, WHO, WIPO, ILO, UNICEF, UNESCO, UPU, CONGO and NGO/DPI, as well as other international organizations, such as the ISO.  We frequently make written or oral submissions to these agencies or UN Treaty bodies on issues of importance to blind and partially-sighted persons and routinely attend the Conference of States Parties to review the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, held annually at the UN. Currently, we are advocating and consulting on the Sustainable Development Goals, and their targets and indicators, to ensure these are inclusive of disabled people and that data is collected on the impact of Sustainable Development Goals on persons with disabilities.
 
2.   The Vision Alliance was formed in 2009 through an informal alliance of the three principal groups working in the area of blindness and visual impairment at the international level: the WBU, the IAPB (International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) and ICEVI (International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment). This alliance works together on issues pertaining to blindness and eye health, prevention of blindness, rehabilitation of blind people, access to society, education of blind children and human rights for blind and visually impaired persons worldwide. The Vision Alliance lends its collective voice to strengthen our advocacy efforts at the global level.
 
3.    WBU consulted on the World Health Organization’s 2011 Disability Report to ensure the accuracy and appropriateness of the information pertaining to blindness and sight loss.
 
4.   WBU was a key actor in the development of the UN’s first human rights charter of the 21st century, the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). We worked with the UN and other international disabled persons organizations to ensure the special needs of blind and partially sighted persons were included in this historic document, ratified by over 150 countries to date. WBU also created a toolkit and other resources for its members to enable them to understand the convention, and to help them effectively implement and monitor the UNCRPD at the national and local levels.
 
5.   WBU took the lead in promoting and advocating for the development of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Partially Sighted or Otherwise, Print Disabled, adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization in June of 2013. This treaty, once in force, will allow for the sharing of accessible books across borders and to replicate books in accessible formats, increasing literacy among blind people. We worked on this treaty in partnership with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), and other international partners, thus providing improved access to information for people who are blind or who have low vision.
 
6.   The WBU is working with the UN’s World Forum for Harmonization for Vehicle Regulations on the issue of silent/hybrid cars that pose significant dangers to blind persons who cannot detect their presence while idling or approaching at slow speeds. 
This is currently an ongoing issue as there remains a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the issue and a desire by manufacturers to implement voluntary rather than mandatory standards and regulations.
 
7.   WBU has provided feedback to Apple, Google, Microsoft and other software developers and technology manufacturers to ensure they build accessibility features directly into the technology rather than try to add fixes later. This helps blind people use the same technology as others which is vital in work environments.
 
8.   WBU is a core partner of the Institutional Development Program (IDP), in partnership with Sightsavers International (UK) and the Perkins International (USA). This program helps to train blind and partially sighted African men and women in leadership and organizational development work. IDP programs include organizational development work in selected African countries, a Senior Management Institute to train new leaders and Africa Forums for information sharing and continued development.
 
9.   WBU has organized numerous world forums on the issues affecting blind and partially sighted person for: Rehabilitation (Thailand, 1994), Literacy (Uruguay, 1996), Human Rights (Uruguay, 1998), Braille 21 (Germany, 2011), blind and partially-sighted women in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008; children’s congress (Spain 2008) and a Diversity Forum in 2012.
 
10.  UNESCO recognition of Braille as a special script enabling access to language for blind persons.
 
11. WBU has ensured retention of free post system for the blind. Since the late 1800’s free postage for Braille materials has been provided by postal systems in many parts of the world. This privilege was under review in recent years due to the privatization of postal systems and the proliferation of aids and reading materials that were not Braille. WBU interventions and advocacy were successful in retaining this right and expanding the range of accessible materials that might qualify for free postage service. This was successfully dealt with as an updated UPU convention agreed at the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 2012.
 
12.  The WBU helped to abolish laser weapons as weapons of war, through the intervention of WBU’s human rights committee in the late 1990’s that brought forward evidence of vision loss caused by laser weapons.
 
13.  The WBU supported the WHO and IAPB initiative to set up the Vision 2020 Right to Sight Program, which is currently operating in many countries as well as at the global level, and has led to a reduction in avoidable blindness in the most vulnerable parts of the world.
 
14. WBU was a key contributor to the development and monitoring of the UN’s Standard Rules for Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disability, adopted December 1993. Although not a legally binding instrument, the Standard Rules represent a strong moral and political commitment of Governments to take action to attain equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. These standard rules set the stage for the development of the UNCRPD, which has now, for the more part, superseded​ them.   
 
15. WBU is a partner in the Education for All Visually Impaired Children (EFA-VI) Campaign, in partnership with the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI), that launched in 2006.
 
16. WBU is an arbiter of international standards for blind and low vision needs in braille, technologies and international travel, and annually participates in conferences that deliver updates in these fields.
 
17. WBU is a provider of scholarships for blind and partially sighted students seeking to further their knowledge through four separate scholarships. 

18. WBU works with UNICEF to ensure that the needs of blind and low vision children are addressed within their programs and through the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
19. WBU supports women’s rights and leadership potential through leadership development programs for blind and low vision women at regional and national levels, ensuring the involvement of women in the organizations that represent them.
 
20.  Supports the maintenance and preservation of the Louis Braille Museum and activities to lobby the French Government and UNESCO to declare the birthplace a world heritage site.
 
21. WBU created and maintains Project Aspiro, our Employment resources website providing job seekers, families, service providers and employer with information and resources to remove employment barriers and enhance employment opportunities for blind and partially sighted persons.
 
22. WBU has worked with a number of partners, including the Vision Alliance and the International Disability Alliance, to ensure that blind and partially-sighted persons are included in disaster and emergency preparedness strategies by UN Agencies and international development agencies involved in disaster preparedness and response. This work has resulted in many important references to disability and disability-inclusive DRR (disaster risk reduction) in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by the UN in March 2015.
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