By Geraldine Lewis, Blind Low Vision NZ Library Manager
It was a monumental moment for Blind Low Vision NZ and the disability community when New Zealand become a member of the Marrakesh Treaty earlier this year. It was something we had been advocating for over ten years.
Ninety percent of information is inaccessible, and this puts about 168,000 New Zealanders with a print disability, including people who are blind, low vision and deafblind, on the back foot. Not being able to access information can be a barrier to many aspects of life including employment, education and recreation.
The Marrakesh Treaty means we can exchange accessible versions of information with other countries who have also joined the Marrakesh Treaty without us having to clear copyright in its origin country, it is a straight exchange of accessible material for print disabled people.
It is a win for accessibility and it also means the Government are complying with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which was ratified in 25 September 2008.
Publishers and authors have recently spoken out in opposition to the treaty because they believe they will have a loss in revenue. Blind Low Vision NZ also believe that publishers and authors should be compensated fairly for their work.
New Zealanders with a print disability are legally entitled to access information to fully participate in society. We would like to work with publishers to help them create books that are ‘born accessible’. An EPUP3 format is easily accessed by people who use adaptive technology such as screen readers or a braille display.
Not many publishers are producing books in this way. It would not only open up access for print disabled New Zealanders, but it would also open up publishers to a new market.
Blind Low Vision NZ for one would be a customer – it costs less for us to buy an accessible version of a book than produce an accessible copy in our studios.
Last year we hosted a workshop about EPUP3 with publishers who have been very receptive and it is exciting to go on this journey together.
To break down barriers to information we would like to see these steps taken to ensure everyone benefits:
- The Government requires all school material to be provided in a ‘born accessible’ format. If accessibility is required then publishers would be recompensed for their creation
- All Government documents are created in a ‘born accessible’ format.
- Workshops are organised to enable publishers to create ‘born accessible’ content.
- A central repository created, probably in Te Puna (National Library) where all accessible copies are kept. Practically this means that if someone wants an accessible copy they can find one already made which means they won’t create their own.
Everyone deserves access to information and we want to work towards a solution that will also work for the publishing industry – after all, they are the creators of many wonderful stories and information.