The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Blind Union – Asia Pacific (WBUAP) and the Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), have released a new Issue Brief for the Asia-Pacific region calling on all countries to join the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.

The Issue Brief has been made in the run-up to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.

While the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to have the world’s largest number of persons with blindness and moderate to severe visual impairment, only seven countries in the region have joined so far. The New Zealand government has acceded to the treaty, however New Zealand will not become a participating country until an amendment has been made to the Copyright Act 1994.

The World Blind Union estimates that less than 1 percent of published books in developing countries, and 7 percent in developed countries, are ever made into formats that are accessible to print disabled persons, such as braille, audio, e-books or materials with large print. This situation, often referred to as a ‘book famine,’ is preventing millions of persons with print disabilities around the world from making the most of human development opportunities, leading to exclusion, social isolation and poverty. Persons with disabilities remain among the poorest of the poor across societies, being left behind from economic, social and cultural progress.

“The ‘book famine’ all too often excludes persons with print disabilities from access to education, employment, health care, culture or participation in just about any aspect of political, economic and social activities,” said Michiko Tabata, President of WBUAP. “Civil society loses out just as much as print disabled people do from their exclusion. We call upon all countries in the Asia-Pacific to join the Marrakesh Treaty and end the book famine.”

Read the Issue Brief (downloads a PDF).

Check out an infographic (downloads a PDF).