Volume 6 Issue 8 - October 01, 2009

‘Right to Read’ : Visually impaired people demand a change in the Copyright Act

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: While the government is basking in the glory of the Right to Education Act which guarantees education to all, millions of visually impaired people still do not have access to books. All because the Copyright Act of 1957 does not allow the conversion of books into accessible formats. With a view to accelerate a change in the Copyright law and to spread awareness about this issue, the Centre for Internet and Society (C.I.S.) in association with Bookbole and D.A.I.S.Y. Forum of India launched the Right to Read campaign, the first roadshow of which was held in Chennai on September 26. The roadshow was attended by 800-1000 persons.

In India, a massive 99 percent books are unavailable in accessible formats. The Indian Copyright Act does not make any provision for the conversion and distribution of books in accessible formats for print impaired persons. Hence organizations serving them have to get permission from copyright holders for conversion. Because of this, even other countries do not lend books in accessible formats to print impaired persons in our country, said Nirmita Narasimhan, Programme Manager, C.I.S.

In addition to this, there are no national policies or action plan to ensure that publications in accessible formats in all Indian languages are available to persons with print disabilities all over the country, she added.

The nationwide Right to Read Campaign seeks to achieve the objective through a series of events like nationwide road-shows, public rallies, televised debates, online petitions, signature campaigns, audio-video clips and stalls where accessibility tools are demonstrated. The campaign also aims to gather Indias support for the Treaty for the Blind, as proposed by the World Blind Union at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The launch was followed by a signature campaign where a huge banner supporting the campaign was signed by dignitaries and other participants of the event. In addition to this, volunteers were committed to the task of carrying out a signature campaign on paper. Supporters of the campaign were invited to sign on the declaration and to put down their names to volunteer for the campaign or to help out print impaired people in a sustained fashion by specifying the manner in which they would like to contribute.

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