Signed, Sealed and Delivered: WIPO Treaty for the Blind Sets Historic Precedent for Accessibility to Published Material

This article is a reprint of a story published at G3ict.

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled has officially been approved. A jubilant Abigail Rekas writes in from Marrakesh about this historic precedent that will now allow greater access to published material for persons with print disabilities.

The feeling here in Marrakesh is one of joyous relief. The tension and frustration over the last week at the WIPO Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities have melted in the hot Moroccan sun. Whether it was the heat or the words of Stevie Wonder, requesting that the delegates ‘Sign, Seal and Deliver’ a treaty to benefit blind and print disabled persons, delegates on both sides of the issue found flexibility and were able to compromise and deliver a consolidated draft text that was adopted by the Conference on June 27, 2013. It will be open for signature on June 28, 2013.

History has been made. This is the first international intellectual property treaty on user rights. Never before have exceptions and limitations to enable access been mandated. This treaty is a blending of Human Rights and Intellectual Property. It implements, for the very first time, the principle laid out in theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 15(a) and 15(b), that everyone has a right to access cultural materials. It is a first step to realizing United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 30 that intellectual property regimes should not be an unreasonable barrier to access to cultural materials.

Music icon Stevie Wonder urges UN forum to sign, seal, deliver treaty for visually impaired

Image: WIPO Director General Francis Gurry (left) and music legend Stevie Wonder in 2010. Photo: WIPO/Emmanuel Berrod

There were four concepts that almost prevented this treaty from coming into existence. The 3-Step Test, Commercial Availability, Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures, and Translation were extremely tough knots to untangle. Thursday, June 27 these issues seemed almost insurmountable, and emotions were running high.

Fortunately the pressure to conclude a treaty forced flexibility from delegations and the facilitator appointed to address these issues was able to find compromise between the various positions. An excellent discussion of the resolution of these issues can be found at the webpage:

This treaty is the culmination of the work of many passionate advocates, particularly of the World Blind Union, the Royal National Institute of the Blind andKnowledge Ecology International. They have been the face of the campaign for this treaty, and have spent years working with the delegations of various countries to create a text that actually enabled access to books rather than just paying lip service to the idea.

The Beijing Momentum coupled with what the representative of Group B called the Marrakesh Spirit (that of collaboration and cooperative attitude) and facilitated by the WIPO Secretariat has lead to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. It has not been an easy road. The Representative of the Government of Morocco commented that this treaty is the first of a new generation of treaties and collective efforts.

The Miracle in Marrakesh was greeted with a standing ovation. Stevie Wonder will perform. This treaty will change the lives of the blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons around the world as it is implemented. The focus must now shift to implementation of this treaty and the active sharing of books across borders.

Source: G3ict


Launch of the European collaborative portal on Assistive Technologies and inclusive solutions

ATIS4all logoThere is a growing concern throughout Europe about the difficulties faced by the organisations involved in the ICT Assistive Technology (AT) field. The ATIS4all collaborative portal is the result of an EU-funded project, which aims to benefit all the key actors in the chain value of ICT ATs and accessibility products (from research centres to the end-users). It is an open and collaborative portal that offers reliable information on ICT ATs, inclusive solutions and R&D initiatives, and fosters online discussion, exchange of knowledge, expertise and sharing of information among its different portal members. Continue reading

DREAM Early Stage Researchers presenting at NNDR Conference 2013

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Seven Early Stage Researchers from the DREAM network attended and presented at the Twelfth Nordic Network of Disability Research Conference in Turku, Finland 30-31 May 2013.

Keynote speakers at the conference included Eva Feder Kittay, Professor of Philosophy, Stony Brook University; Dan Goodley, Professor of Disability Studies and Education, University of Sheffield; Jan Grue, Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics, University of Oslo, Norway; and Kalle Könkkölä, Executive Director of the Threshold Association, Helsinki, Finland.

Over the two days, the ESRs presented abstracts and posters and got to meet various disability academics from around the world. The following is a list of each ESR and the title of their presentations:

  • Anna Arstein-Kerslake: An empowering dependency: Exploring the role of supported decision-maker.
  • Magdi Birtha: “Nothing about CRPD monitoring without us” – case study on the involvement of the disability movement in policy-making in Zambia.
  • Ciara Brennan: “Theorizing the economics of independent living: Commodification of human rights in Iceland in a Nordic context” with Rannveig Traustadóttir and “The CRPD, independent living and user-led personal assistance”.
  • Ieva Eskyte: Shopping Accessibility: between the ideal and the real.
  • Robert Huffaker: Legal Framework on eAccessibility: A legislation review.
  • Carly Toepke: Participation and inclusive education under the UNCRPD.
  • Betül Yalcin: Employer attitudes towards employment of disabled people: a comparative analysis in the European context.

