CHICAGO – The Council of the American Library Association (ALA) recently passed a resolution commending the United States delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for its recognition of libraries as critical providers of accessible content.
The resolution, adopted Jan. 29 at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, also endorses the Obama Administration’s statement that access to information is a universal right and supports the call for a diplomatic conference to enact the WIPO International Instrument/Treaty on Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons/Persons with Print Disabilities.
The WIPO International Instrument/Treaty on Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons/Persons with Print Disabilities would allow authorized entities to make accessible copies of books in all signatory countries. The treaty would make it legal to send accessible books across national borders, making more books available for the print-disabled. Cross-border sharing of accessible content could enable U.S. libraries to better serve their users by providing a broader array of accessible format copies of materials, particularly those in a variety of languages.
ALA policy states that “library materials must be accessible to all patrons including people with disabilities.” Equitable access is also a critical public policy of the association.
In addition, the ALA holds that a major international relations policy objective must “encourage the exchange, dissemination, and access to information and the unrestricted flow of library materials in all formats throughout the world.”
The ALA acknowledges that principles of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, accessibility and full and effective participation and inclusion in society are proclaimed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Those with visual impairments/print disabilities need access to published works in order to achieve equal opportunities in society.
The resolution recognizes that the majority of persons with visual impairments/print disabilities live in developing and least-developed countries. The World Blind Union (WBU) has determined that only 7 percent of published books in accessible formats like Braille, audio and large print are available in the richest countries, while less than 1 percent are available in poorer ones, calling the situation a “book famine.”
Two-thirds of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) member nations have no copyright exception allowing for the production of accessible copies for people with print disabilities in their national laws, and cross-border sharing of accessible content should be facilitated under international law.
Despite the differences in national copyright laws, the positive impact of new information and communication technologies on the lives of persons with visual impairments/and print disabilities may be reinforced by an enhanced legal framework at the international level. Libraries serve as authorized entities and make accessible copies for library users with print disabilities.
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with 58,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.