February 18, 2016
Mr. Joseph Biden
Vice President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. Vice President,
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency tasked with advising the President and Congress on disability policy matters. On February 10th, 2016 the President transmitted the “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled” to the Senate for ratification. This treaty would enhance the lives of people all over the world who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled by providing them with access to books and other material in accessible formats, including Braille, audio, digital, large print and other formats that emerge as technology advances.
The treaty allows “authorized entities” to create accessible versions of published materials and share them with individuals who need them to access the material at no cost. Additionally, the treaty allows authorized entities to exchange accessible works across international borders with each other, thereby reducing duplication and cost. It’s important to note that this treaty would not require changes to existing U.S. law, which already allows authorized entities to reproduce or distribute copies of previously published literary works in specialized formats for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.
Worldwide it is estimated that 95% of published material are not produced in accessible formats, leading to a global “book famine.” This poses a tremendous barrier to education and employment opportunities for this population of people with disabilities.
NCD is very proud to have played a primary role in drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and working to assure its passage. With our continued support of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, NCD remains committed to raising the ideals of the ADA, “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities…” to an international scale. The Marrakesh treaty has the potential to open up a world of knowledge and shared cultural and educational experiences to everyone, regardless of disability.
NCD is very grateful for the Administration’s support in seeking ratification of the treaty. We stand ready to assist in any way possible to continue to provide information, and would appreciate any opportunity to support the efforts of the Administration and your office in particular during the critical weeks ahead.
Clyde E. Terry