Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

WIPO and Kalimat Foundation: New Agreement Helps Arabic Children Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

November 28, 2018

The WIPO-led Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) and the Kalimat Foundation of the United Arab Emirates have agreed to collaborate on the production of a range of Arabic-language books specially adapted for use by children who are blind or visually impaired.

This agreement marks a first:  an ABC partner is funding the production of its books “born accessible”, meaning that no third party is needed to change texts into a format suited to the needs of blind or visually impaired persons – saving time and money in the spread of knowledge.  ABC supports the venture by helping train Kalimat Foundation staff and publishers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the latest accessible book production techniques.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry (front right) and Bodour Al Qasimi (front left), Founder and Chairperson of the Kalimat Foundation (Photo: WIPO/Berrod)

The Accessible Books Consortium and the Kalimat Foundation are teaming up in a new effort that will help spread learning among Arabic-speaking youth, boosting their potential and contributing to general cultural and educational advancement.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry

“This is another example of how ABC is making concrete contributions to further the availability of accessible format books, delivering on the promise of the Marrakesh VIP Treaty. This is an innovative collaboration whereby WIPO provides accessible book training and technical assistance to publishers, which can then produce on their own a set number of their titles in accessible formats for the benefit of children who are blind or visually impaired. We hope that this approach to accessible publishing will be reproduced and bring us even more quickly to the day when we end what’s known as the “global famine” of accessible books,” Mr. Gurry said.

The WIPO-Kalimat agreement was signed by Mr. Gurry and Mrs. Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and Chairperson of the Kalimat Foundation and Vice-President-elect of the International Publishers Association, which is a founding partner of the Accessible Books Consortium.

Video: WIPO DG Francis Gurry and Mrs. Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and Chairperson of the Kalimat Foundation, sign agreement to collaborate on the production of a range of Arabic-language books adapted for blind or visually impaired children. Video on YouTube.

Every child must have access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read. Partnering with WIPO, a UN specialized agency, emboldens the Kalimat Foundation’s efforts to ensure that young generations have access to books and knowledge, especially victims of war, those facing forced displacement, as well as specially-abled children.

Mrs. Bodour Al Qasimi

The Kalimat Foundation was established by Mrs. Al Qasimi in 2016 to promote the “right of every child to read and to have access to books”. The Foundation launched an initiative in 2017 called ARA,  Arabic for “I can see”, to provide reading material for blind and low vision children all over the Middle East and North Africa.

Picture of the Book “Rocket to Space” by the Kalimat Group,
one of the children’s titles that will be converted to audio form.

For its part, the ABC will send its experts to the UAE for a training workshop in accessible book production processes and will provide guidance in how publishers can adapt their workflow so as take advantage of the accessibility functions already available in standard publishing software. The Kalimat Group, an award winning publisher, will then produce in audio form 100 of its Arabic language children’s books; the Kalimat Foundation will subsequently distribute these titles to blind and low vision children in the Arab-speaking world.

The large majority of these 100 titles are for children under the age of 12, written by Arabic language authors from the region. There is a dearth of Arabic language titles for children that are print-disabled, and this initiative is an important step in rectifying this issue.

ABC has shown itself to be an effective international alliance of relevant state and non-state actors with the goal of increasing the number of books worldwide in accessible formats - such as braille, audio, e-text and large print. Its activities are strategically aligned with a disability-inclusive 2030 UN Agenda particularly through its support of Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 on Quality Education.

About the Accessible Books Consortium

ABC was launched in June 2014 and it seeks to implement the Marrakesh VIP Treaty at an operational level. This WIPO-administered Treaty makes possible the production and exchange of accessible books across national boundaries for the benefit of people who are blind, have low vision or are otherwise print-disabled. ABC is a public – private alliance led by WIPO and it includes organizations that represent people with print disabilities, such as the World Blind Union; libraries for people with print disabilities; and organizations representing authors, publishers and collective management organizations, including the International Authors Forum, the International Publishers Association, and the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations.

ABC carries out activities in three areas, namely:

  • Capacity Building – training and funding provided by ABC in developing countries for the production of books in accessible formats. Since the start of capacity building, over 5000 accessible educational books will have been produced in national languages through training and funding provided by ABC.
  • ABC Global Book Service - a global library catalogue of over 415,000 titles in accessible formats in 76 languages that enables libraries serving the print-disabled to share items in their collections, rather than duplicating the costs of converting them to accessible formats. Currently, 46 libraries for people with print disabilities, known as “authorized entities” have joined the ABC Global Book Service.
  • Accessible Publishing - encourages publishers to adopt “born accessible” practices through its promotion of the ABC Charter for Accessible Publishing and the annual ABC International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing, which recognizes leadership and achievements in advancing the accessibility of digital publications. Hachette Livre, France and the DAISY Forum of India were the winners in 2018.

For further information, please visit our website at www.AccesssibleBooksConsortium.org or e-mail us at: accessible.books@wipo.int.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 191 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs.