Convenient and affordable access to books in formats that can be read by individuals who are blind or visually impaired has long been a major struggle. With high-quality audio and braille production, and more recently, digital production, books are now far more available for those of us with vision loss, at least in the wealthier nations.
Although copyright laws in many nations allow production of accessible books for people who cannot read print, it is quite difficult and often illegal to share these accessible books across international borders. And, even with all the progress we've made, only a very small percentage of published books are available in formats that are accessible to the 300 million people with vision loss around the world.
But, thankfully, that could change. This week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) decided to move forward with completing negotiations on a treaty to facilitate access to books for people with print disabilities. This would involve creating copyright exceptions that would allow books to be converted into accessible formats such as braille, large print, or audio. The final treaty could be approved by WIPO as early as next June 2013.
The American Foundation for the Blind congratulates the WIPO General Assembly on this landmark decision. And, we call upon President Obama's administration to put the full force and authority of the United States in support of finalizing this much-needed treaty. It should be noted that advocates, principally from European countries, have been working on this treaty for over a quarter century. It is indeed long overdue.
For more information, please read WIPO's press statement.
Books flying into a tablet photo courtesy of Shutterstock.