Centre for Internet & Society

Disability rights groups are up in arms against a Bill proposing an amendment to the Copyright Act, 1952, reports Aarti Dhar in an article published in the Hindu on April 23, 2010.

Disability rights groups are up in arms against a Bill proposing an amendment to the Copyright Act, 1952, that prevents non-governmental organisations, educational institutions and persons with disabilities from converting reading material including textbooks and reference material into audio, digital and other formats that can be used by differently-abled persons.

The amendment Bill, introduced in the Rajya Sabha this week, if passed in its current form, will prevent over 70 million people with disabilities in India, including persons with visual impairment, dyslexia, and cerebral palsy, from exercising their Right to Education and other fundamental rights, according to the National Access Alliance, a group of organisations and leading professionals working for the benefit of the print-disabled in India.

Licensing procedure

The extremely “cumbersome, restrictive and lengthy” licensing procedure proposed by the government for conversion to these formats will mean that students with print disabilities will be deprived of their Right to Education which has now become a fundamental right.

Members of the Alliance have been campaigning for the amendment to be re-worded to ensure that the conversion of books into all formats is allowed, all stakeholders, including organisations, educational institutions and persons with disabilities, are allowed to undertake the conversion; and the conversion should not be subject to red tape which will lead to delay. The campaigners had met Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal who assured them that the interests of persons with disabilities would be addressed. However, the amendment proposed by the Minister does more harm than good, Rahul Cherian and Nirmita Narasimhan, both members of the Alliance, told The Hindu.

Seeking support

The Alliance is now meeting members of Parliament from across the political parties to seek support. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left parties and the Nationalist Congress Party have already extended support to them and assured that their cause would be taken up.

According to CPI (M) MP Brinda Karat, the present amendment lacked concern for the disabled people. “Their cause is genuine and it needs to be addressed,” she told The Hindu, adding that the matter would be taken up once the Bill comes to the Standing Committee.

Members of the Alliance will continue their nationwide mass mobilisation for the cause to bring more attention to the plight of persons with print disabilities in relation to the lack of reading material in accessible formats.

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