Marrakesh Treaty and Accessible Publishing in Sri Lanka

Marrakesh Treaty and Accessible Publishing in Sri Lanka

In 2013, the World Intellectual Property Organization – WIPO ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to tackle the prevalent issue of the "book famine." This term refers to the scarcity of publications available in formats accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Sri Lanka signed the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016 and made the amendments to the National Intellectual Property Act - Amendment 8 in 2021. 

Founder of KReader Heshan J Peiris and Co-Founder Kanchana Priyakantha were invited for a forum organized by The DAISY Lanka Foundation a non profit who are working on the domain of accessible publishing for people with print disabilities. As per their research data there are around 1.3 million Sri Lankans who are print disabled. 

Here are a few noteworthy points that were discussed.

1. In developing nations such as Sri Lanka, the vast majority of books in local languages are exclusively published in printed formats. Consequently, individuals with print disabilities face significant barriers accessing these materials.

2. If the books are born accessible in local languages (If both eBook and Audiobook versions are released along with the printed version of the book) people with print disabilities are able to access them.

3. The significant expense associated with producing audiobooks featuring human narrators.

4. Lack of social awareness among the general populace regarding the social injustices faced by individuals with print disabilities due to the absence of accessible publishing.

Here is how we can assist people with print disabilities as KReader, a subscription based digital reading framework for local languages in Sri Lanka with eBooks, Audiobooks, AI-based natural sounding speech synthesis.

1. All of the printed books published by KBOOKS Publishing, our printed publishing arm, are born accessible (Printed, eBooks and Audiobooks) and we continue to do so for all the future titles.

2. To date, we've converted over 500+ eBooks with accessibility friendly formats and produced several audiobooks featuring human narrators, all backed by appropriate Digital Publishing Agreements signed with Authors.

3. We're enhancing our AI stack with advanced speech synthesis technology to create natural-sounding Audiobooks from eBooks in batches for Sinhala and Tamil languages. This capability enables us to produce Audiobook versions for every eBook available on our platform.

4. We can utilize social media platforms to raise awareness about the rights of individuals with print disabilities. By sharing this message, we aim to promote equality and advocate for equal rights to reading, learning, and empowerment for all.

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