News & Events
Here you will find the latest news as well as upcoming and previous events.
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Converting printed material to an accessible formats like braille or audio takes time, money, and expertise. The amount of resources required will vary depending on the type of content and the destination format, but it is rarely a simple process.
Technology has made document conversion considerably easier for those with access to it, but the optimum solutions remain obtaining a well-made accessible publication from the publisher, or obtaining an accessible format file that someone else has already created.
Specialist libraries around the world have for many years invested in accessible format conversion, building collections for their members, but for a long time had limited options when it came to exchanging titles with other libraries.
Back in 2012, the World Blind Union and other organizations representing users with print disabilities were reporting a book famine, indicating that 95% of books in developed countries, and 99% in the least developed world were never converted to accessible formats like audio, large print or braille.
This was one of many points discussed over several years that helped to establish the case for a global copyright treaty that would benefit all readers with print disabilities, highlighting that while the developing world had arguable to greatest need, there was also a significant lack of resources in higher income countries with established libraries and support systems.
Offering the potential to unlock existing resources held in libraries around the world was identified as one of the main ways to help address the book famine and reduce the duplication of effort taking place because libraries were not able to easily collaborate.
In 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty established a legal mechanism for participating countries to exchange accessible books for the benefit of people with print disabilities, specifically to: Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.
Ten years since it was established the Marrakesh Treaty has now been adopted by 93 member states, providing lots of evidence of authorized entities in developing countries gaining access to books they would otherwise not be able to provide to their patrons, and while there are fewer reports the same is true of library patrons in the developed world.
In the United States the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) at the Library of Congress have actively participated in the exchange of titles since the Treaty legal mechanism was implemented in the U.S. in 2020.
Primarily using the Global Book Service hosted by the Accessible Books Consortium, NLS have made 194,539 titles available through the free service to other authorized entities, with the vast majority of those titles (over 192,000) available as digital files for immediate download. At the time of reporting those NLS titles had been downloaded over 6,600 times by authorized entities in 48 different countries around the world.
Patrons of the library can access titles in the collection in the usual way, but they can also request access to books which are not currently available, and in some instances these publications can be sourced by NLS staff through Authorized Entities using the Marrakesh Treaty.
Since 2020 more than 5,500 titles have been added to the NLS collection using the Treaty, encompassing texts in 27 different languages, and being read by NLS patrons over 106,000 times.
After English, Spanish is the most common language spoken in the U.S. which is reflected in the titles requested, but many other languages have been fulfilled through the Treaty including French, Russian, Finnish, Somali etc.
Requests come from patrons with print disabilities who are developing or refreshing their language skills, often learned through family and community links, but many requests come from elderly U.S. residents wanting to read an audiobook in their native language.
This was true of one request for an elderly patron entering a hospice in Minnesota. Through the regional network library a request was made to NLS with the goal to obtain audiobooks in her native Finnish language for her final days. Just a few years ago this simply would not have been possible if a title was not already in the library collection, because of time and budgetary limitations it would not have been practical to create a recording in time.
Thanks to the Marrakesh Treaty it was possible for NLS to locate suitable audio books in Finnish very quickly, and for the patron to enjoy listening to quality recordings in her native language, recorded by a native speaker with local accent and correct pronunciation throughout.
Because the United States has a very large a diverse population, it’s no surprise that the patrons of NLS have reading preferences in a wide variety of languages.
Prior to the Marrakesh Treaty, a case study of early books in the Harry Potter series was used to illustrate the massive duplication of effort invested by specialist libraries all creating accessible versions of the same titles. On the day of publication libraries purchased print copies of the book and teams of people would rapidly convert it to accessible formats, making it available to patrons a few days later. This exact activity took place in multiple libraries around the world at the same time, often converting exactly the same book because there was no mechanism to obtain a copy of the accessible title.
Today, thanks to the Marrakesh Treaty, NLS are able to provide the complete Harry Potter series to their patrons in English, but also French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Finnish, and if a library patron were to request the books in another language there is a good chance it could be sourced through the network of trusted intermediaries.
