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A fight for the Right to Read

by Radha Rao last modified Apr 02, 2011 02:53 PM
The copyright Law remains blind to the rights of the Visually Impaired - An article by N T Balanarayan, DNA Bangalore - 24th September, 2009

As Indians we enjoy our right to education and to read, but should learning be restricted to books provided in school? What if, some wish to broaden their horizon and learn more, only to realise there are no books available? That’s the situation the visually impaired in India face now. But Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society (CIS)* is out to change it. They’re starting a new campaign – demanding changes in the copyright law so that books can be converted into a medium with which the visually impaired will feel more comfortable.

According to the group, only 0.5 percent of the books available in India can be accessed in Braille or audio format. Further, the World Blind Union estimates that only five percent of the total books that get published in developed countries are converted into accessible formats.

According to Nirmita Narasimhan who works with CIS, it’s not a question of just making the books available in particular formats. “If people can read books, it will help literacy, education, employment and promote independent living.  A majority of the visually impaired population don’t pursue courses because they don’t have study materials in accessible formats. This is substantiated by looking at the statistics of Delhi University – they have about 1,500 seats reserved for the handicapped. Despite that, in 2008, only 270 students applied and in 2009, only 350 came forward. This just goes to show that in addition to making reservations, it is also necessary to provide an enabling reading framework to persons with disabilities by providing materials in accessible formats and a good support system,” she says.

“Further, it is not necessarily any particular format – with technologies and the prolific use of computers; accessible electronic formats (not being jpeg images which screen readers can’t make sense of) are most appreciated. One will find that blind persons are always reaching out to each other for study materials in accessible formats – this varies from materials for board exams to text for competitive exams,” she adds.

Through the campaign, a roadshow scheduled to start on September 26th at Loyola College, Chennai, the group wants changes to be made in the copyright law. The roadshow will be organised in three other metros as well.

The event will comprise presentations, debates and demonstrations along with book reading sessions and stalls where various accessibility tools will be demonstrated.

Change the Fineprint:  Changes in the copyrights law will enable the visually-impaired in India to overcome their handicap and grow with the modern times.
- Indian Copyright Law does not allow persons with print impairments to convert books into accessible formats to read them
- Libraries for the blind like Bookshare, RFB&D, lend books only to print impaired persons living in countries where such a legal provision exists
- Remember that persons with visual disabilities are not the only ones who can’t read printed matter those who are dyslexic and mentally challenged count too

* Name given as Centre for Information and Society in the original article - the same is corrected here.

Here is the link to the Right to Read Campaign

Here is the link to the original article in DNA -


Filed under:
ASPI-CIS Partnership


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