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Higher Education Groups Urge Congress to Pass Bill to Ease Access to Print Materials for the Visually Impaired

March 26, 2018

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​ACE and four other higher education groups issued a statement March 23 urging Congress to approve legislation that would provide print-disabled students better access to printed materials. 

The bill, known as the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559), was introduced in the Senate March 15 by Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and five other co-sponsors. It would ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, which has been ratified by 35 other countries and entered into force on Sept. 30, 2016.

The treaty, signed by the United States in October 2013, provides minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to copyright law to create and distribute accessible formats for people with print disabilities and allows for the cross-border exchange of these formats. 

According to the Association of Research Libraries, cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine​,” a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format, 

“Our colleges and universities—among the nation’s leading producers and consumers of copyrighted works—are committed to providing equitable access to information,” the groups said in their statement. “But students, faculty, and staff who have print disabilities encounter significant, daily challenges in accessing required course materials and essential scholarly resources . . . The Marrakesh Treaty offers a fair and transparent way to remedy the disadvantages that Americans with print disabilities confront when seeking to lawfully access the world’s printed materials.”

The statement was also signed by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, AUPresses, and EDUCAUSE. ​​

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