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World Book Day Highlights Book Famine for Those with Print Disabilities

Today, Wednesday April 23,  is World Book Day,  a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading, marked in more than 100 countries throughout the world.

For one group of Australians, the day is helping raise awareness of the limitations they have to books they can enjoy.The World Blind Union describes the situation as a ‘book famine’.

According to Maryanne Diamond, General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia and the Immediate Past President of the World Blind Union, while more 333,000 Australians are blind or have low vision, only five per cent of books in Australia are ever converted into readily accessible formats, such as braille or audio. Outside of Australia, there are 285 million people in the world who are blind or have low Vision. Around five per cent of books are made accessible in the developed world and around one per cent in the developing world.

“In June 2013, 186 countries made a commitment to help remedy this problem by working with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to develop a treaty to loosen international copyright laws on books published in accessible formats,” Ms Diamond wrote.

“While, 51 countries signed what is commonly referred to as the Marrakesh Treaty, none have yet ratified this treaty which will enable organisations to share books directly with individuals who are blind or have other print disabilities as well as enable the international exchange of books between relevant organisations.This will significantly expand the choice of books available for people with print disabilities to read.”

Vision Australia is urging the Australian Government to ensure Australia takes a leading role in ending the book famine by signing and ratifying this important treaty.

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