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Your Signature Could Help 70 Million Read

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 02, 2011 01:10 PM
A humble signature campaign in the city intends to take on a law that prevents the print-impaired from reading. You too can join in and support the cause.
Your Signature Could Help 70 Million Read

Dr Sam Taraporevala has a vision

Picture this: You are on a lazy weekend getaway with easy access to a hammock, cool lemonade and your favourite book. This might sound like oh-so common bliss to you, but this scenario is off bounds for over 70 million Indians. The "print-impaired", or in other words, those who cannot read due to a disability, don't have access to nearly 99% of material printed today.  A campaign is currently on in Mumbai to change the law, and your endorsement could make a difference.

"The issue facing a print-impaired person is that when you have a book in standard print, it poses a problem to read," says Dr Sam Taraporevala, Associate Professor and Head of Department, Sociology at St Xavier's College. 

Changing the format of a standard book is considered illegal under the Copyright Act of 1957. The Act does not permit conversion of books into a format that can be accessible for the print-impaired (through Braille, screen readers or a digital talking book format, to name a few). To counter this issue and make books accessible to all, Dr Taraporevala (also Director of the Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged), has launched a signature campaign.

"The advantage technology offers is that if an author or publisher wants to make his work accessible, he can do so in real time." The campaign, which is part of a global initiative by the World Blind Union (WBU), Sight Savers International and other organisations, is the first of its kind for the city.  It aims at collecting 500 signatures of authors and publishers, who will be directly responsible for bringing about a change. Signing the intent form does not in any way mean that the author is handing over the rights of his book.

"There is a concern among authors about providing an accessible copy of the book, that it might lead to piracy," says Dr Taraporevala.  "I don't condone piracy but it's a reality and this will not add to it significantly. Why allow injustice to prevail because of an artificial fear?"

Three hundred signatures down and 200 more to go, the race is on for the January 22 deadline. But Dr Taraporevala remains unperturbed. "We will do it. I don't know how but I want to believe anything is possible."

See the original article on Mid-Day.


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