Across Borders Access to Published Works by Visually Impared Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities

Close-up of Braille page courtesy of Lrcg2012 under CC BY-SA 3.0

“It is humbling to know that when the weakest amongst us is in need, you answered the call with a steely determination and a steadfast courage to make a difference,” Stevie Wonder told delegates as they signed the treaty. “Today we all are brothers and sisters in the struggle to make this life and the future better, not for one, but for all.”

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Senate approved the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (bill S. 2559) without apparent opposition; the House approved S.2559 via unanimous consent on September 25, 2018. The bill and the Treaty were signed into law by the President this past Tuesday.

This law makes changes to U.S. copyright law that would bring the United States into compliance with the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty.  The treaty, which so far is ratified by forty-three countries, facilitates the reproduction and cross-border distribution of books in accessible formats.

Once the State Department notifies the World Intellectual Property Organization—the treaty’s administrator—of its ratification, the Library of Congress, National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handcapped will provide guidance on how it will impact NLS and its network libraries.

“An estimated 253 million people live with vision impairment: 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment. 81% of people who are blind or have moderate or severe vision impairment are aged 50 years and above.” World Health Organization

The Marrakish Treaty Implementation Act allows for copyright exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works for visually impaired persons. It sets a norm for countries ratifying the treaty to have a domestic copyright exception covering these activities, and allowing for the import and export of such materials.

Sixty three (recently 28 European countries also ratified) countries signed the treaty as of the close of the diplomatic conference in Marrakesh. The ratification of 20 states was required for the treaty to enter into effect; the 20th ratification was received on 30 June 2016, and the treaty entered into force on 30 September 2016.

India was the first country to ratify the treaty, on 24 July 2014.< As of June 26, 2018, 80 countries have signed the Treaty and 41 states have ratified it , most recently EU and Japan.

In March 2015, the Council of the European Union accused the European Commission of delaying the adoption of the treaty by EU and called upon the Commission “to submit without delay the necessary legislative proposal.” There is continued opposition by some EU member states.[

On September 20, 2017 the EU Commission published a directive and a regulation on the Marrakesh treaty that has to be transposed into national law, in all 28 member states, deadline for transposition: October 11, 2018.

The European Union has committed to ratification and implementation of the Treaty, and member states are required to update their national laws to implement the Treaty’s requirements later in 2018.

The European Union ratified the treaty for all 28 members on October 1, 2018. The provisions of the Treaty will go into effect across the EU (including in the United Kingdom) on January 1, 2019.


Resources for this post:

  • Library of Congress
  • National Library Service
  • World Intellectual Property Organization
  • Wikipedia [Description of the Act]
  • World Health Organization


Poet and writer, I was once columnist and the associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The River Journal, The Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.

The U.S. Library of Congress Launches New Software to Simplify the Downloading of Braille and Audio Reading Material

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building
Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

41drgudqojl-_sx365_bo1204203200_I the Library of Congress. For those of us who are writers, readers and researchers, there is nothing that quite compares to the depth and breadth of services and materials that are available and becoming increasingly accessible from the U.S. Library of Congress. Of recent note is a new software system – launched on January 4th –  to enhance the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). The enhanced service uses the BARD Express, software donated to the library by a developer whose wife and son use the National Library Service (NLS, part of the Library of Congress) BARD service.

NLS is a freely available to U.S. residents and citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical disability makes it difficult to read regular print. Local cooperating libraries throughout the United States mail NLS talking books, magazines, and playback equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. Braille books and magazines are also available at no cost. Braille and talking books and magazines also may be downloaded from the Internet through the BARD Express.

 photograph of the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson building The Great Hall interior
photograph of the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson building
The Great Hall interior

The BARD Express, a Windows-based software program, aids in the use of the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service. The free software is available for download from a link on the BARD main page. If you are a patron of the NLS program and a current BARD user, log in at You must register and the application instructions are HERE. The application is intended for use by partrons or institutions in good standing with the NLS.

“BARD Express will make browsing BARD audio materials, downloading titles and transferring them to a cartridge or USB drive much easier for patrons using a PC.” said Karen Keninger, NLS director. “We hope it will make the thousands of books available on BARD readily accessible to more patrons.”

BARD Express manages audio materials that users download to their computers and categorizes the materials as books, magazines, read items and unread items for easy sorting. The program also simplifies downloading and transferring talking books to a cartridge or USB drive by providing a button that unzips and transfers the files to an external storage device. It also provides device-management options from the main menu.

Don Olson, BARD operations manager at NLS, said “BARD Express enables NLS patrons to more easily unzip the books they download from BARD. Gone are the days of having to carry out multiple file-management steps in order to place a book or magazine on an NLS cartridge or a USB drive.”

The BARD Express software provides step-by-step menus to more easily move books from a PC to a patron’s device of choice. The program also simplifies searching for titles on BARD by presenting a range of search-and-browse options from the main menu, such as search by series, search by keyword, browse the recently added and most popular lists, and browse the magazine collection.

The NLS will release the software, along with support resources—such as a BARD Express “how-to” video series, frequently-asked-questions about BARD Express and a getting-started guide to supporting library staff in the network of cooperating libraries.

Kirk Saathoff, the software developer who donated the software, said, “For years, I watched my wife sometimes become a bit annoyed with her computer, and I know software is designed without regard for people with disabilities. My hope in developing this software was that it would allow more people to enjoy books while minimizing the time and frustration involved in accessing them.”

U.S. Library of Congress, Packard Campus (Culpeper, Virginia)
U.S. Library of Congress, Packard Campus (Culpeper, Virginia) for audio-visual conservation

For more information, visit or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building
The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at,. Register your creative works at

Photo credits ~ Thomas Jefferson Building, Carol M. Highsmith under CC BY SA 3.0 license; the great hall interior Carol M. Highsmith and generously released into the public domain; the Packard Campus, Federal Government, public domain.

51qqbcpwhul-_sx332_bo1204203200_The WordPlay Shop offers a selection of books and tools especially selected for poets and writers … and in some cases, activists. Sales from the shop go to support the maintenance of this site.  Suggested reading this week – a read for these times – is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

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