On Thursday April 23rd 2020, the World Blind Union joins UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the rest of the world to observe World Book and Copyright Day, also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Day. The focus this year is “Books: A Window into the World during Covid-19”.
According to the United Nations, “Now more than ever, at a time when globally most schools are closed and people are having to limit time spent out of their homes, the power of books can be leveraged to combat isolation, to reinforce ties between people, and to expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity”.
The World Blind Union takes this opportunity to commend all persons and organizations who have made reading materials freely available electronically and would like to encourage more of this globally. This is of great benefit to persons with disabilities, especially blind and partially sighted persons and otherwise print disabled. If properly done, it will provide them access to variety and more current reading material. Also, this can greatly reduce the likelihood of them halting their studies because of limited or no access to information and will create avenues to keep them meaningfully occupied in order to decrease the possible psychological impact of Covid-19.
However, we are calling on governments, educational institutions, service providers and other stakeholders, to ensure that the material made available electronically such as books, Covid-19 related and other information, and online schooling are fully accessible to all. Parents, guardians and teachers who are blind or partially sighted need to have fully accessible information and material so that they can provide adequate support to their children and students. As well, students who are blind, partially sighted or otherwise print disabled must have fully accessible information and material to allow them an equal opportunity for learning alongside sighted peers at their level.
As the world develops strategies to cope with the effects of this pandemic and to eventually eradicate it, WBU will continue to advocate on behalf of our members for inclusive response. Our aim is to ensure that persons with disabilities, especially those who are blind, partially sighted and otherwise print disabled are not deprived of their rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Marrakesh Treaty; and that they remain on governments’ agenda as they continue to strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].