Amendments were made to Singapore’s Copyright Act and one of it was to increase access for those with print disabilities. SPD was heartened that in the process, our recommendations and the needs of those with print disabilities were taken into consideration.
We had shared with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) some time ago how Digital Rights Management (DRM), otherwise technological protection measures, might hinder persons with disabilities using assistive technology devices such as screen readers and accessible book formats like DAISY.
SPD was also invited to participate in the public consultation exercise in 2013 where we proposed changes to the Copyright Act to help people with print disabilities and not just those with visual impairments. Under the previous regulation, accommodations were made only for the production of books in Braille.
Persons with print or reading disabilities extend beyond those who have visual impairments. They include individuals with any form of disabilities that restrict them from accessing or reading a book. It could be due to learning disabilities such as dyslexia or physical disabilities that limit their hand movements or controls, rendering them unable to turn the pages of a book.
In addition, SPD proposed that institutions assisting persons with disabilities be allowed to make accessible copies of books.
At the World Intellectual Property Day appreciation event on 23 April 2015, it was announced that Singapore was the first country in South-east Asia to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty which aimed at freeing up access to copyrighted materials for people with reading disabilities.
Under the treaty which was effected on 30 March 2015, institutions serving the community of people with disabilities would face fewer obstacles and have greater flexibility in transcribing copyrighted materials to a form accessible to people with print disabilities. They would also be able to gain access to overseas databases which have such materials including those operated by the Royal Blind in Britain and the National Federation of the Blind in the United States.
Previously, an accessible book would mean reading material in Braille format. As we start to realise that there are people who have not just visual disabilities, but also print disabilities or a reading disability, or even those who do not know Braille, the need for easier and legitimate access to reading materials at work, in school or for leisure purposes become more crucial.
Singapore’s ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty is another big step to our becoming a more inclusive society.
Images provided by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS)