Marrakesh Marvel – Treaty for Blind and Visually Impaired concluded

The joy and relief amongst the delegates in Marrakesh was palpable, as agreement was finally reached on a treaty which will enhance access to published works in formats such as Braille and large text.  This is a breakthrough for millions of blind, visually impaired and print disabled people worldwide. 

As the World Blind Union (WBU) says

Currently only 5% of all published books in the developed countries and less than 1% in the developing countries are ever produced in the accessible formats – such us, braille, large print and audio – that VI and print disabled need."  

Despite a clear need to increase access, the negotiation around the text of the treaty was challenging.  Negotiators at the meeting, held under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), finally reached consensus, and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled opened to signature from WIPO member states from the 28th June.

The treaty requires signatory members to “provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution, and the right of making available to the public… to facilitate the availability of works in accessible format copies”  (Article 4.1a)

Additionally, the treaty allows for cross-border exchange of these copies, as World Blind Union (WBU) explains

“At the centre of this treaty is an article giving permission for VI organisations and libraries to share their collections of accessible titles with other same-language communities around the world. Examples of this include Spain and Argentina being able to share their combined collections of over 150.000 titles right across Latin America as soon as the government of each recipient co4.1untry ratifies and implements the treaty."

As he International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) President Ingrid Parent says, "the treaty that has been concluded in Marrakech will benefit millions of blind and visually impaired people around the world and dramatically increase opportunities for reading and education."

Truly a wonderful achievement.