ABC at the Africa Forum: Support Available for Educational Accessibility Projects

October 7, 2015

As a result of discussions held at the Africa Forum on the poor availability of accessible educational materials, the Accessible Books Consortium is now inviting project proposals from organizations working on this problem.

One of the key messages heard at Africa’s premier conference for blindness activists was that African students living with visual impairments need increased access to educational materials. Not only that, but they would benefit from better support and training on low-cost technologies that can boost access to specially adapted curriculum materials.

Organizations involved with making educational materials accessible to primary and secondary school students in particular are invited to contact us for further information about making a project proposal at Organizations whose proposals are eventually selected will be able to benefit from training, technical assistance and/or funding from ABC.

Africa Forum

The Africa Forum is underway from October 4-8, 2015 in Kampala, Uganda. This is the largest-ever gathering of blindness advocates and leaders on the continent presented by the Institutional Development Program, which was co-founded by Perkins International and Sight Savers International. More than 400 delegates from across the continent and around the world are attending the key international event, including the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC). Among other things, advocates are discussing how to support implementation of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations in New York just last month.

Access to information, especially educational materials, has emerged as one of the key themes of the conference. At a seminar on education and technology held on October 6, there was a call for the better use of low-cost accessibility-related technology in schools as well as improved training and support to allow for access by students to curriculum materials.

Best practices and the work of ABC

Stephen King, a member of the ABC Board, and Immediate Past President of the DAISY Consortium (a founding partner of the ABC) is to brief delegates on how ABC is helping bring books in accessible formats (i.e., braille, audio and large print) to people around the world who are visually-impaired. He will speak about the good accessibility practices being adopted by leading publishers signing the ABC Charter for Accessible Publishing, and will encourage government agencies to provide accessible textbooks to students who are visually impaired, including through making accessibility a requirement in their procurement criteria. Interest has been demonstrated to create networks of libraries in Africa through the sharing of collections of accessible books, technology and infrastructure.

About the Accessible Books Consortium

The Accessible Books Consortium is a multi-stakeholder alliance, comprising the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); organizations that represent people with print disabilities, including the World Blind Union; libraries for people with print disabilities; and organizations representing publishers and authors. The ABC aims to increase the number of books worldwide in accessible formats – such as braille, audio and large print – and to make them available to people who are blind, have low vision or are otherwise print disabled.

ABC carries out activities in three areas to fulfill its mandate, namely:

  • Capacity building, i.e., technical training in developing countries in the production and distribution of books in accessible formats;
  • Inclusive publishing, i.e., promotion of accessible book production techniques so that published books are usable from the outset by both sighted people and those with print disabilities; and
  • the ABC Book Exchange (i.e. the TIGAR Service), which is a database of accessible titles located at WIPO’s headquarters in Geneva that can be exchanged across national borders.

Some 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired according to the World Health Organization's 2014 estimates. More than 90% of these are resident in developing countries, where the World Blind Union (WBU) estimates that people who are blind have only a one in ten chance of going to school or getting a job. The lack of accessible books is a very real barrier to getting an education and leading an independent, productive life.

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