Leadership in action

22 July 2013

Maryanne Diamond, a current Williamson participant, recently travelled to Marrakech to attend the Diplomatic Conference of the World Intellectual Property Organisation where a treaty for persons who are blind or have a print disability was being concluded.

According to the World Health Organisation there are 285 Million people in the world who are blind or have low vision. 80% of them are in the developing world.

The treaty allows books produced in accessible format like braille, audio, e-text, etc. under exceptions of national copyright law to be shared with persons who are blind in other countries.

"It is a very simple concept, however, we have been working on this for many years. Over the last 5 years, I have led the World Blind Union delegation at WIPO where this is being negotiated," comments Maryanne.

At about 1 am on Wednesday 26 June the treaty text was agreed to by all 186 WIPO Member states. On the 28th there was an official signing ceremony and Stevie Wonder performed to celebrate the achievement. 

An example of the difference this will make is that in Spain there are over 100,000 titles that have been produced in an accessible format and 50,000 available in Argentina. The rest of Latin America has just a handful. The success of the treaty will mean that all of the current titles will be available to all countries who speak Spanish. Imagine how that will change the lives of so many.

However, the treaty needs to be ratified by 20 countries before it can be implemented and this is now Maryanne's focus.

"We are all exhausted but thrilled with the outcome. Multi-lateral negotiations between the 186 WIPO member states, is very difficult and slow. However, they got there and we have a very good treaty," adds Maryanne.