Friday, March 21, 2008

Proposals wanted: access to knowledge by the visually-impaired

Eddan posted on Facebook about an important topic where we don't yet have any relevant proposals, and I wanted to echo it here:

It also became evident last week at the World Property Organization (WIPO) that the problems for access to knowledge by the visually-impaired will be the first aspect of the exceptions to and limitations on copyright discussion/treaty at the next meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright. There is ample evidence of the problems blind people encounter in regards to access of materials and clear changes that be made in the law. This could be most efficiently and effectively done at the international level by setting minimum standards for exceptions to copyright for the visually impaired. The WIPO Copyright Committee in fact declared in their summary statement that "speedy action" would be necessary to deal with these issues.

Suggestions? Although the official deadline is today, we'll be accepting submissions over the weekend ...

1 comment:

narrator said...

Just back from CSUN's Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, so, of course, with the vital caveat - it is not just the blind. At least 20-30 times as many people struggle with "print disabilities" as people who can be categorized as "blind." This makes the issues both more urgent and - perhaps - more threatening to copyright-oriented people.

One of my big statements these days is this - "If a student chooses to convert digital text into "ink-on-paper" everyone thinks that is fine, but if a student needs to convert ink-on-paper to digital (readable/accessible) text they need to humiliate themselves through a whole process of diagnosis and declaration of incapacity and begging for accommodations." In other words - we've made life easier for traditional readers while leaving those with differences even further behind.

Copyright law should NOT be the excuse which prevents people with print disabilities from being accepted as full (and equal) members of society, but in many ways it is just that. So I would argue that this is not a question of "exceptions to and limitations" of the law, but an issue which must be settled this way: It is an essential human right that purchased materials, or materials borrowed through libraries, be convertible to whatever form serves the users needs - without requiring diagnosis or labelling, unless the publishers are willing to pay for that diagnosis, and then pay for that conversion.