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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan became the signatory to the Marrakesh Treaty aimed at providing access to published work for visually-impaired persons.

President Dr Arif Alvi inked the instrument of accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) administered Marrakesh Treaty, at a special ceremony held here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Tuesday.

The Marrakesh Treaty aims to help the visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled people have access to books and literary works in accessible formats.

Signed in Morocco on June 27, 2013, and joined by a large number of countries in the world, the Treaty enables the reproduction of published materials into accessible formats, such as braille, large print, and audio editions.

By acceding to the Treaty, Pakistan has become able to provide its estimated 10 million visually impaired persons easy access to published work. The facility otherwise has been restricted due to the Copyright Ordinance of 1962 which does not provide necessary provisions for compulsory printing and reproduction of braille and audio versions.

President Alvi termed the accession to the Marrakesh Treaty a “great moment of pride” and said Pakistan had embarked upon a new pathway to empower its visually impaired people.

He said the Marrakesh Treaty would act as an equalizer of opportunity to provide visually challenged persons equitable access.

“The Treaty will create an environment of learning and equal opportunity for educating the neglected class of the society,” he said.

He said it was the responsibility of the State to accommodate its differently-abled citizens by providing them equal opportunities in all fields of life, particularly education and employment.

The president said access to published work would open new vistas of opportunities for visually impaired persons and dispel the impression that disability should be a hurdle in personal empowerment.

The positive flow-on effects, he said, include improved access to education and employment, and also better well-being of the visually impaired persons.

President Alvi stressed the need to shun the taboo about persons with disabilities and ensure their inclusion in the mainstream life system.

“Accommodating such people does not tantamount to any favour, but it is their due right which the society owes to them,” he said.

Pakistan, he said, made “tremendous success” in recent times by stepping up efforts to shun taboos about the differently-abled persons.

He mentioned that the country was adhering to the guidelines of the World Health Organization regarding identifying the needs of differently-abled persons and providing them with opportunities for health, education, and jobs.

The president recalled that Pakistan’s visually impaired diplomat Saima Saleem made the entire nation proud by giving a speech at the platform of the United Nations.

He expressed confidence that with the introduction of artificial intelligence-based technology in assistive gadgets and smart devices, the future was bright for visually impaired persons to live an improved life.

The president lauded the efforts of his wife Samina Alvi for leading the cause of differently-abled people and the Ministry of Human Rights for undertaking the initiative of accession to the Marrakesh Treaty for visually impaired persons.

Chairman Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan Ambassador (retired) Farukh Amil said the Marrakesh Treaty was an important step forward on the global stage underlining the government's commitment to empower the visually impaired persons.

He said the Treaty would create lasting effects for visually challenged people and place the country amongst the caring nations of the world.

Secretary Commerce Muhammad Sualeh Ahmad Faruqi said education was a fundamental right under the UN Charter and the Constitution of Pakistan, adding that the Marrakesh Treaty would provide an enabling environment for the visually impaired community to fulfill their desire for education and thus bring themselves into the mainstream.

Shahana Shahid, a representative of the visually impaired persons acknowledged the efforts of the government in overcoming the concerns and difficulties of her community.

She said the signing of the Treaty would prove a crucial step in a long journey of acceptance and socio-economic inclusion of those at the periphery.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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