World Intellectual Property Organization

UN Agencies Agree on Need for Closer Collaboration in Favor of Visually Impaired

Geneva, December 8, 2009
PR/2009/622

A meeting hosted by WIPO on December 7, 2009 with a number of United Nations (UN) specialized agencies in Geneva concluded with agreement on the need for closer inter-agency collaboration in favor of visually impaired persons (VIPs). During the meeting, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry outlined the Organization’s VIP Initiative, which aims to facilitate and enhance access to literary, artistic and scientific works for the blind, visually impaired and other reading-disable persons and stressed the importance of common activities in this area.

The meeting offered an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas about potential areas of cooperation, as mandated by WIPO member states. It brought together senior officials and experts from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO). ITU Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré, also participated in the discussions.

Mr. Gurry stressed the importance of “delivering as one” within the UN system for the effective promotion of equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups. He called for the development of common activities to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and coherence in system-wide activities relating to the needs of the VIP community. Dr. Touré highlighted the importance of fostering public-private partnerships to create affordable ICT (information communication technology) solutions adapted to the needs of reading impaired persons in developing countries.

The visionip.org website, launched by WIPO this year, was recognized as the vehicle to support this inter-agency effort in attracting support, exchanging views, and disseminating information to all interested parties in the UN family.

WIPO’s top copyright negotiation forum, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), is working to facilitate access of the blind, visually impaired and other reading-disabled persons to copyright-protected works. Discussions have so far centered on a series of practical measures to improve access to copyright-protected materials by reading impaired persons. These include a stakeholders’ platform, a central aim of which is to develop solutions that make published works available in accessible formats in a reasonable time frame. All participants have supported moving forward with this work. A draft treaty has also been proposed by a group of countries to develop a harmonized set of international copyright exceptions for the benefit of the VIP and other persons with reading impairments.

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