Parliament To Give Urgent Attention To Marrakesh Treaty, Says Speaker

— As Blind Unionist Seeks Ratification

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Aaron Oquaye, has assured the World Blind Union that Ghana’s Parliament will give special attention to the Marrakesh Treaty ratification process to facilitate access to published works for the blind and visually impaired persons in institutions of learning in the country.

According to him, the Marrakesh Treaty is not only an issue of the blind, but a human rights issue of which parliament must jealously contribute to ensuring its ratification into a legal document.

The Speaker gave the assurance when the World Blind Union Technical Advisor on the Marrakesh Treaty, Christopher Friends, paid a courtesy call on him in Accra yesterday.

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty which seeks to facilitate access to publish works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled.

Prof. Oquaye said the treaty was an issue of utmost importance for parliament and expressed the confidence that Ghana’s parliament will give the treaty an urgent attention to achieve the purpose intended.

He also urged all stakeholders to deliberate on the treaty because of its distinctive objective of seeking to address the problem of the “book famine” which is prevalent in many countries, especially this part of the world.

The Speaker noted that lack of a legal framework had left this category of students with very limited access to learning materials.

On his part, Mr. Christopher Friends, said available statistics indicated that there are over 300 million blind and visually impaired persons in the world, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries.

He said the Marrakesh Treaty will go a long way to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled.

He appealed to the Parliament of Ghana to give special attention to the treaty for its ratification, stating a survey conducted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2006 revealed that less than 60 countries have limitation and exception clauses in their domestic copyright laws which make special provision for Visually Impaired Persons.

In addition, Mr. Friends said less than 10 percent of all publications are available in formats accessible for people who are blind or have other print disabilities.

The Marrakesh Treaty is an agreement among ratifying countries to adapt copyright laws to make it easier to expand the number of publications available in accessible formats, as well as send accessible formats across country borders.

He explained that the case of visually impaired persons outside the school system, leisure reading was almost non-existent and “it is for these reasons that ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and the subsequent incorporation of limitations and expectations for visually impaired persons into  Ghana’s Copyright Act are imperative”

Mr. Friends further stated that, despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats, like Braille, audio and digital copies, over 95 percent of published works are unavailable to people with print disabilities

He later presented a book, which he said was published April, this year by the Oxford Publishing and Printing company in the United States to the Speaker.

Dr. James Avedzi, Deputy Minority leader, on behalf of the parliamentarians, assured the Blind Union of Ghana’s parliament’s contribution to make the Marrakesh Treaty for visually impaired have access to a number of publications.

He added that parliament would work to support the Marrakesh Treaty goals with ratification to increase the availability of books in accessible formats in the country.

For him, the Marrakesh Treaty, which is the international copyright treaty, will give blind people around the world access to millions of published works and improve the distribution of books across the globe.

Mr. Friends was accompanied by Dr. Obeng Asamoah, Executive Director of the Blind Society of Ghana, and other staff members.


Source: Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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