Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Dr. John O. Asein, has called for affirmative action to ensure more access to learning materials in accessible formats for the blind, visually impaired and print disabled persons in line with the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 and the Marrakesh Treaty which the country ratified in 2017.
Dr. Asein made the call in Abuja recently when the President, Association of lawyers with Disability in Nigeria (ALDIN), Barr. Daniel Onwe and Director of Anglo-Nigerian Welfare Association for the Blind (ANWAB), Mr. Danlamin Basheru paid a visit to the commission recently.
The Director-General who lauded President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly for their political will in bringing about the enactment of the Disabilities Prohibition Act, expressed hope that the Executive copyright Bill recently transmitted to the National Assembly would be enacted int law to facilitate the exceptions provided for print disabled persons under the copyright system.
He called on all stakeholders, particularly publishers and agencies responsible for the provision of books and learning materials to school children, to take proactive steps by insisting on the provision of books in accessible formats to the blinds and print disabled persons.
The Director-General reiterated the commission’s commitment to championing the course of visually impaired and print disabled persons to ensure the removal of discrimination against them in the provision of learning and education materials. He said this would further assist in delivering on Government’s policy of inclusiveness at all levels and help to harness the full potentials of all Nigerians, irrespective of their physical challenges.
In his words, “Every human being has one challenge or the other and no one should be locked out of learning and education facilities merely on account of his or her peculiar physical condition.
“The commission is duty-bound, as part of it’s broader responsibility as an agency in the forefront of the knowledge ecosystem, to ensure that all Nigerians have equal opportunity to the best they could be for the benefit of our dear country.”
Noting that less than one per cent of books were available in formats that blind and visually impaired persons could read unassisted, Dr. Asein appealed to authors and publishers to imbibe the practice of making their books “born accessible”. To this end, he called on lawyers with disability to partner with the Commission in the campaign to make it easier for blind and visually impaired children to read, stating that this would ensure that more of them remained in school.
In his remarks, the President of ALDIN, Mr. Onwe stated that as the umbrella body of lawyers with disabilities in Nigeria and those in diaspora, the Association was involved in advocacy for access to justice for the disabled and the enactment of the law prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities in the country.
According to him, the visit to NCC was part of the Association’s drive for partnerships to ensure that books and educational materials were accessible to persons with disabilities. He added that ALDIN’s engagement of relevant organisations has enabled it in providing a voice for its members in various forums such as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the courts. He assured the Director-General of ALDIN’s support for the Commission’s various programmes to alleviate the plight of the blind.
In his contribution, the Director of ANWAB, Mr. Danlami Basharu, stated that ANWAB was committed to the welfare of the blind, teaching them to read and write using Braille, typewriters and computers. He explained that the organisation has facilities to aid the production of books in brail, with libraries for accessing brail books while helping blind persons to be more independent.
Mr. Basharu promised that ANWAB would assist in transcribing the Executive Copyright Bill into brail for the benefit of the blind. He expressed appreciation to the Commission for its sustained support for the blind and commended it on the recent reform of the copyright system to accommodate the needs of the blind, visually impaired persons and those who are otherwise print disabled as enshrined in the Marrakesh Treaty.
Others present at the visit were the Director, Nigerian Copyright Academy (the training arm of NCC), Mr. Mike Akpan; Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Mr. Vincent A. Oyefeso; Director, Legal, NCC, Mr. Emeka Ogbonna; and FCT Chairman of ALDIN, Mr. Kassim Lawal.
Vincent A. Oyefeso
Director, Public Affairs