Friday 19 April

MEDIA ADVISORY: ACTIVISTS SPEAK ON THE NEED TO #ENDTHEBOOKFAMINE FOR PERSONS WHO ARE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED IN SHORT VIDEO SERIES

Constitutional Court will hear case about access to books for persons who are blind or visually impaired on 12 May 2022

11 May 2022, Johannesburg – Tomorrow, 12 May, the Constitutional Court will decide whether or not to confirm that the Copyright Act of 1978 is unconstitutional for the barriers it imposes on persons who are blind or visually impaired who want to convert books into accessible formats like Braille.

Activists from BLIND SA have described the various discriminatory effects of our current copyright regime on blind or visually impaired persons in four short videos that are free-to-air.

Learners, teachers and students who cannot access textbooks and other learning support materials in accessible formats when they need them; facing threats of fines, jail time or lawsuits simply for converting a book into a format a blind person can read. Parents who cannot read a bedtime story to their children because they do not have permission to convert the storybook into braille are just some of the challenges that blind and visually disabled persons face because of South Africa’s outdated Copyright Act.

The short videos produced by SECTION27 and BLIND SA detail the human experience of the current discriminatory Copyright Act and reiterate that it is time to #EndTheBookFamine for blind and visually impaired persons.. These videos can be distributed and flighted free of charge:

  • Ntshavheni Netshituni, President of BLIND SA, speaks to some of his experiences as a learner and as a student, struggling to get access to the books he needed to further his education in braille – https://youtu.be/hioVFIm_y7A 
  • Jace Nair, CEO of BLIND SA, describes his experience of the book famine and the need to ensure accessibly formatted books are available to the youth – https://youtu.be/HnHfrfqsAxE 
  • Thandile Butana, Development Officer of BLIND SA, explains some of the challenges imposed on her by the Copyright Act as both a student and as a mother – https://youtu.be/i3xs1m5wHSA 
  • Christo de Klerk, Vice President of BLIND SA, a self-described ‘book-worm’, details the difficulties accessing books he can read, and some of the penalties that could be enforced if a blind person converts a book into a format they can read without permission – https://youtu.be/zkxpIIQkWLw 

Why is there a book famine in South Africa for persons who are blind or visually impaired? As things stand, the 1978 Copyright Act does not contain an exception to copyright for persons with disabilities, which means that a blind person must secure permission from the copyright holder of a book to convert the text into Braille or another accessible format. This can take a very long time, and copyright holders ignore most of these requests. This means that only around 0.5% of all published works in South Africa are available in accessible formats – an unacceptable book famine for persons who are blind. If a person who is blind converts a text into an accessible format without the copyright holder’s permission, they can be fined, imprisoned or sued.

The High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Division, Pretoria) found the Copyright Act unconstitutional in a September 2021 case brought by BLIND SA and SECTION27, for violating the rights of persons who are blind or visually impaired, in particular their rights to equality, dignity, basic and further education, freedom of expression, language and participation in the cultural life of one’s choice. The next step in changing our law to promote the rights of persons who are blind or visually impaired is to appear before the Constitutional Court. The respondents in the case – the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and the President of the Republic of South Africa – are not opposing the case.  

Over 200 activists, including blind and visually impaired individuals will march from Pieter Roos Park up to the Constitutional Court to fight to #EndTheBookFamine for blind people.

Members of the media are invited to cover the march and picket:

Date: Thursday 12 May 2022

Time: March from 09:30, picketing between 10:15 – 14:00

Where:

  • Start: Pieter Roos Park – cnr Empire Road and Queen Street, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2196 (https://goo.gl/maps/VqWRSrXEhRe9peiF8)
  • Route: Activists will cross Empire Road and march up Queen Street and turn right into the Constitution Hill Precinct.
  • Picket location: Activists will assemble and picket on Constitution Square facing the entrance to the Constitutional Court – Constitution Hill, 1 Hospital St, Braamfontein, 2017 (https://goo.gl/maps/hsRV4jFaL7J8KJ8F6)
  • Parking: underground secure parking is available to the public at Level D.

[ENDS]

For media queries contact:

  • Julia Chaskalson (chaskalson@section27.org.za 083 440 2674) / Pearl Nicodemus (nicodemus@section27.org.za 082 298 2636)
  • Lebohang Tekela (pr@blindsa.org.za 069 117 8652)

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *