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Maryanne Diamond Receives a 2014 Viscardi Achievement Award

WORLD BLIND UNION (WBU) press release 5th May 2014
Press Release – Maryanne Diamond Receives Viscardi Award for her work on the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty
The World Blind Union is pleased to congratulate our Immediate Past President, Maryanne Diamond on receiving a 2014 Henri Viscardi Achievement Award given in recognition of her leadership resulting in a treaty that would address the book famine faced by 500 million print disabled people. As current chair of the WBU’s Right to Read committee, Maryanne has been attending meetings and working with governments at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) where they have been negotiating a copyright exception treaty for the past five years.  She was one of 14 recipients this year who received recognition from the Viscardi Center for their work in improving the lives of disabled people worldwide.
Maryanne became active on the Right to Read committee back in 2009 after being elected WBU President, joining dedicated fellow committee members Chair, Christopher Friend of Sightsavers, and Dan Pescod of RNIB.  As a team they worked with WIPO to negotiate a treaty that would simplify the process of publishing books into accessible formats such as braille, large print, or as audio-books for blind or dyslexic people who cannot read standard printed books. These negotiations succeeded last June in Marrakesh, Morocco with the creation of the Marrakech Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  Maryanne was joined in Marrakesh by Chris, Dan and dozens of blind people from all over the world who supported our Right to Read campaign to make more books accessible. Getting this treaty passed was a crucial step; but not the end of the work. The committee’s work now is to convince more countries to sign onto the treaty and get it ratified into local law. Once this occurs the reproduction of books into accessible formats and sharing these books across boarders can begin. This will benefit millions of blind people especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America who do not have access to books for school or for pleasure reading.
Maryanne Diamond
Maryanne Diamond has been blind since birth and is the Immediate Past President of the World Blind Union; having served as president from 2008-20012, Chair Elect of the International Disability Alliance, and General Manager Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia. Previously she was the Inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia. Maryanne has chaired WBU’s Right to Read Campaign since 2012.  She lives in Melbourne with her family.
An end to the “book famine”
Even in 2014, blind people and others living with a print disability such as those with dyslexia still have very limited access to books. Only some 7% of published books are ever made accessible (in formats such as Braille, audio and large print) in the richest countries, and less than 1% in poorer ones. This is a “book famine” faced by millions who cannot share in the joys of reading, and also are cut off from learning and culture when books are not made accessible. The right to read is a human right.
The Marrakesh Treaty for blind people
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) makes treaties and other international laws on copyright.  Back in 2009 the World Blind Union, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay proposed a WIPO treaty (now known as the Marrakech Treaty) to help relieve the book famine faced by millions of blind and print-disabled people worldwide. This was drafted in June 2013 and to date 60 countries have signed onto the treaty.
Briefly, this new treaty will:
  • Allow specialist organisations to make accessible copies of books in all signatory countries
  • Make it legal to send accessible books across national borders
  • Still respects copyright law, and respects the property of publishers
  • Make thousands more books accessible and available for millions of blind people
About Viscardi
For more information about the Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards, visit:  
The Viscardi Center provides Pre-K through High School education, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, career counselling and placement, assistive technology and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and businesses. A global leader, Viscardi employs more than 300 professionals, including experts in education, human resources and technology. 
Learn more at 
About WBU
The World Blind Union (WBU) is the internationally recognized organization, representing the 285 million blind and partially sighted persons in 190 member countries. We are the Voice of the Blind, speaking to governments and international bodies on issues concerning blindness and visual impairments in conjunction with our members. For further information, please visit: 
Penny Hartin, CEO, World Blind Union 
Maryanne Diamond