Industry Canada

Industry Canada

June 08, 2015 15:10 ET

Supporting Educational and Employment Opportunities for Canadians with Print Disabilities

Government introduces new legislation that will make more Braille and audiobooks available in Canada

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 8, 2015) - Industry Canada

Canada has one of the top literacy rates in the developed world, but for some Canadians, this privilege also comes with certain limitations. Today, nearly one million Canadians live with a print disability such as blindness or partial sight, and some Canadians have mobility issues that prevent them from turning a page or pointing a cursor. For these Canadians, it can be especially difficult to obtain material such as textbooks or online resources in a format that is both accessible and easy to use. Canadians should not be denied opportunities to read and educate themselves simply because they are print disabled.

Today, Industry Minister James Moore introduced new legislation in Parliament that will expand access to print materials in formats vital to those living with a print disability. The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act will enable Canada to join the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.

With this legislation, Canada will become one of the first G7 countries to be able to implement the Marrakesh Treaty. This important treaty will ensure greater access to accessible reading material from around the world in a variety of languages, while also helping schools, libraries and charitable organizations that work with the visually impaired to reduce their costs.

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act was first promised in Economic Action Plan 2015. It will make the necessary amendments to the Copyright Act to allow for the making and distribution of accessible-format copies of print materials. It will bring Canadian law in line with the Marrakesh Treaty, while also maintaining specific safeguards to protect the rights of copyright owners.

Quick facts

  • On April 27, 2015, Minister Moore, joined by representatives from the CNIB and the World Blind Union, announced that the Government of Canada would introduce new measures to expand access to materials in adapted formats for those living with a print disability.
  • The Government tabled the Marrakesh Treaty in the House of Commons on April 29, 2015.
  • When the Marrakesh Treaty comes into force, Canadians with print disabilities will have access to 285,000 adapted works from 13 countries in more than 55 languages.
  • Only 7 percent of published books are ever made available in an accessible format such as an audiobook or a Braille conversion.
  • According to Statistics Canada, 35 percent of visually impaired students discontinue their education because of their condition, and approximately one third of Canadians who are visually impaired are not in the labour force.

Quote

"Canadians should not be denied access to critical educational, employment or social opportunities simply because of a print disability. Our government has made it a priority to support Canadians with disabilities. It is with this important legislation that Canada will soon be able to implement the Marrakesh Treaty, an international framework that will help Canadians with print disabilities access the content they desire-both personally and to develop their careers. The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act will allow Canada to be among the first G7 countries to implement the Treaty, which is vital to the well-being of persons with print disabilities worldwide. The Government strongly believes that Canadians fully support the important objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty, and I expect that all federal parties will support Canadian leadership in acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty and helping bring it into force globally."

- James Moore, Minister of Industry

Related product

  • Backgrounder: The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act and the Marrakesh Treaty
  • Frequently Asked Questions

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Backgrounder

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act and the Marrakesh Treaty

Almost one million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. For these individuals, it can be especially difficult to find print material in a format that is both accessible and easy to use. More can be done to ensure that copyright laws do not create additional barriers for those with a print disability and that users have access to the latest and best published material from around the world.

To address this issue, the Government committed in Economic Action Plan 2015 to implement and join the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act is an important step toward fulfilling that promise.

The Bill

Canada's current copyright framework already contains exceptions that allow for the making and distribution of accessible-format copies for the benefit of persons with perceptual disabilities. To ensure that these are fully in line with the Marrakesh Treaty and to enable Canada to accede to the Treaty, the bill will make targeted amendments to the Copyright Act. The proposed amendments maintain the important balance in Canada's copyright framework between the interests of copyright owners and users.

Persons with disabilities and supporting organizations

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act will allow, within specific parameters, persons with disabilities, and the organizations that support them, to make and distribute accessible-format versions of works, including large-print books.

The bill will allow the sending of accessible-format copies to other countries, regardless of the nationality of authors, facilitating the cross-border exchange of works in accessible formats with supporting organizations in other countries.

The bill also specifies that technological protection measures (or digital locks) may be circumvented in order to provide access to persons with perceptual disabilities. The amendments remove the condition that the lock not be unduly impaired but require that circumvention be done solely for the benefit of such persons.

These measures will bring benefits to many different groups of Canadians with print disabilities:

  • Students will have better access to print materials, helping them continue with their studies and better engage in the Canadian workforce. According to recent survey data, approximately 35 percent of visually impaired students discontinue their education because of their condition.
  • Workers will have greater opportunities. Current data suggests that approximately one third of Canadians who are visually impaired are not in the labour force.
  • Seniors-the group with the highest rates of visual impairment-will have better access to reading materials, which helps maintain their quality of life.
  • Canadians from minority language groups will have better access to books in a variety of languages.
  • Schools, libraries and charitable organizations that work with Canadians who are print disabled will benefit from reduced duplication in the production of accessible works.

Protecting authors and publishers

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act also includes important safeguards to ensure that the legitimate interests of authors and publishers are respected.

Safeguards will apply where accessible-format copies are already commercially available. For domestic use and imports, the exceptions do not apply where an accessible-format version is commercially available under reasonable terms in the Canadian market. For exports, the exceptions do not permit the sending of an accessible-format copy to another country if it is commercially available under reasonable terms in that foreign market, but the remedies that may be sought against non-profit organizations are limited in such circumstances.

Finally, other key safeguards, such as protections for the moral rights of creators, and the civil remedies available against those who enable online copyright infringement will continue to apply.

