News 12 July 2017

A new chapter for accessible books in Australia

In good news for avid readers with vision impairment, Australia is on the verge of a braille book boom.

The Australian Parliament recently made changes to copyright law in order to fully implement the Marrakesh Treaty, an international agreement to share accessible books across borders.

The changes apply to braille books, audio books and large-print books and will lead to more reading material for people with print disability, as well as people with vision impairment.

Under the changes, audio and braille books can now be imported from overseas without the specific permission of publishers. It is also now legal for Australian organisations and individuals to make their own accessible copies of copyrighted books.

Vision Australia General Manager for Advocacy, Karen Knight welcomed the changes, saying: “Currently, only five per cent of books worldwide are converted into accessible formats. Lack of information negatively impacts on the ability of a person with print disability to access education, employment and inclusion outcomes.

“The changes will mean we can legitimately reproduce a title into a structured audio file. As an example, this would give a student convenient access to the pages and section headings they actually need to read and learn, but they wouldn’t need to read the text book from cover to cover,” Ms Knight said.

In a statement, Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield, said the important reforms would significantly improve access to copyright materials for people with a vision, hearing or intellectual disability.

In a joint statement, Labor Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, and Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers, Senator Carol Brown, said the changes meant that the “so-called book famine” has finally ended.

We think this is something certainly worth celebrating, perhaps with a cup of tea and a good book!

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