Through the Marrakesh Treaty NLS has been able to expand their capacity in ways they would never have been otherwise able to, providing a level of service to library patrons which would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
Thanks to Alice O’Reilly and Kelsey Corlett-Rivera from NLS for their contributions to this article.Read More
In this special webinar hosted by the IFLA section Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities in collaboration with the DAISY Consortium, we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Marrakesh Treaty, and explore the impact and relevance of the treaty after the first 10 years.
This page contains:
- Dipendra Manocha, The DAISY Consortium- host and chair
- Monica Halil , WIPO Accessible Books Consortium
- Marc Workman, World Blind Union
- Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium
- Stephen Wyber, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
- Victoria Owen, IFLA
- Siobhan Dennis, Vision Australia
- Francisco Javier Martínez Calvo, ONCE
- Bárbara Martín, European Blind Union
- Yasmine Youssuf, Chair of IFLA Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities Section
- Geert Ruebens IFLA LDP retired
- Teresa Hackett, Electronic Information for Libraries
Host: Dipendra Manocha – DAISY Consortium
Dipendra Manocha from DAISY welcomed everyone to the webinar and opened the session with some background, offering a personal perspective and his experience of the Treaty, how India prepared local legislation, and how the Treaty continues to make a significant impact for people with print disabilities.
Monica Halil, Head of the Accessible Books Consortium, WIPO
Provided some background on the Marrakesh Treaty, highlighting that there are currently 93 contracting parties covering 119 countries. The Accessible Books Consortium exists to help implement the Marrakesh Treaty at a practical level. In June 2023 there are currently 127 authorized entities globally, with 70 from developing or least developed countries. A total of 840,000 title are available for exchange under the framework of the Marrakesh Treaty, covering 80 languages.
Marc Workman – CEO, World Blind Union
Marc introduced the involvement of the World Blind Union which has been at the forefront of the journey, supporting the development of the treaty, and continuing to promote enactment of the treaty worldwide. Marc highlights that progress has been made, but many governments have yet to ratify the treaty restricting full enactment of the treaty worldwide. WBU are committed to continuing the journey, providing guidance for governments, organizations and individuals.
Richard Orme, CEO DAISY Consortium
Richard introduced the DAISY Consortium, the non-profit global authority on publishing and reading for people with print disabilities, whose team of international experts develop standards, tools, and best practices that are embraced by leading technology companies, publishers and library services. DAISY tools have facilitated the production of millions of accessible books, journals, newspapers and other documents, providing free tools helping organizations and publishers to create locally relevant accessible publications. In 2022 DAISY delivered technical training and capacity building support in 100 countries.
Several stories of individual experiences were shared, including of Naveen, a 13 year old boy in rural India who is blind and like others in his class had never read a book because there were no accessible books in his school. Following a DAISY project Naveen and his classmates can now read independently using simple solar powered audio players that were provided filled with accessible textbooks thanks to the Marrakesh Treaty.
Stephen Wyber, IFLA (SLIDES)
ILFA also played a key role in the adoption and implementation of the Treaty globally. Stephen presented some of the data confirming that 45% of the countries to have ratified the Treaty have not yet implemented legislation into national law. Also raising awareness of the different ways the Treaty has been implemented, with under 10% of implementations requiring additional fees to be paid, and 18% requiring time consuming and costly commercial availability checks.
Victoria Owen, IFLA LPD
IFLA LPD created a Getting Started Guide for librarians to support implementation which provides an easy-to-understand explanation of the Treaty, describing the requirements, services and options that can be used within the Treaty. That guide has been adapted by regionals to support librarians with advice on country specific requirements.
Victoria also spoke about activity in the US and Canada to assess barriers to research publications at all levels of academic study, highlighting challenges in exchanges between countries that have minor differences in the way that have implemented the Marrakesh Treaty, differences in library metadata usage, and in library systems and user records.
Perspectives on implementation of the treaty from a library perspective, supporting global libraries in using the treaty.
