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CAUT Urges Action on Treaty for the Visually Impaired

(June 12, 2013)  The Canadian Association of University Teachers is calling on the government of Canada to resist industry pressure in ongoing negotiations on an international treaty allowing those with visual disabilities to access print materials.

In a letter addressed to senior officials with Industry Canada, CAUT urges negotiators to ensure the proposed Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities fully permits the visually impaired to adapt copyrighted material into alternative formats such as Braille, large print or audio.

“Everyone with visual impairments and print disabilities, especially teachers and students, should have the right to have written materials readily available in alternative formats,” said CAUT President Wayne Peters. “Unfortunately, the success of the negotiations is very much in doubt because of pressure from industry groups who are putting their narrow economic interests ahead of the rights of people with visual and print disabilities.”

It is estimated that there are more than 300 million blind and visually impaired persons in the world, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. A World Intellectual Property Office survey in 2006 found that fewer than 60 countries have limitations or exceptions in their copyright law permitting conversion of written materials into accessible formats, and that where these exemptions exist they usually do not cover the import or export of adapted works.