Stevie Wonder’s vision for the blind and visually impaired comes true

In an unprecedented United Nations-supported initiative, people who are blind and those who have other forms of visual disability will have access to published works through publisher intermediaries who will create accessible formats of publications and share them with specialized libraries.

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The initiative is in line with the Declaration by the world-famous singer-songwriter and UN Messenger for Peace Stevie Wonder who on 20 September 2010 called on the international community to take action to enhance accessibility for all those with physical disabilities.

The new initiative aims to ensure that people with print disabilities in both developing and developed countries have equal access to published works as persons without print disabilities.

The arrangement was announced on 23 October 2010 at the end of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meeting in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

‘The success of this project – which represents an effective global partnership for development – will require commitment and investment of all concerned,’ said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry,who attended the meeting in New Delhi.

Mr. Wonder made his call when he spokeon at the opening of the annual meetings of WIPO Assembliesin Geneva, where he challenged delegates to conclude an agreement on improved accessibility to copyright protected works by visually impaired persons (VIPs).

He was launching his ‘Declaration of freedom for people with disabilities’ at the start of the annual meeting of Member States of WIPO.

Wonder said then that the declaration was ‘a call to action, a plan to empower the independence of people with disabilities by providing them with the tools to learn and grow.’

‘Through your legislative efforts, incentives can be created to advance the blind and visually disabled towards the promise of a better life,’ he told the ministers and policy-makers from WIPO’s 184 Member States.

It is estimated that only five percent of the world’s one million print titles that are published every year are accessible to the some 340 million around the world who are blind, visually impaired or who live with other print disabilities.

Under the initiative, specialized organizations globally, such as libraries for the blind, have taken on the task of adapting these books into Daisy, Braille audio or special digital formats.

WIPO is collaborating with organizations representing authors, publishers and blind and low vision persons, including the World Blind Union and the International Publishers Association to provide access to a wider range of accessible books.

WIPO will provide the technical support for the project.

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