17 August 2016

From the Annual Conference

Taking Access to the Next Level for the Visually Impaired

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Libraries Welcome Marrakesh Treaty’s Entry into Force

Libraries play a key role in the flow of knowledge from creators to users. While respecting the rights of authors, their mission is to give everyone the opportunity, regardless of economic or social status, access to works of science and the imagination. It is vulnerable groups – the visually impaired prime amongst them – who need this service most.

The 2016 World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) will close just six weeks before the entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty on 30th September. The Treaty commits its signatories to allow for accessible copies of books to be produced and offered to blind, visually impaired and people with other print disabilities, including across borders. No other copyright treaty signed at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in the last forty years has achieved this as quickly.

The treaty, and its rapid entry into force, represents a major step forwards for the visually impaired, opening up access to knowledge and creativity around the world. The work of libraries – the IFLA representatives who pushed for a deal at WIPO, and the librarians who advocated for change nationally – has played a major role.

WLIC 2016 therefore provided an opportunity both to celebrate this success and plan ahead. IFLA’s section for Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities (LPD) organised a session highlighting where accessible materials were already crossing borders. The Marrakesh Treaty should facilitate and expand this practice.

It also organised a satellite conference on how librarians, in their day-to-day work, can improve the support they offer. While many countries already have laws in place to allow this, ratification of the Treaty will bring up standards where they are not yet good enough. 

Meanwhile, the session organised by the Advisory Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM) offered participants an update on reforms which can allow libraries to do their jobs around the world. Rules that ensure that copyright does not leave anyone out, regardless of their disability, are high on the agenda for libraries at both national and international level. 

As we approach the entry into force of the Treaty, IFLA urges governments around the world to join the momentum and pass the laws necessary for ratification, and allow librarians to deliver better access to knowledge.

CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Access to knowledge, Visually impaired

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