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WBU Press Release for World Book and Copyright Day

​Toronto, Canada, April 23, 2017: Last year, one of the most important and significant events to benefit blind and print disabled persons took place. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, or the Marrakesh Treaty, entered into force and became a part of international law on September 30, 2016.

The Marrakesh Treaty is significant for blind and partially sighted persons because the Treaty is a tool for combating the global book famine. Less than 10% of published works in developed countries are ever made into accessible formats, such as Braille, large print, DAISY or audio. That number drops to less than 1% in developing countries.

This year’s World Book and Copyright Day shines a light on access to books, information, and literature in developing countries as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) chose Conakry, the capital of Guinea, as their 2017 World Book Capital. As shown in the figures above, blind and print disabled people in developing countries, especially in Africa, are affected the most by the book famine.

One of the greatest achievements for blind and print disabled people, especially in developing countries, is the Marrakesh Treaty. Once countries ratify the treaty, millions of books previously out of the reach of millions of people will become available,” said Maryanne Diamond, Past President of the WBU and Chair of our Right to Read Campaign.

The Treaty will increase access to published works in two important ways. Firstly, it enables “authorized entities,” such as blind persons’ organizations and libraries, to more easily reproduce works into accessible formats for non-profit distribution. Secondly, the Treaty permits authorized entities to share accessible books and other printed materials across borders with other authorized entities. Cross-border sharing is essential for combating the book famine as it allows countries with large collections of accessible books to share them with blind and print disabled people in countries with fewer resources. Cross-border sharing will also help to avoid the needless duplication of reproduction efforts in different countries.

Our call for World Book and Copyright Day 2016 was for the Marrakesh Treaty to come into force, which was ultimately successful, but our work is not yet done. Our focus is now on advocating for the timely and effective implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, in addition to advocating for all countries to ratify the Treaty.

The Marrakesh Treaty includes provisions that are left open to interpretation, meaning that its implementation could take different forms. To help implementing countries with this significant and complex task, the WBU has developed a Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty​ that will help policymakers and copyright officials implement legislation that will be in line with the Marrakesh Treaty’s goal: to enhance the human rights of print-disabled persons by facilitating their ability to create, read, and share books and other cultural materials in accessible formats.

The WBU calls on all governments around the world to stop denying their blind and print disabled citizens their right to read by ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty as a matter of urgency and by using the WBU Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty when working on implementing the Treaty. You can purchase our Guide, which was published by Oxford University Press (OUP), on the OUP website. You can also learn more about our Right to Read campaign by visiting our website.

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at

For further information, please contact:

Caitlin Reid, Communications Officer, World Blind Union