Siobhan Dennis, Vision Australia
Vision Australia were involved in the first cross border exchange of titles under the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016, exchanging with CNIB in Canada and utilizing the ABC catalogue. As a new process some technical difficulties were experienced, however three titles were exchanged on the day the treaty came into force on September 30 2016. Breaking new ground is always challenging, and thankfully over time the process of obtaining titles through ABC has become significantly easier.
Francisco Javier Martínez Calvo, ONCE
ONCE have a very large collection of titles in their accessible library, with 39,000 DAISY Format books, 31,000 braille titles and 3,000 music titles. The ABC Global Book Service has access to the DAISY Format and music titles, with braille titles currently in the process of being uploaded. This has enabled accessible Spanish language titles to be made available to readers with print disabilities around the world through the Marrakesh Treaty. Just by having access to the ABC catalogue, ONCE’s book collection has gone from 74,000 to nearly 800,000. Francisco was clear that the concept of the Treaty is working fine, but that things take time to be adopted, the Marrakesh Treaty is here to stay and we will see the full potential of the Treaty in time.
Bárbara Martín, President of EBU
The European Blind Union was another organization involved in the Marrakesh Treaty since in the early negotiations and continues to be active supporting implementation and use. One of the new countries using the treaty is Ukraine who ratified the treaty in March, enabling access to accessible titles for blind and partially sighted people who are in a very difficult situation.
EBU is now working with the EU who are evaluating the directive implementing the Treaty, developing a consultation to assess how it can be improved.
In 2025 the European Accessibility Act will be implemented, delivering accessible ebooks and ebook readers for all, which is good step forward, but not enough as it only relates to some formats, importantly not braille or audio. The Marrakesh Treaty will continue to be relevant, especially for back list and older titles.
Yasmine Youssuf, Chair of IFLA LPD
Yasmine shared details of accessibility and the Marrakesh Treaty adoption within the Arabic speaking countries. There are 22 Arabic speaking countries with a total of 400 million people forming a very large group. Only 6 Arab countries have ratified the Treaty so far, and of those only UAE have amended their copyright laws to implement the Treaty. Other countries like Egypt are working on ratification. Additional challenges are present for the Arabic language in accessible content creation tools, and reading solutions. Demand for accessible titles have increased especially for educational titles. IFLA LPD along with partners, have assisted by coordinating a symposium in 2017 to encourage governments to ratify the Treaty. Subsequent changes in disability equality legislation, seen as an important step towards ratification. Additional projects have delivered more accessible titles and an authoring tool that supports Arabic.
Geert Ruebens IFLA LPD (retired)
Geert spoke about their personal experience of the treaty, representing IFLA LPD being present in negotiations and in Marrakesh for the signing of the Treaty. The treaty was the results of lengthy negotiations between representatives of rightsholders, governments, and beneficiaries. While this is the 10th anniversary, we should remember that it took almost 10 years of negotiations with contributions from many organizations prior to that point.
Teresa Hackett, EIFL – Electronic Information for Libraries
EIFL were also involved the treaty negotiations from the start, experiencing all the hard work many put into the discussion, and the joy when the agreement was reached in Marrakesh. The partners involved all knew that the Treaty had the potential to transform lives, and it had proven to deliver against that potential. It was clear from early on that librarians were going to play a key role in supporting the practical implementation of Treaty. EIFL have produced and contributed to number of resources for libraries to guide the use of the Marrakesh Treaty, and working with countries to adapt the guidance to support national legislation. The Marrakesh treaty was always about people not profit, and people will take this forward.
- Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)
- European Blind Union
- International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
- IFLA Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities Section
- Vision Australia
- WIPO Accessible Books Consortium
- World Blind Union
- WIPO Marrakesh Treaty page
- Marrakesh Treaty official Treaty Text
- WBU Marrakesh Treaty Guide
- EBU Marrakesh Treaty page
- ABC Global Book Service
- Marrakesh Treaty: an EIFL Guide for Libraries
- Getting Started a practical guide for librarians on how to use the Marrakesh Treaty