The Marrakesh Treaty has already had a major impact on copyright legislation, removing legal barriers to making and sharing copies of books in accessible formats. But to ensure that people with print disabilities benefit from genuinely equal access, implementation is key. A new IFLA guide helps libraries take this final step, and make the promise of Marrakesh real.

When the Marrakesh Treaty was signed five years ago, it was celebrated as a major advance towards fair access to information for people with print disabilities. It addressed the ‘book famine’ – the serious lack of books and other materials in accessible formats.

A key factor behind this was copyright. To make a copy in an accessible format, people with print disabilities and the institutions that served them – libraries in particular – needed to seek authorisation from rightholders. Meanwhile, rightholders (often publishers) were not producing such copies themselves, leaving millions of people without access.

The Treaty obliges its members to remove these barriers, allowing for the making and sharing of accessible format books, including across borders. Further details about the Treaty are available on the IFLA website.

Yet legal reform is only part of the picture. Libraries need to take advantage of these new possibilities if we are to make a reality of equitable access to information for all. To do this, they need to understand what the Treaty means, and feel confident in making and sharing accessible format copies.

This is the aim of a new IFLA guide, published today, with support from the World Blind Union, University of Toronto, and Canadian Association of Research Libraries. It provides simple answers to the questions libraries are most likely to ask, providing guidance and support. We hope that it will bring us a step closer to genuine fairness for people with print disabilities.

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner said:

Marrakesh was a great step forwards for equitable access to information, but without delivery on the ground, cannot succeed. I am proud that IFLA is helping libraries to implement its provisions, just as it helped to get the Treaty signed five years ago’.

The Guide’s editor, Victoria Owen, said:

Libraries play a key role in facilitating access, and this guide was conceived to enable staff in libraries of all types to take the final, practical steps to deliver materials into the hands of print-disabled readers… together we are working to end the book famine for print-disabled persons worldwide’.

Chair of IFLA’s Section for Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities Kirsi Ylänne said:

Libraries have an important role in implementing the Marrakesh Treaty and Getting Started explains how to do the job. With the advice the Guide offers, all librarians can ensure equal access to literature for persons with print disabilities’.