Namibia’s visually impaired are still waiting for the Namibian government to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, which would enable the visually impaired around the world to access in Braille all educational material and published literature currently available.
The treaty requires countries to adopt national laws that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats – such as Braille – through limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright holders. It also provides for the exchange of these accessible format works across borders by organizations that serve the people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. It will harmonize limitations and exceptions so that these organizations can operate across borders.
The Marrakesh Treaty was signed on June 28, 2013, but it requires ratification by 20 countries before it goes into effect. Canada’s accession to the treaty in June this year would bring the treaty into force at the end of this month.
The Namibia Federation of the Visually Impaired (NFVI), whose members have just returned from an eight-day World Blind Union general assembly in the United States of America, is now more eager than ever to see Namibia ratify the treaty.
“We are still in the process of consulting the government to ratify the treaty especially the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the office of disability affairs [in the vice-president’s office],” said NFVI director Moses Nghipandulwa.
Even though the treaty goes into force at the end of this month, only countries that have ratified the treaty would benefit.
“[Namibia’s] effectively implementing its provision [would be] in line with the treaty’s overarching goal of furthering the human rights of persons with disability, promoting their access to literature and information,” Nghipandulwa said.
The Marrakesh VIP Treaty is formally known as the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities, or colloquially MVT. It was adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco, on June 28, 2013.
Currently 90 percent of published materials in the world are not available to the nearly 300 million people that are visually impaired. Further access is especially low in developing and low-income countries where less than one percent of materials are accessible. This has resulted in what the World Blind Union has called a ‘global book famine’ and the union has for years campaigned for a treaty that would help overcome the ‘book famine’.
In Namibia, Ngipandulwa says the NFVI has partnered with other organisations and institutions locally and in the region to further its work.
The federation is in the process of collaborating with South Africa’s blind council, for the NFVI to send its instructors on rehabilitation courses in South Africa. Locally the NFVI managed to secure N$1.9 million from the Namibian Training Authority (NTA) to revive its rehabilitation-training programme that was discontinued.
NFVI has experienced a shortage of funds required to keep its programmes running since the Finnish government reduced its annual funding some years back. The funding from the NTA allows the federation to host three training sessions.
“It is just a lump sum not permanent (funding) but we hope in the process they may consider us as service providers and perhaps continue funding us. NTA also came up with the procedures and requirements for the training,” said Nghipandulwa.
The federation offers rehabilitation training to visually impaired persons in mobility, Braille, and training in activities in daily living, as well as computer training. The organization was established in 1986 and has over 15 000 members in all 14 regions.
Nghipandulwa explained that the NTA funding would also allow the federation to do some building renovations, purchase equipment for Braille production and the remuneration of instructors.