Background: a page of Braille.
Foreground: the words END THE BOOK FAMINE in bold, and an icon of a book, representing text being converted into braille. The tagline #BRAILLEISNOCRIME is included under the book icon. The logos of Blind SA and SECTION27 are included at the bottom of the card.


Constitutional Court will hear case about access to books for persons who are blind, activists to march in support of watershed case.

9 May 2022, Johannesburg – Activists will march to the Constitutional Court on 12 May 2022 to fight to #EndTheBookFamine for persons who are blind or visually impaired. On 12 May 2022, the highest court in the country will preside over an online court case to decide whether or not to confirm a High Court order from September 2021, where the court ordered 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.

The 1978 Copyright Act does not contain an exception to copyright for persons with disabilities, which means that a person who is blind must secure permission from the copyright holder of any published work in order to convert the text into Braille or another accessible format. This can take a very long time, and many requests are ignored by copyright holders. This means that 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 face unfair criminal and civil penalties – simply for converting a book that they have purchased, or borrowed from a library, into a format that is readable to them.

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.  

Constitutional Court Case

The bench of the Constitutional Court will hear this case online. The case will be streamed live on the Constitutional Court’s YouTube channel:

A direct link to the live stream will be available on the Constitutional Court’s website home page and be Tweeted from the Constitutional Court’s Twitter account (@ConCourtSA) before the hearing.

March and Picket outside Constitutional Court

Activists from BLIND SA, SECTION27 and partner organisations will peacefully march to the Constitutional Court and picket to show their support for this landmark case. 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 (
    • 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 (
    • Parking: underground secure parking is available to the public at Level D.

Activists from BLIND SA, SECTION27 and allied organisations will address the picket on 12 May 2022, for which a programme will be distributed closer to the time. Our heads of argument for the case are available here. For a factsheet which explains the background to the case and the ways in which the Copyright Act violates persons with disabilities’ rights, click here.

It’s time to #EndTheBookFamine for persons who are blind or visually impaired – #BrailleIsNoCrime!


For media queries contact:

  • Julia Chaskalson ( 0834402674)
  • Lebohang Tekela ( 0691178652)