Rune Halvorson, PI from NOVA, presented “New policies to promote youth inclusion in the labour market? Disability in the Nordic welfare states”.

Rannveig Traustadóttir, PI from the University of Iceland, presented “Implementing and monitoring the CRPD” and “Childhood disability, space, place and identity” and chaired the symposiums titled “Implementing the CRPD” and “Childhood and Disability”.

Survey: Costs and Benefits of eAccessibility

One Early Stage Researcher, Robert Huffaker, has been undertaking a study interviewing companies who make sure their products are accessible, especially their websites, mobile apps, and self-service terminals and gathering data on the costs and benefits they have experienced in the accessibility process.

If you are a web manager who knows a bit about the costs and benefits experienced in your organization’s website, you are invited to take part in his survey.

If you manage websites, the survey for you is here: WebsiteA11yCBA

If you manage mobile apps (iOS, Android, etc), the survey is here:

If you manage a self-service terminal, the survey is here:

It will ask questions about you, your organisation, your website/app/terminal, accessibility and costs and benefits you have experienced. It takes around 20 minutes to complete.

The purpose of this survey is to build the business case of eAccessibility. This study is funded by the Disability Rights Expanding Accessible Markets (DREAM) Marie Curie Training Network and is led by Fundosa Technosite in Madrid, Spain and Kanchi in Dublin, Ireland.

If you have any suggestions or questions, or if you want to see the resulting deliverable stemming from the survey results, you can contact Robert Huffaker at:

r.huffakerjr1 (at)

Launch of Volume 3 of the European Yearbook of Disability Law at the European Parliament


On Tuesday 9th April 2013, the third volume of the European Yearbook of Disability Law was launched at a research colloquium at the European Parliament. The European Yearbook of Disability Law is published by Intersentia .The Yearbook is part of the ongoing research programme of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP) at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) and the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights at Maastricht University. The editors of the Yearbook are Professor Gerard Quinn (Director of the CDLP), Professor Lisa Waddington (who holds the European Disability Forum Chair of European Disability Law at Maastricht University) and Dr. Eilionoir Flynn (Senior Researcher at the CDLP).

The event was co-chaired by Marian Harkin (MEP) and Mairead McGuinness (MEP), who praised the editors for the excellent contribution which the Yearbook is making to the debate on disability issues. The event was well-attended by academics, students and representatives of non-governmental organisations. The keynote address was provided by Anna Lawson, Senior Lecturer at Leeds University, who spoke about the “Role of the Academy in Advancing Positive Reform.” The president of the European Disability Forum, Yannis Vardakastanis, addressed the role of civil society in transforming the research agenda. Gábor Gombos, Adjunct Professor at NALSAR Law University, India and at NUI Galway, concentrated on the role of emancipatory research in future disability policy-making. Professor Lisa Waddington provided a timeline of developments in disability research, in her presentation entitled “The Law Looking Outward:  The Past and Future of Legal Research on Disability in Europe.” In addition, Professor Rannveig Traustadóttir, Director of the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Iceland, addressed the means by which research in the field of social science can be harnessed to inform the research agenda in the disability arena. Finally, Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero, Deputy Head of the Unit for the Rights of People with Disabilities at the European Commission, looked at the perspective of policy-makers and, in particular, the research requirements of the European Commission on the subject of disability. An open Forum was then held on the issue of harnessing scholarship across disciplines to help drive the European reform agenda. The event was closed by the rapporteurs, Professor Quinn and Dr. Flynn. Overall, the event proved to be a huge success. It provoked stimulating discussions among the participants and provided fascinating insights into the past and future of disability research.

