Overcoming the “book famine” for blind readers

30 August 2016
A “book famine” for blind and partially sighted people in New Zealand would come to an end if New Zealand ratified the United Nations’ Marrakesh Treaty, says Neil Jarvis from the Blind Foundation.

In a RNZ interview, Blind community fights for equal access to books, Neil says copyright laws prevent the sharing of Braille, audio and large-print books across borders.

The Marrakesh Treaty, however, aims to increase access to published works for people with a print disability by setting up exceptions to the copyright works in accessible formats such as Braille, audio or large-print books.

Ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty

Twenty countries, including Australia, Canada, North Korea and India, have ratified the Treaty, which will come into force for these countries on 30 September 2016.

Renee Patete, a year 12 student at Wellington Girls College, knows all about the shortage of accessible books in New Zealand.

The flautist from the chamber music trio Roger That, performers at the Arts Access Award 2016 ceremony in Parliament on 10 August, says in the RNZ interview that often she can’t read books her friends are reading because there are just not available in accessible formats in New Zealand.

Wanting to be independent

Renee says she wants to be independent and do things on her own. “What I don't like is having to rely on other people to read stuff to me. Because I'm 17 now and don't really want to be read to.”

Neil Jarvis says that if New Zealand ratifies the Marrakesh Treaty it would be easier for the Blind Foundation and others around the world to share their Braille and audio copies, including accessible formats of New Zealand literature.

"Who else is going to produce New Zealand content if we don't?” he says. “It’s really important that we try and channel our resources into doing that … and share it with people who would like to have that.”

Government supportive of treaty

Neil says the New Zealand Government is supportive of ratifying the treaty but is concerned at the length of time it is taking.

 Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs Paul Goldsmith says legislation just takes time. While he's was trying to move the process along, the vagaries of Parliament's timetable makes it impossible to predict exactly when New Zealand will be able to join the treaty.

Ratifying the treaty would benefit around 170,000 New Zealanders with a print disability.




Overcoming the “book famine” for blind readers


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