‘Leave no one behind,’ UNDP aims to champion the rights of people with vision disabilities

Americas, Events, News, November 28 2017

Indonesia has the second highest rate of people with vision disabilities in the world. This and other eye-opening facts were discussed during a recent UNDP workshop in Jakarta which aims to champion the rights of people who are blind, low vision, or print disabled.

Reading the book BrailleMost importantly the workshop discussed ways to implement an international treaty called the Marrakesh Treaty, which went into force internationally last year. The Treaty is designed to improve access to knowledge among people with some form of vision disbility. Indonesia was one of the first countries that signed the Marrakesh Treaty in 2013. The South-East Asia country now needs to ratify the Treaty for the benefit of its millions people with vision disabilities.

“UNDP works with partners to support communities of persons with disabilities around the world. We are here today, to better understand how UNDP and UN agencies can support the Government of Indonesia to ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty, that can improve the livelihoods of persons with disabilities in Indonesia,” said Francine Pickup, Deputy Country Director of UNDP Indonesia, in her opening remarks.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 UN Agenda requires the UN to address the rights of people with disabilities, she added.

Print disability can be caused by vision disabilities such as blindness and low vision; developmental/learning disabilities such as dyslexia and autism; or physical disabilities such as Parkinson’s disease and paralysis. People with print disabilities cannot effectively obtain information from print materials in the conventional ways (e.g. not being able to see/read the text, hold a book or turn pages).  They require accessible formats such as braille, audio, large prints, and electronic books.

Kazuyuki Uji, Policy Specialist from UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub said lack of equitable, timely and affordable access to published works in accessible formats prevents millions of persons with print disabilities from harnessing crucial human development opportunities, thus confining them to poverty, exclusion and isolation.

According to the World Blind Union, less than 1 percent and 7 percent of published books in developing and developed countries, respectively, are made into formats accessible for persons with print disabilities. This situation, sometimes referred to as a ‘book famine,’ can exclude persons with print disabilities from education, employment, health care, culture and participation in just about any aspect of political, economic and social lives.

Indonesia has a large population of blind people. According to the Bureau Statistics Agency, around 8.5% of the country’s 240 million people live with disabilities. This may include 3.5 million blind people, making Indonesia the country with the second highest rate of blindness in the world.

Erni Widhyastari, Director of Copyright and Industrial Design, Ministry of Law and Human Rights said the government has been making efforts to align legal and policy frameworks with the Marrakesh Treaty. This is a a crucial step before ratifying the Treaty, she added.

Furthermore Sahadatun Donatirin, Deputy Director for Social & Labour Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, elaborated on various government requirements and processes for ratifying international treaties. She addressed the urgency of ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, and highlighted the importance of clarifying its strong alignment with national policy, public needs and political interests, as well as ensuring the readiness to implement it.

President of the Indonesian Blind Union (Pertuni), Aria Indrawati called on all parties including the government, the printing industry and the UN to step up its joint- efforts to improving access of books for people with vision disabilities.  Ratifying the Treaty will oblige countries to allow production, disseminatin, import and export of published materials in accessible format by authorized entities such as disabled organizations, libraries, schools and government entities.

Speaking about her struggles growing up as a visually-impaired person, Aria said a large proportion of blind people in Indonesia are not able to receive sufficient education due to lack of books and other printed works in accessible formats.

“Access to knowledge is a fundamental human right. There will be no development without accessible books,” she said.

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