After ten years of negotiations by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a historic treaty was signed that will bring more accessible textbooks to blind users. The agreement, signed by 186 countries, will remove copyright obstacles that have prevented many textbooks from being made available in accessible formats such as braille, large print, and audio. The treaty will carve out copyright exemptions which will also enable published works to be converted to accessible formats by government agencies and non-profits for distribution to those with visual disabilities. Organizations who serve the blind will also be able to distribute the works they have made accessible to people in other countries who may need them.
Publishers urged to adopt EPUB 3
The push to make accessible texts more widely available will be helped by the adoption of the EPUB 3 format, the newest format for electronic books which features advanced accessibility standards. The International Publishers Association endorsed the format in March which should increase more widespread use of the format. ALthough the format shows much promise for making books more accessible to the blind, there are still e-readers that aren't compatible with the advanced accessibility features. Amazon is working on addressing the issue by recently releasing an application that allows the Kindle books to be read using Apple's VoiceOver technology.
Read more about the treaty and the promise of EPUB 3 at Nature.com.