UN CRPD as a real engine of change – training experiences from Moldova

ImageThe DREAM project does not only train young research fellows to be the ‘future generation’ of disability rights academics, but goes beyond and guarantees the learning experience from excellent international stakeholders through a pulsing collaboration. Being involved in their important work may help us to become social entrepreneurs and take active part in the social change around the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). One of our associate partners is the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC), international and independent human rights NGO based in Budapest, Hungary. Since its foundation in 2002, MDAC is working in more than 15 countries across the world advocating the rights of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. These people are told to be ‘the most marginalized among the most marginalized’ therefore it is essential to empower their organisations and address their current human rights situation. More information on the work and projects of MDAC is available at:

I had my first professional and personal connection with inspiring staff of MDAC back in 2010 attending their summer school in Budapest. A real mind changing experience to spend two weeks with activists and advocates from all around the world discussing the possible interpretations of articles of the Convention. The ways of translating abstract legal text into practice and apply it in everyday advocacy work is very important indeed. As much as I like to be in academia and doing my PhD at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy NUI Galway, I somehow miss the ‘action on the ground’ when one can really feel the power of change.

I was delighted that MDAC asked me to join their trip to Chisinau, Moldova and to train government and civil society representatives on the implementation of Article 33 CRPD. This article is the most comprehensive ever, included in international human rights treaties. What makes it innovative is the obligation to set up a framework with one or more independent element to monitor the CRPD. Nevertheless it gives an exact role to government to serve as focal point and coordinate national law and policy-making in a CRPD compliant way. The third component of the triangular Article 33 framework is the involvement of civil society and in particular persons with disabilities whose active collaboration with the government and NHRI is rather unprecedented. We live in a fascinating time, when the mantra of the Convention ‘Nothing about us without us!’ is becoming reality and State Parties can either pioneer or fail in making the first effective steps towards a more inclusive society.

Moldova is a developing country in Eastern Europe, who ratified the Convention on 21 September 2010. Thus, all the provisions articulated in the CRPD are legally binding to the country. The training was organized by UNDP Moldova, and without their local knowledge it would have been a real challenge to understand local politics and get relevant participants around the table. The training was a great learning experience for us as well. It has been emphasized several times that there is no perfect solution yet where to catch up, there are different solutions chosen by State Parties, some of them are maybe more promising than others. We therefore offered to present some of these international examples and discuss what could be used in the Moldovan context. On the first day, Oliver Lewis (Executive director of MDAC) and myself had about 20 civil servants in the room representing various departments of the government (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Culture etc.). Their interest is definitely a good sign of commitment. The designated focal point under Article 33.1, the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family also attended the event. We aimed to help them to better understand the concept of the CRPD, for instance the paradigm shift, the change from the medical to the social/human rights model or the concept of civil society participation. It was important to overview how to read certain articles of the Convention with the eyes of law makers and thinking in a structured manner when organising policy-making in disability related areas. Successful implementation of the CRPD requires the change of attitudes and mindset towards people with disabilities therefore we tried to capacitate participants through group activities to think about social barriers instead of individual limitations when it comes to disability. Generally speaking, Moldova has a great Article 33.1 structure established with a Focal Point and Ministries who already worked together when they put together the State Report to the UN Committee last year.

Article 33.2 CRPD requires the National Human Rights Institution -which is the Ombudsman in the case of Moldova- and civil society to work together in monitoring the implementation of the Convention. The Convention has a good reason to ask for this collaboration. The NHRI can bring its experience in general human rights monitoring, and most importantly serve as the independent element in the mechanism. Independence shall be guaranteed by its mandate and articulated in the distance from the government. In fairness, the Moldavian Ombudsman has been classified by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) as ‘B’ status human rights institution due to the fact it is relying on the government when it comes to approval of yearly budget. It raises concerns towards the independence of the Ombudsman Office. The Ombudsman and civil society could not agree on the ideal form of collaboration within the framework, therefore there is no monitoring happening in this sense. UNDP has proposed a framework of 15 members – 3 delegated by the Ombudsman Office and the rest representing civil society. This level of presence in the framework did not satisfy the Ombudsman who sort of stepped out from the framework. Civilian forces intend to do the work on their own, however they are lacking coordination and adequate sources to provide secretariat for the framework. We strongly emphasized at a work lunch and a private meeting we had with the Ombudsman and his colleagues the necessity of the Ombudsman’s presence in the framework. This is an absolute prerequisite to achieve compliance with the CRPD. Representation of civil society is a very challenging issue articulated in Article 4.3 and 33.3 CRPD both from the structural and the functional point of view. Persons with disabilities have always been marginalized therefore capacity-building is a must to make them aware of their rights and the most effective ways to participate in policy-and decision-making processes. Selecting the organizations, who can represent persons with disabilities at high-level discussions is not an easy task to do. And who is entitled to decide? Some voices can be left out just because those are smaller or younger DPOs than the well-known traditional disability NGOs. In Moldova, the Ombudsman prefers to work with the NGOs who consist the most member organizations, however we know that they often function on an old, soviet-type bureaucratic base. The second day of the training has brought about 30 self-advocates to Chisinau from different parts of the country. They wanted to hear about how to organize the work of monitoring, what are the rights, which can be monitored and how is it happening in other countries. One could feel such a strong buzz in the room while talking and sharing experiences with these very powerful advocates who want to make a real change.

