Thursday 28 June 2012


Australia can help end world book famine

Thursday 28 June 2012

Australia can help end world book famine

People with a print disability throughout the world are currently experiencing a ‘book famine’, yet the Australian government has failed to take action that could change the situation.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, said that only 5% of all books produced in Australia are published in accessible formats such as large print, audio or braille, while in developing countries it is just 1%.

“Australia should change its position and take the lead in ending this ‘book famine’,” he said.

Commissioner Innes urged the Australian government not to fund the Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources project, or TIGAR. TIGAR is set up to facilitate cross-border exchange of copyright protected electronic files for books in accessible formats. This exchange takes place between trusted intermediaries, such as national libraries and charitable institutions, serving the blind, visually impaired and others with print disabilities.

“In three years, TIGAR has only produced 300 books in alternate formats that can be shared worldwide, when there are hundreds of thousands of these books available in first world countries,” Mr Innes said. “Despite this, the Australian government intends to provide $200,000 funding for this failed initiative, which has barely made a dent in the ‘book famine’.”

Instead, Commissioner Innes urged the Australian government, at the World Intellectual Property Organisation meeting in Geneva in two weeks’ time, to publicly support, and actively pursue a treaty which would make an exception to copyright law.

He said the World Blind Union withdrew its support for the TIGAR project, which is voluntary, in 2011, due to its lack of success.

“I support the call on the Australian government by Maryanne Diamond, President of the World Blind Union, to publicly support and actively pursue a treaty in this area.”

Commissioner Innes said that publishers have had the chance for more than 20 years to voluntarily end the book famine, but have chosen not to do so.

“Australia could lead the change to international law in this area and, at little cost to us, provide the opportunity to read to millions more people with print disability throughout the world."

Commissioner Innes said an international treaty would allow hundreds of thousands of books already produced in formats like braille, audio and large print, to be shared from one country to another.