Supporting Canadians with Disabilities Canada to become one of the first G7 countries to implement the Marrakesh Treaty, breaking down barriers for Canadians with disabilities

April 27, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario – Industry Canada

Canada has one of the top literacy rates in the developed world, but for some Canadians, this privilege also comes with certain limitations. Today, nearly 1 million Canadians live with a print disability such as blindness or partial sight, and some Canadians have mobility issues that prevent them from turning a page or pointing a cursor. For these Canadians, it can be especially difficult to obtain material such as textbooks or online resources in a format that is both accessible and easy to use. Canadians should not be denied opportunities to read and educate themselves simply because they are print disabled.

Today, Industry Minister James Moore, joined by representatives from the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) and the World Blind Union, announced that the Government of Canada will introduce new measures that expand access to materials in formats vital to those living with a print disability.

Canada will join the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Treaty will give Canadians with print disabilities more and improved access to material from around the world in a variety of languages. It will also increase opportunities to import and export accessible versions of print materials, while ensuring the continued protection of authors' rights. These changes will help schools, libraries and charitable organizations that work with the visually impaired to reduce their costs.

Once the Marrakesh Treaty is in force, Canada will be one of the first G7 nations to fully implement it, giving Canadians greater opportunities to fully participate in society and the economy.

The Government will table the Treaty in the House of Commons on April 29, 2015.

Quick facts

-  Only 7 percent of published books are ever made available in an accessible format such as an audiobook or a Braille conversion.
-  When these measures come into force, Canadians with print disabilities will have access to 285,000 adapted works from 13 countries, in more than 55 languages.
-  According to Statistics Canada, 35 percent of visually impaired students discontinued their education because of their condition, and approximately one third of Canadians who are visually impaired are not in the labour force.
-  Canada's current framework already makes exceptions for the print disabled, including new exceptions introduced as part of the Copyright Modernization Act in 2012. As part of that modernization effort, the Government specifically included amendments to facilitate the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies and the circumvention of technological protection measures (commonly known as digital locks) for the benefit of persons with print disabilities.
-   Economic Action Plan 2015 committed to acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.


    "Canadians should not be denied access to critical educational, employment or social opportunities simply because of a print disability. Our government is standing up for Canadians with disabilities by implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, an international framework that will ensure Canadians have greater access to the content they desire. Canada is among the first G7 countries to fully implement the Treaty, which is vital to the well-being of persons with print disabilities worldwide."
    – James Moore, Minister of Industry

    "I am thrilled to be part of this event today highlighting our government's commitment to those with print disabilities. Whether a person has difficulties because of blindness or mobility problems from a spinal cord injury like me, I know that the measures our government is taking will help improve the lives of many."
    – Steven Fletcher, Member of Parliament for Charleswood–St. James–Assiniboia

    "Our government is proud of the great work done by the CNIB in our riding of Don Valley West, and we are thrilled to further assist them as they increase access to published works for those who are visually impaired."
    – John Carmichael, Member of Parliament for Don Valley West

    "I'd like to congratulate the CNIB team and the World Blind Union for the diligence they've shown in this important matter over the last decade. Literacy is a fundamental human right, as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada has signed and agreed to uphold. On behalf of the CNIB community, I'm proud of the Government's pledge to accede to and implement the Marrakesh Treaty. This is an important day and, as an authorized entity for this initiative, an exciting first step for us to work together to make alternate-format printed materials accessible to all in Canada who need them."
    – John M. Rafferty, President and CEO, CNIB

    "As a person who is blind and loves books, this commitment from the Canadian government is exciting. Access to literature is essential for everyone, not just those who can read regular print. Right now only 7 percent of printed materials are available in alternate formats. This opportunity to improve our limited access to literature is a wonderful step by the Canadian government and will bring about real change for the 3 million Canadians who live with print disabilities today."
    – Diane Bergeron, Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement, CNIB

    "On behalf of the World Blind Union, I'd like to congratulate Canada on this important show of leadership. With this commitment to the Marrakesh Treaty, Canada will be one of the first major countries to ratify the Treaty, a hugely influential step that will encourage other countries around the world. This is a significant step to end the book famine for people who are blind and partially sighted."
    – Penny Hartin, CEO, World Blind Union

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Backgrounder: The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled


Jake Enwright
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Industry

Media Relations
Industry Canada

Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Industry