Moldova certainly has to struggle with financial burdens due to its economic situation, however there are issues mainly in the area of civil and political rights, which do not require major investments, but rather commitment from the State Party to comply with its international human rights obligations. The willingness to collaborate with experts from the disability movement is really one of the key prerequisites to ensure the spirit of the Convention is becoming reality at the National level.

The author would like to thank MDAC for the opportunity to participate as a co-trainer in their event in Moldova 11-12 March 2013.


Active Citizenship and Fiscal Innovation

DREAM principle investigator Gerard Quinn reflects on the role of fiscal innovation in achieving active citizenship for persons with disabilities as a part of an EU funded project, DISCIT – Making Persons with Disabilites Full Citizens.

The video is closed captioned in English, and the transcipt is available for download in Word and PDF.

5th International Disability Law Summer School.

The popular Summer School will again bring together leading international activists, policy-influences and others connected with the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The theme this year will be VOICE (restoring
full legal capacity) and CHOICE (achieving community living in accordance with the wishes and preferences of the person)


Date/Time: Monday 17th June, 2013 – June 22nd, 2013. Venue: Aras Moyola,
National University of Ireland, Galway, Republic of Ireland.

Community Living for All – Conference on the Future Role of the European Union Structural funds to Advance Community Living for Older People and People with Disabilities.

This conference will consider how the EU Structural Funds can ne better harnessed in the future to achieve community living and empowerment for both older people and people with disabilities.  It is been held ‘in association with the Irish Presidency
of the Council of the European Union.’


Date/Time: Friday 3 May, 2013, 9.30am – 5.30pm. Venue: Aras Moyola, National
University of Ireland, Galway, Republic of Ireland.

9 April 2013 – Launch of Volume 3 of the European Yearbook of Disability Law in the EP


Launch of Volume 3 of the

European Yearbook of Disability Law


 Research Colloquium:

“The Future of European Disability Scholarship as a Tool for European Policy Makers.”

Keynote: Anna Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Leeds


Co-Organized by the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, based at the National University of Ireland (Galway), and the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights of Maastricht University.


Hosted by: Mairead McGuinness (MEP) and Marian Harkin (MEP).

Date/Time: Tuesday, 9th April 2013, 12pm-3pm

Venue: European Parliament, Room P5B001, PHS Building, Brussels.


Languages: English and International Sign

The event will be preceded by a light lunch to which participants are invited.


To Register:

(This event requires pre-registration)

Please fill out the registration form and return to: or

Charlotte May-Simera

Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway

For more information please visit the CDLP website: 


The launch of the book is an opportunity to bring together a range of stakeholders in the disability field, such as civil society and industry representatives, academics, human rights activists, policy-makers from European and national institutions and politicians, including Members of the European Parliament, to discuss and map out the future of European legal research and scholarship on disability.

The research colloquium, held in conjunction with the book launch, will provide a unique opportunity to increase the efforts and possibility to network and forge links between disability stakeholders from across the EU. Additionally, the occasion of the book launch is an opportunity to bring together and encourage the exchange of ideas and expertise amongst many disability stakeholders. This event will gather a wide audience from a variety of backgrounds and mandates to establish cross-sectoral links between numerous areas, most notably between, civil society, academia and EU and national institutions.

This research colloquium and the ensuing discussions are a key opportunity to frame disability policies and reform discussion as they continue to emerge. There are a number of key challenges and debates facing Europe in the coming decade, and disability scholarship can play a crucial role in providing accurate information to decision-makers, framing debates, and forming solutions to potential challenges. One example of an area where academic research can contribute to the debate is in the implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The EU concluded the Convention in 2010, and most Member States have now ratified, or are close to ratification. Current debates in this area have focused on how a division of responsibilities and competencies can be agreed between the EU and its Member States, and this is another area in which disability scholarship can provide clarity and elucidation.



Prof. Lisa Waddington (European Disability Forum Chair in European Disability Law, Maastricht University)

Prof. Gerard Quinn (Director, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway)

Dr. Eilionóir Flynn (Senior Lecturer, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway)

The Yearbook can be ordered here.