United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression November, 2011
WIPO SCCR 23: Declaration from the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.
“Freedom of expression and opinion is a human right. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the right to freedom of opinion and expression “includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and, to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
The digital age we now live in provides technology which could allow blind, partially sighted and other reading disabled people across the world to both receive and impart information regardless of frontiers, and therefore enjoy this human right fully.
This should be a wonderfully empowering development, helping reading disabled people to access information on an equal basis with others for the first time in history. However, the reality is starkly different. Blind and partially sighted people face a “book famine” in which the vast majority of books are never made into accessible formats like braille, audio or large print.
WIPO SCCR23 has an opportunity and a responsibility to help to solve this problem, by removing the copyright barriers which prevent access for reading disabled people. To that end, the Committee has a draft text for consideration which could and should form the basis for a binding treaty (SCCR_22_16).
In my capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, I urge all WIPO Member States’ delegates of SCCR23 to work assiduously to agree a binding WIPO treaty for blind and other reading disabled people, and to thereby open a door to reading, ideas and information for reading disabled people across the world.”
Frank La Rue