FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: 
Monday, June 24, 2013
Category: 
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind Joins Stevie Wonder and World Blind Union in Calling Upon International Negotiators to Conclude a Successful Treaty for the Blind and Print Disabled

Baltimore, Maryland (June 24, 2013): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) today joined Stevie Wonder and the World Blind Union in calling upon international negotiators to conclude a successful treaty for the blind and print disabled at a diplomatic conference taking place right now in Marrakech, Morocco.  Negotiators have only until Friday to solve the book famine for the blind.  In most parts of the world, the blind only have access to about 1 percent of published works in accessible formats like Braille, audio recordings, and accessible electronic text.  In the United States, the situation is only slightly better with less than 5 percent of published works available to the blind.
 
The treaty proposal would accomplish two major objectives: creating exceptions and limitations to copyright law that would permit the blind to reproduce books into accessible formats, and establishing a system where accessible formats of works could be shared across international borders.
 
Even though this treaty proposal was officially introduced in 2009 before the World Intellectual Property Organization and has been vigorously debated since then, the negotiators have still not agreed to language on key portions of the text. 
 
“The negotiators must quickly come to a consensus and stop blocking access to books for the blind,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind.  
 
“There is a significant risk that this diplomatic conference could end without a treaty and that would be a travesty,” said Dr. Fredric Schroeder, who serves as first vice president of the NFB and also first vice president of the World Blind Union.
 
Today, WBU held a press conference in front of the Palais de Congres in Marrakech where the treaty negotiations are occurring.  At that conference, Schroeder joined other blind leaders from around the world and called upon the negotiators to keep the text simple and effective so that blind individuals and those serving them can use the treaty on the ground.  The proposed treaty text still contains major portions that have not gained consensus or are so convoluted and complicated that they would not help to get more books into the hands of blind persons worldwide.  
 
The WBU held its event behind a large pile of books locked up by chains and a padlock.  The NFB joins the WBU in demanding that the negotiators unlock the chains and free up the flow of information to the blind.  This WBU event follows Stevie Wonder’s message posted last week to the negotiators urging them to conclude negotiations successfully.