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Millions of People are Denied Access to Books and Printed Materials - WBU Press Release for World Book and Copyright Day

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Toronto, April 23, 2016: Millions of people, including children and students, are being denied access to books and other printed materials. Less than 10% of published works are made into accessible formats in developed countries. Blind and partially sighted people, especially students, in wealthy countries like the U.S. and in Europe still face unequal barriers when accessing published works. These barriers cause many students to have to wait unacceptably long periods of time for their textbooks, assuming they are able to get the book in an accessible format at all. In developing countries, the situation is even worse as less than 1% of books are ever made into accessible formats. Many students are unable to receive a full education in large part due to the lack of accessible materials. In places like India, the country with the highest number of people who are blind or partially sighted, over half of all children with a visual disability are out of school.
This global lack of accessible published materials is known as the “book famine.” The World Blind Union has worked alongside multiple stakeholders for years to overcome this book famine. These efforts have resulted in an international treaty, the Marrakesh Treaty, which will directly address the book famine in two important ways. Firstly, it will enable “authorized entities,” such as blind persons’ organizations and libraries, to more easily reproduce works into accessible formats (Braille, DAISY, audio, large print, e-books, etc.), for non-profit distribution. Secondly, the Treaty will permit authorized entities to share accessible books and other printed materials across borders with other authorized entities.

The current international system does not allow for cross-border sharing, leading to the needless duplication of books, which uses up already limited resources. However, once the Marrakesh Treaty comes into force, cross-border sharing will be legal, which will help to avoid the duplication of reproduction efforts in different countries. The Treaty will also enable countries with large collections of accessible books to share them with blind and print disabled people in countries with fewer resources. Cross-border sharing is essential for combating the book famine as blind and partially sighted people are among the poorest of the poor, and organizations for the blind often do not have the resources needed to produce enough materials in accessible formats.

Blind and print disabled people want to be able to go to a bookstore or library and pick up and read the new bestseller like everyone else. Blind and partially sighted children want to be able to go to school and to become literate just as much as their sighted peers do. It has been well documented that education is the key to unlocking the future potential of children, enabling them to become gainfully employed as adults and participate effectively as students, parents, coworkers, and citizens in their communities and their families.

Literacy, education, and full participation in society no longer need to be denied to the world’s blind and print disabled, but the Marrakesh Treaty can only start helping end the book famine once it is ratified and implemented. The Treaty and its benefits will only apply to countries that have ratified it, and it will only come into force once it has been ratified by 20 countries. Currently, the Treaty has been ratified by 16 countries, making it possible for the treaty to come into force in 2016, allowing its promise of access to information and literature for all to turn into a reality. The WBU calls for every government to stop denying their blind and print disabled citizens their right to read by ratifying and then effectively implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, ensuring that its original spirit of human rights and equality for all is maintained throughout its implementation.

You can learn more about our Marrakesh Treaty Ratification and Implementation Campaign, what governments can do to help end the book famine, and download a letter that you can use to encourage your government to ratify the Treaty on our Campaign page: 

www.worldblindunion.org/English/our-work/our-priorities/Pages/right-2-read-campaign.aspx​


The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at www.wbu.ngo

For further information, contact:

World Blind Union

Caitlin Reid

Communications Coordinator

Caitlin.Reid@wbu.ngo​

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