In keeping with its education and advocacy work for people who are blind all around the world, Perkins has joined with other global leaders to pave the way for expanded access to books for readers who are blind or visually impaired.
In March, Perkins President and CEO Dave Power took part in a panel discussion at the U.N. titled, “Innovative Technologies: Making the world of books accessible to people who are print disabled.”
The panel explored the importance of braille, audio and large print books, as well as the need to ensure their wide-scale availability through ongoing legal efforts like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s Marrakesh Treaty, which Perkins supports.
“The technology to share books securely in a variety of accessible formats is already in place,” said Power. “Books and published works of all kinds hold a wealth of knowledge that everyone, regardless of disability, has the right to experience and enjoy.”
The Marrakesh Treaty introduces exceptions to current copyright rules to allow for the production and distribution of accessible versions of copyrighted books, making it possible for more readers with visual impairments to buy or borrow books in accessible formats. According to the World Blind Union, only five percent of the more than 1 million books published each year are available in formats readable by people who are blind.
“Right now, 314 million people with visual impairments are being denied access to written materials that would enable them to reach their full potential,” said Power. “The world could benefit in so many ways from their contributions.”
As the Marrakesh Treaty is ratified by countries around the world, WIPO’s Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) will take action – helping those countries establish accessible printing facilities and building an international database of accessible titles. Perkins Library Director Kim Charlson was recently named to the ABC Board, where she will help guide their work to expand access to literature, information and culture.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to create a global network of accessible books, but it’s both exciting and necessary work,” Charlson said. “We’re unlocking a whole world of knowledge for people with visual impairments.”