The Marrakesh Treaty

The Marrakesh Treaty aims to bring the global community together to better address the universal challenge of ensuring timely access to, and wider availability of, printed material for those who are visually impaired.

The Treaty sets international standards on certain exceptions to copyright so that print materials can be adapted into formats-such as Braille and audiobooks-that visually impaired and print-disabled individuals can use. The Treaty also makes it possible to distribute accessible-format copies between countries. The negotiations for the Treaty were led by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a United Nations agency with 188 member states. The Treaty will come into force once 20 countries have ratified or acceded to it. As of June 4, 2015, eight countries-Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay-have ratified or acceded to the Treaty. By acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty, Canada would become the first G7 nation to be fully compliant and would assume a leadership role on this important issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act and the Marrakesh Treaty

How will acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty benefit Canadians?

According to Statistics Canada, almost one million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. However, only 7 percent of books are made accessible in formats such as Braille, audio and large-print books-often only in developed countries.

Joining the Marrakesh Treaty will help to meet the Government's Speech from the Throne commitment to help those with disabilities to participate more fully in the workforce and will support initiatives such as the Centre for Equitable Library Access.

Here is how Canadians will benefit from Canada's accession to the Marrakesh Treaty:

Visually impaired students

  • Approximately 4 in 10 people who are visually impaired have an educational degree higher than a high school diploma. In a Statistics Canada survey, approximately 35 percent of visually impaired persons indicated that they discontinued their formal education as a result of their condition. Having access to more accessible printed materials will reduce the challenges students with a print disability face in continuing their formal education.

Visually impaired workers

  • The ability to read and access information is a critical element for Canadians in preparing for and participating in the job market. One third of those with a visual impairment are not in the labour force, while 7 percent are unemployed. Even when they are employed, visually impaired workers report challenges in advancing in their careers or in changing jobs. Access to more accessible printed works will help these Canadians look for work, secure job advancement and participate in certain areas of the workforce.

Visually impaired seniors

  • Individuals 75 years and older have the highest rates of visual impairment among Canadians. For these seniors, the ability to read accessible materials is an important factor in maintaining their quality of life.

Visually impaired members of language minorities

  • The Marrakesh Treaty provides for the cross-border exchange of accessible works. This means that more accessible books in a wide range of languages that reflect the diversity of Canadian culture will be available once the Treaty comes into force.

Schools, libraries and charitable organizations that help people who are print disabled

  • Organizations that support people with print disabilities, such as the CNIB, will avoid duplication in the production of accessible works by being able to exchange titles with their international counterparts. This will allow these organizations to use their limited resources more efficiently to better support their clientele. The CNIB estimates that the cost of creating an accessible-format version of a book ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.

Who supports the Marrakesh Treaty?

Numerous stakeholders have written to the Government in support of the Treaty, including the Canadian Association of Research Libraries; the Canadian Association of University Teachers; the Canadian Council of the Blind; the Canadian Federation of the Blind; the Canadian Library Association; the Canadian Urban Libraries Council; the CNIB; and the Copyright Consortium of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada.

What is the Marrakesh Treaty?

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that was adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco, in June 2013.

It aims to facilitate access for persons with print disabilities to published works in formats that they can easily use. The Treaty establishes international norms by requiring countries to provide exceptions in their national laws to facilitate the availability of works in accessible formats, such as Braille and audiobooks, for persons who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled.

Why is Canada acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty now? Why not wait until the five-year parliamentary review of the Copyright Act in 2017?

Government policy on copyright exceptions for people with perceptual disabilities already aligns with the objective of the Treaty. Given this, there is no reason that Canadians with perceptual disabilities should have to wait for more access to books that will enable them to better participate in the economy and society. Making the targeted changes to ensure our laws meet the obligations of the Treaty will put Canada in a leadership position internationally.

How will the Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act change the Copyright Act?

Before Canada can accede to the Marrakesh Treaty, the Government must amend the Copyright Act to bring the exceptions in the Act for people with print disabilities in line with the obligations of the Treaty. Proposed amendments include the following:

  • Permit the making of large-print books - large-print books are currently carved out of Canada's exceptions for people with perceptual disabilities.
  • Reduce the restrictions on exporting accessible materials - currently, an author's nationality restricts exports of accessible material from Canada: only a Canadian author's work or the work of an author who is a citizen of the destination country may be exported.
  • Safeguards to protect the commercial market for materials in accessible formats - the bill will ensure that publishers who choose to make their books available in accessible formats can sell them in the marketplace, while not imposing unreasonable burdens on non-profit organizations acting for the benefit of persons with print disabilities.

When will the Treaty come into force?

The Marrakesh Treaty will come into force three months after 20 countries have ratified or acceded to it. As of June 4, 2015, eight countries-Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay-have ratified or acceded to the Treaty.

What are the next steps for Canada?

Once the Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act is passed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will seek an order in council (OiC) for authority to accede to the Treaty. Following publication of that OiC, the Minister would deposit an instrument of accession with WIPO.

For Canada, the timing of the coming into force of the Treaty will depend on the number of ratifications or accessions that have taken place prior to Canada's accession. If Canada is one of the first 20 countries, the Treaty would enter into force three months after these 20 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification or accession. If Canada accedes to the Treaty after the first 20 countries, the Treaty will enter into force for Canada three months after Canada deposits its instrument of accession with WIPO.

Contact Information

  • Jake Enwright
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Industry
    343-291-2500

    Media Relations
    Industry Canada
    343-291-1777
    media-relations@ic.gc.ca