Stevie Wonder to UN: Ensure Blind Can Access Books

Music legend Stevie Wonder recently spoke at the United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). He delivered a simple, important message: “End the information deprivation that keeps the visually impaired in the dark.”

What does intellectual property and WIPO have to do with this issue? Blind or visually-impaired people need to be able to convert documents into accessible formats, but that conversion can require copying the work in ways that might be prohibited by copyright. While limitations and exceptions to copyright in national laws help address this issue, there is still a large gap in equity of access. That’s why WIPO is currently considering a draft treaty for "Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons.”

As Wonder put it: "While it's critical to not act to the detriment of the authors who created these great works that enlighten and nourish our minds, hearts and souls, we must develop a protocol that allows the easy import and export of copyrighted material so that people with print disabilities can join the mainstream of the literate world.... It can be done."

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we filed comments last year with the US Copyright Office in support of moving forward with this treaty. And it’s also why we work to make content available in accessible formats, including making the over 2 million out-of-copyright books that we’ve digitized as part of Google Books available for free and in an accessible form.

You can watch Wonder’s speech (and My Cherie Amour sing-along with UN delegates) below.