TACD event in European Parliament

EU urged to support treaty for  blind people

EU urged to support treaty for blind people

The EU has been accused of being “insensitive” to the needs of the ten million visually impaired people in Europe.

Speaking at a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, former MEP David Hammerstein said the EU had so far failed to sign up to a treaty designed to ensure that blind people enjoy better access to books and other reading material.

“The EU is inhibited and not sensitive to the needs of the world’s 300m visually impaired people,” said the former Greens member.

The hearing comes ahead of a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva in June.

The WIPO will be asked to adopt a binding treaty that “establishes limitations and exceptions to copyright for the non-commercial production and distribution of accessible books.”

The hearing was told that the EU is being urged to support a treaty which Hammerstein told the hearing would facilitate formatted reading material for millions of people.

“These are people who, currently, have access to only between 1-5 per cent of all published books.”

He added, “With modern digital technology, what amounts to a book famine should have been solved years ago.”

The treaty has been proposed by the World Blind Union, which represents over 160m blind and partially sighted people in 177 countries.

Adam Kosa, who chairs parliament’s disability intergroup, said that in northern Europe fewer than 5 per cent of books published are available for reading by disabled people like himself while the number in southern Europe is less than 1 per cent.

The Hungarian EPP member said, “The blind and other disabled people have the right to read and this could be guaranteed by this treaty. That is why we are calling today on the EU to support the treaty.”

German Greens MEPS Ska Keller echoed his comments, saying, “The UN says disabled people have a right to read and the best way to guarantee this right is the adoption of a binding treaty. This is a fundamental right which is currently denied to many blind people.”

The event was organised by the European Blind Union and Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue.