New ABC Application Gets Accessible Books Directly to People who are Print-Disabled

April 12, 2021

WIPO’s Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) has launched a new application that makes accessible digital books available for direct download by individuals who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

ABC Global Book Service's business application is provided free of charge and connects participating libraries for the blind, known as authorized entities, to allow the sharing of accessible books.

People who are print disabled will now be able to search directly in the new ABC beneficiary application hosted by WIPO and immediately download accessible digital books - making it easier for them to obtain titles from around the world.

Graphic design of open books flying through space

We hope to offer the new ABC beneficiary application to all of our 93 partner libraries for the blind so that they in turn can offer them to their patrons, if they so wish.  This new application, as it becomes globally widespread, will be a game changer for people who are print-disabled.

Monica Halil Lövblad, Head, ABC.

The launch of this new service is a major milestone in the construction of a global supply of adapted books. We are convinced that people with disabilities who are unable to read will soon be able to access a rich offer of several hundred thousand accessible books in a large number of languages, free of charge.

Laurette UZAN, Head, Médiathèque Valentin Haüy.

The initial catalogue offered through the new ABC beneficiary application comprises the collections of the following five libraries for the blind:

  • l’Association pour le Bien des Aveugles et malvoyants (Switzerland);
  • l'Association Valentin Haüy (France);
  • Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (Canada);
  • The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (Canada);
  • The Centre for Equitable Library Access (Canada).

As a first step, only print-disabled users of the new application residing in Canada, France and Switzerland will have access to the 63,000 specially adapted texts provided by the organizations listed above.  The new ABC application can be found at:

ABC partner libraries will need to confirm that the users of the new ABC beneficiary service are persons who are print-disabled, in accordance with the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The Marrakesh Treaty addresses the “book famine” of accessible titles by requiring its contracting parties to adopt national law provisions that permit the production of books in accessible formats, such as Braille, e-text, audio or large print for the benefit of people who have print disabilities.  It also allows for the exchange of such accessible texts across national boundaries, all without requesting permission from the copyright owner.

WIPO and its partners created ABC to help implement the objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty at a practical level. ABC has been forging a strong global network of libraries for the blind by building the ABC Global Book Service. The business application of the Service offers partner libraries the ability to share their catalogues and accessible digital books with each other. Today, more than 610,000 titles in 80 languages in the ABC catalogue are available for cross border exchange without the need for clearance formalities, consistent with the provisions of the treaty.


According to a 2018 World Health Organization estimate, approximately 253 million people are blind or visually impaired world-wide. More than 90% of them live 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. The WBU estimates that less than 10% of all published materials can be read by blind or low-vision people.

About ABC

The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) is a public–private partnership led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that brings together all of the key players – organizations representing people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled, authors, publishers, collective management organizations, libraries and other authorized entities, as well as standards bodies. ABC was established in June 2014 to implement the goals of the Marrakesh Treaty. Through an effective international alliance of relevant state and non-state actors, ABC seeks to increase, and distribute, the number of books worldwide in accessible formats - such as Braille, audio, e-text and large print.

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 193 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.