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Great Expectations Of e-Book Access Demonstrations

Accessibility is “rising up the agenda” of the publishing industry as awareness grows of the value of helping people access electronic books in multiple formats, a publishing standards body said this month.

The statement came following a live demonstration of accessible readings from “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens at the London Book Fair in an event organised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Publishers Licensing Society and EDitEUR – the trade standards body for the global book industry.

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Ro O’Shay: The World at My Fingertips

After training as a clinical support worker, US-based blogger Ro O’Shay was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, before losing her sight in 2008. Since then, the internet and new communications technologies have gradually become a lifeline for her, and she is now a keen writer and technology-user. Tristan Parker talks to her about her passion for technology.

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“Finish Line In Sight” for Accessible Copyright Treaty

After what will have been five years of negotiations, an international treaty to allow the sharing of accessible copyrighted material across borders for use by blind and visually impaired people could finally be signed in 2013, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

A “roadmap” for formalising a treaty, which would increase book access for disabled people including blind and visually impaired people, has finally been approved at this month’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) general assembly in Geneva ( http://bit.ly/OqkKxp ).

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Campaigners Urge Further Changes to Copyright Law

The British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) and RNIB are calling for changes to the copyright law to allow disabled people to copy all legally owned digital books or multimedia into more accessible formats.

The calls come as part of the organisation’s response to consultation on proposed changes to copyright law from the UK Intellectual Property Office in a report by Professor Ian Hargreaves – chair of digital economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies – which would allow wider and easier access to a range of materials for disabled people.

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Publishers Call for Industry Cohesion on Accessible e-Books

A pledge on behalf of the publishing industry to work with all parts of the publishing supply chain to improve the accessibility of e-books has been launched by The Publishers Association (PA), with cross-sector support.

The joint statement ( http://bit.ly/HzaaBV ) was launched at this week’s London Book Fair 2012, and is supported by a range of organisations, including: the Royal National Institute of Blind People; and EDItEUR, the international trade standards body for the book industry.

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Digital books in Italy: Reading Without Barriers

By Michele Smargiassi

They can’t see their books: maybe this is why they read them with such an extraordinary passion. On average, in Italy, a blind person reads 9.2 books a year, while among sighted Italians only two in ten people read so many. Six blind people out of ten read a few pages of a book at least once a week, while 53.2% of Italians never, ever, read. In short, the blind read much more than the sighted.

“The thirst for knowledge is strongest where there is a barrier,” says Orlando Paladino, president of the Unione Italiana Ciechi (Italian Union of the Blind). Or perhaps, where a barrier falls. The data outlined above from a new survey by the Italian Publishers’ Association (Associazione Italiana Editori – AIE: http://www.aie.it ) would probably have been very different 15 years ago, when it was impossible to read books on a computer, or to have them translated into Braille on a tactile display. (more…)

Charities Push For Binding Treaty On Global Book Access

UK and European blindness charities are stepping up the pressure on politicians ahead of a decisive meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to consider rules allowing accessible versions of copyrighted works to be shared across borders, giving people with print disabilities wider access to books.

Negotiations at the WIPO General Assembly later this month, followed by a meeting of the organisation’s standing committee on copyright and related rights (SCCR) in November, are likely to settle a long-standing debate on whether access rights to copyright works should be the subject of a binding international treaty of merely a voluntary ‘recommendation’.

EU negotiators have been lobbying against full treaty status under strong pressure from rightsholders in some member states. However the European Blind Union has now submitted a petition to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee to be heard on 3 October saying the EU’s position contravenes its own charter.

“By opposing such a treaty, the EU Commission and Member States are clearly failing to recognise and respect the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community”, the petition says. “In doing so the commission is failing to live up to its commitments to article 26 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on the integration of persons with disabilities.”

Meanwhile the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has responded to a UK government consultation on the copyright negotiations saying the EU’s position in calling for a voluntary code or ‘soft law’ runs counter to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which “makes explicit disabled people’s right to accessible information… and that ‘laws protecting IP rights should not place unreasonable or discriminatory barriers in the way of access to cultural materials’.”

“No rights holder organisation would accept the idea that voluntary codes of good behaviour signed by consumer organisations could be so effective in ensuring an acceptable level of rights holder protection that they would remove the need for binding copyright law. We likewise reject the argument that voluntary cooperation and licensing can replace a legally binding right of access to works by print disabled people.”

The RNIB rejected moves by some EU negotiators to suggest a ‘two-step’ approach, with a joint recommendation to be followed by returning to discussions on a treaty at a later date but with no guarantee any treaty would emerge.

“RNIB would like to underline that a two-step approach simply postpones – possibly for many years- a full and long overdue solution to a problem first identified back in the 1980s… it would put in place a second class solution for disabled people, in contrast with the first class solution –treaties – offered to rights holders to protect their interests.”

The November meeting is also likely to settle the final wording of the text of the proposed recommendation or treaty, including the relationship between the new copyright exception law and contract law, following progress in June towards a single draft document involving compromise on both sides (see July issue coverage).

UK Fails To Support Accessible Copyright Treaty

The UK government has declined to offer full support to a draft international treaty to allow accessible versions of copyrighted works to be shared across international boundaries, giving those with print disabilities wider access to books, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The news comes in a response to a written Parliamentary question from Lord Low, President of the European Blind Union (EBU), in which he asked for the government’s assessment of the treaty. The draft was first put forward by the World Blind Union (WBU: http://bit.ly/gs9o55 ) in 2009 at a standing committee of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) ( see E-Access Bulletin issue 131: http://bit.ly/eNgEDt ).
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Free DAISY Book Recorder Software Upgraded

The latest version of an open source audio recording tool designed to allow anyone to produce DAISY format electronic books has been released by the global DAISY Consortium of blindness organisations, publishers, technology companies and others.

DAISY (digital accessible information system) books created with the Obi 1.2 software ( http://bit.ly/fqzspr ) can contain chapters, sub-sections and pages, allowing users with print disabilities to easily navigate through the content. The Obi tool is also fully accessible to screen-readers.
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Publishers And Campaigners Unite To Boost Text-to-Speech

A call for text-to-speech functions to be included on all electronic book platforms to improve their accessibility has been issued by a group of publishing and literary organisations.

The Publishers Association, The Society of Authors, The Association of Authors Agents and The Right to Read Alliance – itself an umbrella campaign group, whose members include The Royal National Institute of Blind People – grouped together to issue the joint statement. It recommended that speech functions, which help many print-disabled readers access a range of otherwise inaccessible e-books, “is routinely enabled on all e-books across all platforms, at least where there is no audio-book edition commercially available.”
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