Better access to books for blind and low vision citizens on World Braille Day

"Today is World Braille Day and I am delighted to announce that an international treaty giving blind and low vision New Zealanders access to books and literary works comes into force today,” Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni announced today.

“Today the Marrakesh Treaty and the associated amendments to the Copyright Act 1994, passed by Parliament last year, come into effect,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The treaty means disabled people can have greater participation in public life.

It will benefit disabled students at all levels of their education, professions, and those who just enjoy reading,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Kris Faafoi, says that prior to the Marrakesh Treaty blind and vision impaired people have had access to less than five percent of the total quantity of information available in print.

“The Marrakesh Treaty means an end to a ‘book famine’ experienced by many of New Zealand’s blind citizens, as they will now be able to access an international virtual library through global collaboration,” Kris Faafoi said.

“Organisations like the Blind and Low Vision NZ can access the braille translated or large print editions of books of similar agencies in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, without infringing copyright legislation of sovereign nations.

“Now approved organisations can check with each other and access material if it is already available,” Kris Faafoi said.

Today also marks 210 years since the birth of Louis Braille. The French educator enabled millions of blind people to experience literacy through his system of raised dots that could be read through touch.

“Louis Braille dreamed of a world where blind people, through access to literacy and numeracy, could take their place in society. Implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty will greatly progress his aspiration of an inclusive society,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Notes for Editors:

  1. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the World Blind Union's Resolution affirming World Braille Day on 6 November 2018. The purpose of the World Braille Day, celebrated on Louis Braille’s birthday every January 4, is to raise awareness of the importance of Braille for converting the written word to tactile form for the benefit of blind and partially sighted persons worldwide. For more information www.un.org/press/en/2018/gashc4250.doc.htm
  2. World Braille Day is celebrated on the birthday of Louis Braille. His reading and writing system was developed in the early 1800s and continues to play a significant role in enhancing the independence of people who are blind or have low-vision.
  3. Estimates are that there are at least 700 Braille users in New Zealand.
  4. Children who are blind and visually impaired learn Braille through the services and schooling provided by the Blind and Low Vision Network New Zealand (BLENNZ). From its campus in Auckland, BLENNZ provides specialist teaching for blind and low vision students across New Zealand. For more information www.blennz.school.nz/school-centres-and-services/homai-our-auckland-campus/
  5. BANZAT has accredited two organisations as Braille producers in New Zealand, namely, the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (the Blind Foundation). BANZAT recognises that the production of Braille is a core service of both organisations, who together produce more than 90% of New Zealand’s Braille. For more information www.banzat.org.nz/accredited-producers
  6. For more information on the Marrakesh Treaty www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/business/intellectual-property/copyright/the-marrakesh-treaty/
  7. Hon Kris Faafoi as Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Hon Carmel Sepuloni Minister for Disability Issues worked together to progress the Treaty through parliament.