What happens when technology can do great things for humanity, but doesn't make a lot of money? Jim Fruchterman explores the social entrepreneurship side of technology applications: how to get great tech tools to the people who often need them the most, but are least able to afford them!
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Why Your Country Should Ratify the Marrakesh Treaty
Access to information and knowledge is
a basic human right and a necessary first step towards personal, economic, and social development. Yet around the world, over 100 million individuals are denied this basic right. They include people who are blind, visually impaired, have dyslexia, or have a physical disability that prevents them from reading regular printed books. The good news is that there are now unprecedented
opportunities to transform the lives of these millions by removing barriers of
access to information —and this is where you can help.
Chief negotiator Justin Hughes and the
U.S. delegation signing the treaty.
As the nonprofit operator of Bookshare,the world’s largest online library for people who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic, or have a physical disability that prevents them from reading books, Benetechstrongly recommends the ratification
of the Marrakesh Treaty.
Here’s why the Marrakesh Treaty is so
important and why your country can help ensure it benefits the millions who
What Does the Marrakesh Treaty Do?
The World Blind Union's Right to Read Campaign estimates that less than ten percent of all books published are available in accessible formats such as braille, large print, and audio talking books. The Marrakesh Treaty makes it
easier for nonprofits, schools, government agencies, and individuals with
disabilities to convert inaccessible print books into accessible equivalents.
It does so by making it legal under copyright to create accessible books
without needing to seek permission or (in most countries) paying a royalty. It
also allows for the import and export of such accessible books across
How Does the Treaty Help My
remedies the book famine faced by people who are blind or have another
disability that prevents them from reading books, improving their access to
education, employment, and social inclusion.
supports international human rights treaty commitments, especially the UN
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
supports the Sustainable Development Goals, which mention inclusiveness
repeatedly, especially in the context of education.
the primary successful example of the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization
Development Agenda, and will lay the groundwork for more advances in the
supports domestic human and civil rights laws around access to information and
greatly lowers the cost of providing accessible books by both easing domestic
efforts as well as by opening up existing accessible book collections in other
countries (either regionally or large worldwide English libraries, such
as Bookshare’s collection of 375,000+ titles).
helps hasten the development of a domestic electronic book industry in your
country, since ebooks are one core format for providing accessible books.
politically popular. Helping people with disabilities gain access to education
and books is a cause everyone can identify with. Most people know someone who
might benefit from books that talk.
publishing industry has come out in favor of the treaty.
How You Can Help
Benetech is happy to support the World
Blind Union in its campaign for the Marrakesh Treaty ratification and
implementation. Check out the World Blind Union’s resources for getting
involved with efforts to advance the Treaty’s ratification in your country. We
also recommend that you coordinate with your national association of the blind
as you consider ratification. Please join us in ending the accessible book
famine facing the world’s blind population. Advocate for your country to ratify
I first met Paul over thirty years ago. My first (successful) Silicon Valley company had Sevin-Rosen as lead investors, and Roger Borovoy was our board chair, the former Intel General Counsel. Roger thought that outside board service would be a good experience for an up and coming Intel executive, and that our startup would really benefit from Paul's input. The company went on to great success, and today is still represented in the product lines of Nuance (NUAN).
Paul was there on the fateful day when I presented a reading machine prototype to the Calera Recognition Systems board. The board's veto of the project (because it wasn't a big enough financial…
I've been privileged to meet so many awesome social entrepreneurs around the world, doing fabulous work without much recognition (and often, even less funding).
Jamila Hassoune is one of those social entrepreneurs, and we share a love for books and the power of access to books. We've been in touch for almost fifteen years, and I met her in person in 2014 when I was attending the diplomatic conference that resulted in the Treaty of Marrakesh. She's known as the Librarian of Marrakesh, in recognition of her dedication to books and her role as Morocco's first woman bookseller.
She leads Book Caravans into Morocco's rural regions to share knowledge, books and history with students and women.
She just sent me the announcement of her new Book Caravan:
The 13th book caravan
Under the theme: The valorization of our heritage is a responsibility of our present and our future.
Jamila Hassoune is pleased to announce the 13th Edition of the book caravan from April 16 …
I had a very unfortunate reminder of the fragile state of each human being this week. Just after returning from India and Bangladesh, I received word that one of my key contacts and hosts had suddenly passed away.
Professor Vinod Sena was a retired professor of English literature at the University of Delhi. Visually impaired his entire life, he was a tireless advocate for the blind and visually impaired as well as a shining role model. He has been described as the pioneer of Talking Books in India, and had been campaigning for a copyright law change to make it easier to provide access to accessible books. While I was in India, I picked up the newspaper and saw that he had just received a Helen Keller award for his work.
I know that the advocates for the blind and visually impaired will continue his work, initially with a heavy heart, but with the confidence that they are following in the footsteps of a great man.