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Sheikha Bodour: New treaty to improve global availability of books for visually impaired people

posted on 18/07/2013: 3524 views

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, founder and CEO of Sharjah-based Kalimat Publishing House, has stressed the importance of striving to make reading accessible for all, and to people with disabilities in particular.

She made her remarks after the approval of an international treaty that will improve the global availability of books for the blind.

The agreement - considered a major victory for people with visual impairments after being a decade in the making - was reached in Marrakesh, Morocco, during the Diplomatic Conference of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in which Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi participated.

Sheikha Bodour was invited to deliver an address during the conference in recognition of her role in supporting publishing for children and disabled individuals in the Arab world, as well as for her role as communication facilitator with wide-ranging international organisations and institutions to help support and enrich the cultural exposure of children and individuals with special needs.

She used the conference as a platform for highlighting the need to make books accessible to all.

Commenting on the approval of the treaty, Sheikha Bodour said: "I am pleased with the outcome as this historic agreement means that, every blind, visually impaired, and print-disabled person can now get access to the books they need for education, employment, and social inclusion." Signed by the 186 member states of the World Intellectual Property Organisation on 27 June, the historic agreement will remove copyright obstacles that have hampered the global availability of textbooks and other published works in accessible formats such as Braille, large print and audio. Under the agreement, all ratifying states must now introduce national copyright exemptions that will allow government agencies and non-profit bodies to convert published works to accessible versions and distribute them globally to visually impaired people.

The agreement also means that organisations for the blind will be able to freely share their collections of accessibly formatted works across borders, in particular with developing nations, which according to the World Health Organisation, account for 90% of the world's visually impaired people.

"As publishers, we support the goal of the treaty to increase the access of the visually impaired to printed materials," added Sheikha Bodour. "However, there are concerns about the potential impact of the treaty on publishers as a number of issues are still being negotiated in this regard. At the moment we have to take comfort in the fact that the treaty assures authors and publishers that the system will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries, and we call on people to continue to support publishers' efforts in making books accessible and commercially available." According to the World Health Organisation, the prevalence of visual impairment is on the rise. Every five seconds, one person in the world goes blind. There are 285 million visually impaired people worldwide. Of these, 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. – Emirates News Agency, WAM


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