Support for Access to Knowledge for the Visually Impaired
On 30 November 2009, a multi-stakeholder workshop was organized by the South African National Council for the Blind in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss the 'Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons' (referred to as the 'TVI'). This Treaty is on the agenda of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)'s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Matters (SCCR) Meeting, which will be held from 14-18 December 2009 in Geneva.
A Declaration in support of the TVI was adopted by all representatives and supporters of the blind and visually impaired communities who were present at the workshop. See Press Release. This Declaration calls on the South African Government to support the TVI.
It is hoped that the Africa Group and other member countries of WIPO will also heed the call to enable blind and visually impaired people to exercise their basic human rights of freedom of expression and access to information in accessible formats. Currently only about 5% of all published works globally are available in accessible formats. Sensory-disabled people want to be able to buy and read published works like sighted people do, but they are not available for purchase in alternative formats. They have to go through the tedious and often expensive process of having to obtain licences from rights-holders personally or through organizations that service the sensory-disabled. Should a basic human right be licensed? Are people with sensory disabilities getting a fair deal?
Copyright laws in most developing countries do not address the needs of persons with sensory-disabilities. Exercising their rights under 'fair dealing' for instance is not possible, since conversion into alternative formats is not permitted by law.
Why should information be locked up because one is visually-challenged?
Who is infringing whose rights?
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