Accessible Books Consortium Launch at WIPO

Every year, countless books are
published around the world. Yet, only ten percent of these can be
read by the some 285 million people around the world who are blind or
visually impaired. To end this global book famine, the World Intellectual Property
Organization, WIPO, has taken two initiatives: Firstly, WIPO oversaw negotiations that
led to the historic signature in June 2013 of the Marrakesh Treaty to
facilitate access to published works for persons who are
blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled. Once this Treaty enters into force it will establish an international legal
framework that will boost access to books for the benefit of hundreds of millions of people who are
blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. WIPO’s second initiative is the
establishment of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) to help implement the objectives
of the Marrakesh Treaty at a practical level. The Consortium was formally launched with a ceremony in Geneva on June 30, 2014. “The Marrakesh Treaty of course is a means to an end, and that end is getting books in accessible formats into the hands of the print disabled and visually impaired. While it provides the indispensable legal framework to make it operate, we
need to have operational activities, and the Accessible Books Consortium is just such an operational
activity, the idea of which is to breathe life
into, and make operational, you know, the legal
framework that is provided by the Marrakesh Treaty.” “The Accessible Books Consortium, which is an expression of what multi-stakeholder cooperation needs to do, and what needs to be done to bring the practical benefits of the Marrakesh Treaty to those who need it,
which is the print disabled. And it will help countries like
India attend their goal of fulfilling the purposes of the Marrakesh Treaty.” “We have a great opportunity to transform the lives of millions and millions of people and we, as blind people of the world,
watched with excitement the adoption of the Treaty last year. And we are waiting for our lives to be
transformed, and it is in our hands collectively to
make this happen.” The Consortium has three main
objectives: The first is an international book
exchange and database of books in accessible formats containing
some 238,000 titles in fifty five languages from libraries
around the world. The second activity of the ABC is
capacity building: ABC provides training in developing and
least-developed countries on how to produce and distribute books
in accessible formats, using the latest technologies. Thirdly, the ABC promotes inclusive publishing, which encourages the delivery of “born accessible” works or digital
publications for sighted audiences that are also fully
accessible to the visually impaired. “The ABC is the only global Initiative that is focusing entirely on this issue,
bringing rights holders and visually-impaired organizations and
the libraries together and asking each of them the question:
what do you need, how can you contribute, what are your
obstacles to actually getting books into the hands of the persons with print disability, the people
who really need them.” “The International Authors Forum is delighted to welcome this development
because what is so important to authors is that
they should be read as widely as possible, and their work
should be as accessible to as many people as
possible.” “The Accessible Books Consortium actually brings in a lot of hope for the VA
community all across the world, and we are
really hoping that this Consortium will do and
bring… …help us in ending the book famine.” “This is potentially, I think, a major activity and program that can really
transform the lives of so many people who are visually
impaired around the world. It is a major, major initiative that is underway with
the support of this multi stakeholder community, and, let’s not forget, in the
last place, it will breathe life into the framework that was established in the Marrakesh Treaty.

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