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The World Blind Union joins UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the rest of the world in observing World Book and Copyright Day on 23 April 2019. World Book and Copyright Day is a celebration to promote the enjoyment of books and reading. It is an occasion to pay worldwide tribute to authors, book publishers and libraries.

On this occasion, the World Blind Union is raising concern about the limited amount of accessible books and reading materials available to our members.  Despite the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by many countries, a treaty which allows the production of reading material in formats accessible to blind and partially sighted persons or otherwise print disabled, without copyright infringements, the amount of reading material accessible to our community is still very limited in terms of volume and variety.

Article 21 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) obliges States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice.

In addition, in order to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, as per Sustainable Development Goal 4, reading materials have to be accessible to all. This is the only way that the target to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities and ensuring that all youth and adults achieve literacy and numeracy has to be met.

The World Blind Union is therefore urging States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities, including blind and partially sighted persons, have access to books and reading materials in accessible formats and appropriate technologies such as braille.

In recognition of the World Book and Copyright Day, the WBU wants all countries to ratify and properly implement the Marrakesh Treaty to enable people with print disabilities have full access to books and other printed works. With greater access to books and less copyright restrictions to reproduce them in formats accessible to blind and partially sighted persons WBU’s members globally will enjoy their full right to freedom of expression and accessible information. Access to information not only leads to educational opportunities and enjoyment of culture it also leads to employment and independence.