Thursday, December 17, 2015

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. 
The international legal landscape for people with these disabilities dramatically changed on June 28, 2013, when the World Intellectual Property Organization adopted the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. This historic international copyright exception treaty paves the way for a future in which people who cannot read regular printed materials can have equal access to books, regardless of where they live. There is still much to do, however, before the treaty takes full effect.
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, Benetech strongly 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 need it.
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 international borders.
How Does the Treaty Help My Country?
·         It 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.
·         It supports international human rights treaty commitments, especially the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
·         It supports the Sustainable Development Goals, which mention inclusiveness repeatedly, especially in the context of education.
·         It is the primary successful example of the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda, and will lay the groundwork for more advances in the Development Agenda.
·         It supports domestic human and civil rights laws around access to information and education.
·         It 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).
·         It helps hasten the development of a domestic electronic book industry in your country, since ebooks are one core format for providing accessible books.
·         It is 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.
·         The 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 Marrakesh!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Worthy Read: National Education Technology Plan

I just finished reading the National Education Technology Plan, and I can recommend it to anyone interested in the future of technology in American education. 

These kinds of plans can be impenetrable, but I found this one quite readable and understandable.  It is full of examples of interesting ed tech from for-profits and nonprofits, as well as local, state and federal government agencies.  I found the explanations good, and the first part of the plan is well worth reading to understand some of the trends in educational applications of technology.

Of course, one thing might be that accessibility is put right up top, front and center!  I liked this quote:
In addition to enabling students with disabilities to use content and participate in activities, the concepts also apply to accommodating the individual learning needs of students, such as English language learners, students in rural communities, or students from economically disadvantaged homes. 
Universal design gets a lot of well-deserved attention, and I was positively delighted by the plug for born accessible:
Education stakeholders should develop a born accessible standard of learning resource design to help educators select and evaluate learning resources for accessibility and equity of learning experience. Born accessible is a play on the term born digital and is used to convey the idea that materials that are born digital also can and should be born accessible. If producers adopt current industry standards for producing educational materials, materials will be accessible out of the box. 
So, there's a lot to like in there for me and our campaign for greater accessibility built into future educational technology and content!