Persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled have been facing tremendous barriers in accessing books and other printed material (including newspapers, textbooks, or music sheets).
To provide equitable access, such materials must be adapted into ‘accessible formats’ such as braille, audio, or large print. However, these formats are rarely commercially provided by the publishers. At the same time, the copyright law historically forbade any ‘mingling’ with the original works (including making accessible format copies by third parties). As a result, no more than 5-10% of all works had been available for the print-disabled just a decade ago; in turn, this ‘book famine’ has inhibited the participation of print-disabled persons in social and cultural life and mounted obstacles to accessing knowledge and education.
Against this backdrop came the ‘Marrakesh Treaty’ (full title: Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled). The Treaty introduced an international commitment to tackle the so-called book famine. The EU implemented the provisions of the Treaty in 2018 through the ‘Marrakesh’ Directive and Regulation, introducing a copyright exception that allows authorised institutions (which cater to the needs of persons with disabilities) to create and distribute accessible format copies of books and other works to print-disabled persons.
Five years on, we are supporting the European Commission in evaluating the Directive and Regulation. We aim to assess Marrakesh’s impact on improving access to printed works and social inclusion of persons with disabilities; we will look if its goals and provisions remain relevant amidst technological advancements and evolving needs; and we will ask how Marrakesh fits in with the new EU policies, such as the European Accessibility Act.
To do so, we will implement several consultation activities, reaching out to representatives of persons with disabilities, authors and publishers, libraries, and national authorities for their feedback. We will also explore how the impacts of ‘Marrakesh’ shape across Member States, depending on the national approaches to transposing the Directive and market characteristics (e.g., the language area size).
Are you an expert in accessible publishing and would like to share your insights with us? Fill out our partnership form and indicate your interest in this project via https://www.visionary.lt/partner-with-us/.
Stay tuned for our updates on the research!