Marrakesh VIP Treaty: one step closer to solving global book famine

Jade Zienkiewicz Accessibility, IAF, News

On 20 June 2016 Canada signed the Marrakesh Treaty, becoming the 20th country of the 188 Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to do so.

The Treaty is designed to enable the production of more books and other published material in formats which are accessible for people who are visually impaired (VIPs). Signed by 51 countries at its initial adoption in June 2013 in Marrakesh, a further twenty official ratifications were needed to bring the Treaty into force. Now that this has happened, it will come into effect from 30 September 2016.

The ultimate goal of The Marrakesh Treaty is to benefit the world’s blind, visually impaired and “print disabled” population by making more published works available to them. The Treaty’s provisions will apply to copyright rules to permit the reproduction, distribution and exchange of those works and make them available in user-friendly formats for VIPs.

Prompted by the raised awareness brought about by the Treaty of what is known as the ‘famine’ of accessible-format books worldwide, IAF has co-published, with the Accessible Books Consortium, a new guide for self-publishing authors about how they can make their work more accessible to a greater audience and contribute to solving the famine.

Stevie Wonder, who has been vocal in supporting the Marrakesh Treaty from the outset, spoke to UN delegates in New York on 18 July, urging more countries to sign the treaty and support its aims.

News of Marrakesh will be of utmost importance to Maribel Steel, Indie Author who is registered blind. In her article New Focus on Accessible Publishing in the DAISY Consortium’s newsletter, DAISY Planet, Maribel discusses the spectacular array of digital material now available for readers that unfortunately remains inaccessible to those with a “print disability”, which means they can’t read books in standard print formats.

The news about the Treaty is also of great interest to Debbie Young, editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors (the international organisation representing the interests of self-published authors) and Katie Webb, Executive Administrator at IAF, both of whom work to raise awareness of issues relating to authors and their work. In this article they discuss why it is important for authors to consider the accessibility of their work for visually impaired readers.

The Treaty is a vital part of the global effort to give all readers the opportunity to enjoy the wealth of creative and inspiring material available online and in print. It will also help authors reach a wider audience so as many people as possible can enjoy their work.