Copyright and print disabilities: a personal view

8 Aug 2013

In June, I represented the Australian Copyright Council at the World Intellectual Property Organisation Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech to negotiate a treaty for access to published works for people who are blind, vision impaired or otherwise print disabled. The two week conference successfully concluded in the signing of a Treaty. This was an excellent outcome, made all the more excellent by a performance from Stevie Wonder.

In my discussions with other delegates at the Conference, it became apparent to me that representatives of people with print disabilities and copyright owners had a common interest: equal access to published works for people with print disabilities. In the following story, I provide a personal perspective on why commercial availability is important in achieving that goal.

A few months ago, I received an excited text message from a friend. He was at TED X in Sydney and had just heard Professor Ron McCallum talk about Blindness, Technology and the Law. The talk had made my friend think of me.

Like Professor McCallum, I am a lawyer. Like him, I am also a VIP. A vision impaired person.

Unlike Professor McCallum, I have not been a VIP since birth. It has been a gradual process. After suggestions that I was colour blind, that my glasses were scratched or that I was stressed and needed to learn to meditate, an organic cause for my poor vision was discovered when I was 27 years old. By that stage I was already working as a copyright lawyer.

While it was great to know that there was a reason why I could not see, my condition is one of those interesting ones that does not lend itself to a precise diagnosis. And without knowing what my condition was, a prognosis was not possible. This meant that adaptation was the order of the day!

I stopped driving, got a monocular to help me read the tram numbers, purchased a special watch and asked my secretary to put a white stripe on my red pens so that I could distinguish them from the black ones. I also became a member of the Talking Book Library.

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Photo Credit: Pablo Lorenzo | Fotografía | via Compfight cc

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