Centre for Internet & Society

Right To Read campaign has begun in India to voice the needs of the disabled to gain access to books - an article by Lubna Salim in Kolkata Mirror - Saturday, November 14, 2009

This year marks the beginning of the countrywide Right to Read campaign. As part of this campaign there will be road shows in the four metros and then these will be held in the different cities. Actors Nandita Das and Amir Khan and veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai are supporting the campaign.

The events of the campaign will include presentations, debates as well as demonstrations. There will be book reading sessions along with stalls whereby different accessibility tools shall be demonstrated. After the success of the first road show of this campaign in Loyola College, Chennai, the second one road was held in Kolkata. The venue for the Kolkata chapter of the Right To Read campaign was NUJS.

“As a visually impaired person I can identify with the goals of the campaign. I have suffered a lot having no access to books and other reading materials. Lack of access tends to make you so dependent on others,” says Moiz Tundawala, 5th year law student, NUJS.

Innumerable Indians are not able to read various printed materials due to their disabilities. Today there are technologies which can help such people to read print, once the materials are converted into alternate formats. These formats could be big print, audio and Braille or any sort of electronic format.

“Just try imagining life without books, without anything to read! Making reading materials available in accessible formats may go a long way in improving the life conditions of the print disabled and also help to make our society more accommodative, more inclusive. It is unfair to deprive some people of such a basic entitlement for no fault of theirs,” adds Moiz.

Our Indian Constitution guarantees its citizens “Right to read” as one fundamental right. But the copyright system does not allow us to convert books into accessible formats for the advantage of people who have print impairment. This leads to the creation of a “book famine”. 

The international conventions to which India happens to be a party require it to revise its copyright laws. This will enable persons with the disabilities to avail of information plus material on the same basis as they are available to the others.

Moiz says, “People must endorse this campaign because it will give some people who have to struggle everyday for print access some hope that there are others who understand their concerns and think the same way as they do.”

Link to the original article


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