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 ICDRI WIPO Statement in Support of the Proposed Treaty- Delivered at SCCR19 on 15 December 2009
by Cynthia D. Waddell


Mr. Chairman and distinguished delegations, the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet, also known as ICDRI, appreciates the opportunity to participate in these discussions – particularly on the proposed treaty regarding limitations and exceptions – or might I also call it the proposed treaty on the sharing of accessible works.

As a way of background, ICDRI was privileged to serve as the UN AD Hoc committee expert on accessible information and communications technology (ICT) during the elaboration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and under the leadership of His Excellency, Ambassador Luis Gallegos of Ecuador. Today, we are assisting many countries around the world in the implementation of the UNCRPD and appreciate being able to be here today to support the community of persons with print disabilities.

ICDRI is a non-profit organization- founded and operated by persons with disabilities. As an internationally recognized law, technology and public policy center, ICDRI seeks to increase opportunities for all persons with disabilities by identifying barriers to participation in society and promoting best practices and universal design for the global community.

Mr. Chairman, ICDRI is very concerned about the Kindle controversy and litigation underway in the US where the electronic book text-to-speech feature has been turned off. This action prevents persons with print disabilities from using innovative mainstream technology as contemplated and supported by the UNCRPD. We believe there is a lack of understanding regarding the application and use of screen reading software with a synthetic voice – an assistive technology tool that has been in use for over two decades for people with visual, mobility and cognitive disabilities.

Moreover, ICDRI notes that for three decades a book famine has been increasing for persons with print disabilities. In fact, it is not clear that any meaningful marketplace or volunteer solution is forthcoming.

Our experience is that when the marketplace is left to determine consumer needs, then persons with disabilities are left out because of their minority status. This fundamental truth was the cornerstone of ICT disability rights legislation passed by Congress known as the 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, and also known as the Workforce Investment Act or Section 508.

Today, the recent Kindle controversy has now spilled into the international arena and demonstrates the unwillingness of rights holders to recognize the needs and human rights of my community.

Mr. Chairman, ICDRI today echoes the call of the UNCRPD – a historical treaty signed by the highest number of signatories for any treaty on opening day – At this time in history, when technology has evolved to solve issues of accessibility through accessible design and affordability, it is now time for the law to evolve. Let’s recognize the moral obligation of nations to guarantee the basic right to read. Let’s end the book famine now.

Thank you.


If you have questions or comments please e-mail them to  icdri@icdri.org

Submitted by Cynthia D. Waddell, Juris Doctor
Executive Director and Law, Policy and Technology Subject Matter Expert
International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet


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