Beginning of 2021, the European Union has launched a consultation on the availability of non-printed works in accessible formats for people with disabilities in the single market.

Therefore, in collaboration with the Library Services to People with Special Needs section, IFLA gathered and shared evidence about the degree to which people with disabilities are able to use accessible-format works in the EU.

This survey comes almost 10 years after the Treaty of Marrakesh was signed by members of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), mandating exceptions and limitations to copyright for the benefit of people with print-disabilities, and four years after legislation was passed within the EU to implement its provisions. Both the Treaty, and the European legislation, leave open the possibility to extend the definition of beneficiaries to people with other disabilities.

In its response, IFLA has highlighted that while some works are accessible, disparities between countries mean that not all European citizens have the same opportunities.

For works such as audiobooks, printed works (for people with other than visual disabilities), sound recordings, audiovisual works, images, sculptural and architectural works, video games, software, IFLA has found these works were either not available at all, or only available with limitations in accessible formats. When these accessible-formats did exist, they were generally difficult or very difficult to obtain.

IFLA also mentioned that the COVID19 pandemic had had a significant negative impact on people with disabilities. Libraries often have had to close their doors, making it impossible for people with disabilities to access works. In addition, we fear that the economic impact of the crisis could reduce or cut funding for accessibility.

We have also pointed out that libraries have difficulty finding born-accessible works as production is considerably limited. As a result, they are working to create accessible formats, notably by circumventing – where legally permitted at the national level – technological protection measures. 

We hope that this consultation will start meaningful work in the European Union to expand the range of people who can benefit from Marrakesh Treaty provisions, and so move closer to the equal access to information envisaged in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

IFLA’s response to the EU Consultation on availability of works.