“Book famine” for the blind and disabled

Does the EU support a Treaty for blind and other reading disabled people?
04 May 2010, 8.45-14:00
European Parliament, Brussels (Batiment Spaak, 7th floor, 7C50)

Blind and other reading disabled people face a “book famine”. In the North less than 5% of books published are available for reading disabled people. In the South the figure is less than 1%.

Most accessible books are made by specialist agencies using charitable money. At present, such agencies, operating in different countries, but with a common language, often both transcribe the same book. They cannot avoid this needless and expensive duplication by sharing one accessible file or copy. This is because, under present copyright law, reading material in Braille, or formatted digitally for reading disabled people, cannot legally cross borders. This waste of scarce resources significantly hinders access to reading for the world’s 300 million visually impaired people and millions of other reading disabled people, especially the poorest.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says that disabled people have a right to read. The best way to guarantee this right is the adoption of a binding treaty that establishes limitations and exceptions to copyright for the non-commercial production and distribution of accessible books.

The World Blind Union (www.worldblindunion.org), representing over 160 million blind and partially sighted persons in 177 member countries, has now drafted a ” WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons” to combat the “book famine”. It is now being considered by the World Intellectual Property Organization where it has been sponsored by Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador and Paraguay. We have invited stakeholders, experts and EU officials to discuss a way forward and to ask the EU to support a binding treaty. This conference is supported by the European Blind Union (EBU, www.euroblind.org) and the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD, www.tacd.org):