The Gift Of Unrestricted Reading Now A Reality For The Blind and Vision-impaired

Today is a landmark day for the almost 55,000 people living with sight loss in Ireland. The European Union (Marrakesh Treaty Regulations) 2018 were signed into law by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D. this week.

Kevin Kelly, Head of Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns with the NCBI commented:  “The gift of reading is often taken for granted. However, this has not been the case for those experiencing sight loss in Ireland. More often than not, people who are blind and vision-impaired have been left upset and frustrated by being unable to access the books of their choice. The lack of access to recreational and academic books has placed those with a print disability at a huge disadvantage compared to their peers.   Thankfully, the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty means that this will no longer be the case.”

The Marrakesh treaty is an international Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) framed to end ‘the Famine’ of books and printed literature experienced by the world’s estimated 285 million people who are blind, vision-impaired and print disabled. The NCBI and library staff in particular have been pushing for the Irish Government to ratify this treaty in recent years.

“Ireland gave an undertaking to ratify the Treaty in 2014, but the necessary legislation has taken four years to be signed into law. During this period, many blind and vision-impaired people have had to battle with publishers to get access to the texts they required, particularly in further and higher education.   This placed an unnecessary additional pressure on those students. Under this legislation, the NCBI library will be a ‘Designated Body’, which will mean we will be able to access books as they are required by our service users and produce them in accessible formats, whether that be for use in school, college, work or leisure reading” added Kelly.

NCBI currently maintains a library of publications in Braille, audio and digital formats where the printed word is recorded into audio and transcribed into Braille. The works of Irish authors are made accessible and available to library members. This new law means that Braille and digital copies of books and articles that were difficult to access up to now, will be made more available to people who are blind or vision impaired, due to the NCBI library having easier access to files directly from publishers throughout the world.

NCBI library service user Christina McCarthy said “I’m delighted that this treaty has finally been ratified. As an avid reader, I’m really looking forward to having access to as many titles as possible. In college I studied languages, and it was often very difficult to get books, particularly if they were published outside of Ireland; in practical terms, this meant a lot of hours by a lot of people painstakingly scanning books one page at a time. I hope this will mean this is largely a thing of the past.”



For more information contact:

Emily Glen, Communications Executive