Let the Blind Read

Despite the advent of personal computing, digital information transfer, 3D printers, and narration software, access to publications that sight-impaired people can read remains unnecessarily restricted. But now there is hope for an international treaty that would balance publishers’ rights with the needs of the visually impaired.

TORONTO – This is a decisive moment for sight-impaired people like me: men and women who are seeking to expand our minds and to contribute to the societies in which we live. We still cannot enjoy a book or a periodical unless it has been produced in braille or a large-print edition, or transferred to an audible format by a human or artificial reader. But our lives may be about to change for the better.

It is difficult for me and many other sight-impaired people to grasp that, in this age of personal computing, digital information transfer, 3D printers, and narration software, our access to publications that we can read remains unnecessarily restricted.

In India, for example, about 100,000 new book titles were published during 2009; but only around 500, or 0.5%, were made accessible to the country’s millions of sight-impaired people. In francophone Africa, some of the places worst ravaged by river blindness and other diseases that attack the eyes, the share of accessible publications for people like me is less than 1%. In the United States, Australia, and the European Union, accessible braille, large-print, and audio titles account, at best, for 7% of the total number of publications.

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