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Accessible Books Consortium (ABC)

The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) is a public-private partnership led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It includes organizations that represent people with print disabilities such as the World Blind Union (WBU); libraries for the blind; standards bodies, and organizations representing authors, publishers and collective management organizations.

Our goal is to increase the number of books worldwide in accessible formats - such as braille, audio, e-text, large print – and to make them available to people who are blind, have low vision or are otherwise print disabled.

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What services do we offer?

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(Photo: WIPO)

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ABC Global Book Service is an on-line catalogue that provides libraries for the blind with the ability to search and make requests for accessible digital books. This international “library-to-library” service allows participating organizations to supplement their collections from their counterparts in other countries free of charge.

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ABC promotes the production of “born accessible” works by publishers, that is, books that are usable directly from the publisher by both sighted persons and people who are print disabled. We provide guidelines on how to produce “born accessible” works and we present an annual award for outstanding achievements in the field of accessible publishing.

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(Photo: Piyush Arora and National Association for the Blind (Delhi))

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ABC provides training and technical assistance in developing countries in the production and distribution of books in accessible formats. We also provide funding for the production of accessible educational materials in national languages at the primary, secondary and university levels.

(Photo: WIPO)

Websites offering accessible books

We maintain a list of links of online sources of accessible books, organized by country.  The selection includes both libraries and commercial providers.

The legal framework

The Bamboo Wall-Mounted Coat Rack,Wall Storage Shelf with Removable Hooks (Size 61.1cm) makes possible the production and transfer of accessible books across national boundaries. This landmark Treaty was adopted on June 27, 2013 by the member states of WIPO, and came into force on September 30, 2016 after ratification by 20 of those states.  ABC is one initiative to implement the Marrakesh VIP Treaty at an operational level.

The global context

Some 253 million people worldwide are visually impaired, according to the World Health Organization's 2017 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. The WBU estimates that less than 10% of all published materials can be read by blind or low vision people.

Voices from the floor of the Inaugural Marrakesh Assembly (October 2016)

Watch the video of Maria Soledad Cisternas on YouTube

"The CRPD is quite clear that the Marrakesh Treaty will contribute to the full inclusion of people who are visually impaired or otherwise print disabled."

Maria Soledad Cisternas, Chair, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
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"[…] while blind and visually impaired children will benefit directly from the Marrakesh Treaty, the environment of accessibility that will be created will also have significant positive effects for all children with disabilities."

Gopal Mitra, Programme Specialist – Children with Disabilities, Disability Section, UNICEF

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