Treaty ratified to increase books for blind

PARLIAMENT on Tuesday ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, which will ensure that visually-impaired persons have access to literature and reading materials in order to enhance their social standing in society.

by VENERANDA LANGA

The treaty was brought into the National Assembly for ratification by Labour and Social Welfare minister Petronella Kagonye. The treaty, adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2013, is aimed at creating mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired and other print disabled persons.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Labour and Social Welfare Magna Mudyiwa said ratification of the treaty will assist the visually impaired who have been excluded from effectively participating in political, economic and social contexts due to lack of access to information.

“The Council for the Blind Zimbabwe (2017) estimates that 125 000 people in the country are blind while 250 000 are visually impaired,” Mudyiwa said.

“The treaty will not only facilitate wider social inclusion as espoused by ZimAsset, but will liberate this component of society to pursue their academic ambitions, which is the doorway to participation in productive sectors of the economy.”

She said there must be concerted efforts by government, non-profit organisations, libraries and academic institutions, among other players, to deliver the accessible books to the rightful beneficiaries who are the visually impaired.

Mazowe South MP Fortune Chasi (Zanu PF) said the treaty would allow Zimbabwe to photocopy or re-print books for the visually-impaired without seeking authority from the author.

“Government must be seized with this matter in a very deliberate way, to ensure that the more than 300 000 people who do not access books, who are not able to further their education, and some of them take as much as seven years to go through an initial degree because of the difficulties have with access to the literature that is necessary for their educational advancement like Braille,” Chasi said.

He said the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services also needed to play a part in enabling visually impaired persons to gain access to reading materials from the internet.

Kagonye said her ministry recently appointed the Disability Board whose first task would be to do a census to establish the number of people living with disabilities in the country.

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