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Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

We are glad to tell you that Inclusive Planet has been accredited as an observer to the WIPO – World Intellectual Property Organization.

Rahul Cherian is present at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights happening at the moment in Switzerland.

Following is the statement of Inclusive Planet, India on the matter of the Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled, proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico  and Paraguay.

June 21, 2010

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates and ladies and gentlemen , I thank the WIPO Secretariat for processing our accreditation to the WIPO as an observer and the decision of this Committee to accredit my organization. I represent Inclusive Planet Foundation, a non profit organisation based in India, focusing on policy reform in the disability space as a part of which we have been campaigning in India for appropriate amendments to Indian copyright law to create exceptions and limitations to enable persons with disabilities to access material in alternate formats. Our sister organisation, a for profit organization runs Inclusivelanet.com, one of the fastest growing social networks for persons with visual impairment, with users from 80 countries. Inclusive Planet’s Services division provides technology solutions and consultancy to organisations related to web and content accessibility.

Mr. Chairman, Inclusive Planet Foundation believes that the Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay is essential to improve the lives of the millions of persons with disabilities in India and we are extremely supportive of the Treaty for the following reasons:

1. Firstly, We believe that in India and other developing countries where large funding for conversion and distribution is not available, and where there are no institutional intermediaries with the kind of reach, infrastructure and financial support as the intermediaries in the US and Europe, all stakeholders including NGOs, educational institutions, libraries, persons with disabilities , parents and volunteers must be allowed to convert and distribute and import and export material in accessible formats. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay allows for this. Any proposal which limits these activities only to intermediaries that have the support of rightholders will not be of any great benefit to India or other developing countries.

2. Secondly, We believe it is important that persons with hearing impairment and persons with other disabilities who need alternate formats must not be discriminated against and be left behind. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay covers not only persons with print disabilities but also persons with other disabilities who require alternate formats. Other proposals in the table have also good definitions of beneficiaries. We believe that any proposal which extends only to persons with print disabilities will be unjust.

3. Thirdly, We believe that non-commercial conversion and distribution should not require payment to rights holders keeping in mind the cost and effort taken in such conversion and distribution. We also believe that rights holders must be compensated for commercial conversion and distribution. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay provides for these two options. We believe that this system will incentivize rights holders to convert and sell material in accessible formats at affordable prices, which we believe is the only long term solution to solving the book famine.

4. Lastly, We believe that for-profit entities who wish to undertake conversion on a not-for-profit basis must be permitted to do so. It has been our experience in India that large corporations wish to convert material into accessible formats as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives on a non-commercial basis. This must be encouraged. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay provides for this. We believe that any proposal that does not recognize the roles that can be played by for-profit entities is limited and will not contribute to long term solutions.

In short Mr. Chairman, the ground realities in India and other developing countries are completely different from those in the United States and in Europe. In India and other developing countries, people with disabilities need all the help we can get, from all parties willing to help. Any proposal that recognizes only intermediaries as part of the solution will be of extremely limited impact in India. We believe that the Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled, proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay is THE proposal which addresses the needs of persons with disabilities in developing countries. We urge member states to support the treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay if any meaningful change is to be made to the lives of millions of persons with disabilities around the world and especially in developing countries including India.

To read more about the other treaties, see Comparison of the four proposals on disabilities at WIPO SCCR.

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Update as on May 1, 2010

 

After our last post on the Right to Read campaign on April 15th the copyright amendment was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 19th. The bad news is that the amendment still contained the same disastrous wording which would effectively prevent NGOs, educational institutions and persons with disabilities from converting reading material including textbooks and reference material into audio, digital formats and other formats that can be used by persons with disabilities to “read” such material. The extremely cumbersome, restrictive and lengthy licensing procedure proposed by the Government for conversion to these formats would mean that students with print disabilities would be deprived of their Right to Education which has now become a fundamental right.

Now for the good news. The BJP and the Left parties have gone on record  <!–[endif]–>that they will oppose the amendment unless the concerns of the visually impaired community are addressed. Members of the National Access Alliance including Sam Taraporevala, Kanchan Pamnani, S.K Rungta, Dipendra Manocha and Ketan Kothari met senior leaders of the BJP including Shri L.K. Advani, Shri Arun Jaitely and Smt. Sushma Swaraj who understood our concerns and were extremely sympathetic. Nirmita Narasimhan from the Centre for Internet and Society <!–[if !supportFootnotes]–> and I met Smt. Brinda Karat who was extremely sympathetic and supportive. Mrs. Karat spent close to an hour understanding the issues involved and fixed up a meeting for us with Shri. Oscar Fernandes, Congress MP and head of the standing committee that will examine the copyright amendment. She also informed us that she has spoken to Mr. Arun Jaitely on this issue and that they would jointly oppose the amendment. Shri Fernandes was also extremely sympathetic and supportive and assured us that we would get an opportunity to be heard when the matter came up for discussion. We also met two members of the standing committee Mr. Biju (CPI (M) MP from Kerala) and Mr. Penumalli Madhu (CPI (M) MP from Andhra Pradesh). Mr. Biju said he would definitely help when this matter comes up for discussion since he believed it is a just cause. Mr. Madhu was even more receptive to the idea and said he would circulate the note which we had given to all the members of the Standing Committee and also write a letter strongly recommending this
case to the Prime Minister and the Standing Committee.

Mr. Javed Abidi, India’s most famous and accomplished disability rights activist, took Nirmita and me to the Prime Minister’s Office where we met Joint Secretary Mr. Sanjay Mitra who promised to put our note to the Prime Minister.

 

Last but not least, over the last 2 weeks this initiative has got some great press coverage from socially conscious journalists from around the country. We now have to prepare for submitting evidence to the standing committee when the hearings start. We understand that this will happen within the next 3 months. Let us keep our fingers crossed. If you would like to contribute to this effort mail me at rahul.cherian@inclusiveplanet.com

Update as on May 1, 2010

 

After our last post on the Right to Read campaign on April 15th the copyright amendment was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 19th. The bad news is that the amendment still contained the same disastrous wording which would effectively prevent NGOs, educational institutions and persons with disabilities from converting reading material including textbooks and reference material into audio, digital formats and other formats that can be used by persons with disabilities to “read” such material. The extremely cumbersome, restrictive and lengthy licensing procedure proposed by the Government for conversion to these formats would mean that students with print disabilities would be deprived of their Right to Education which has now become a fundamental right.

Now for the good news. The BJP and the Left parties have gone on the record that they will oppose the amendment unless the concerns of the visually impaired community are addressed. Members of the National Access Alliance including Sam Taraporevala, Kanchan Pamnani, S.K Rungta, Dipendra Manocha and Ketan Kothari met senior leaders of the BJP including Shri L.K. Advani, Shri Arun Jaitely and Smt. Sushma Swaraj who understood our concerns and were extremely sympathetic.  Nirmita Narasimhan from the Centre for Internet and Society and I met Smt. Brinda Karat who extremely sympathetic and supportive. Mrs. Karat spent close to an hour understanding the issues involved and fixed up a meeting for us with Shri. Oscar Fernandes, Congress MP and head of the standing committee that will examine the copyright amendment. She also informed us that she has spoken to Mr. Arun Jaitely on this issue and that they would jointly oppose the amendment. Shri Fernandes was also extremely sympathetic and supportive and assured us that we would get an opportunity to be heard when the matter came up for discussion. We also met two members of the standing committee Mr. Biju (CPI (M) MP from Kerala) and Mr. Penumalli Madhu (CPI (M) MP from Andhra Pradesh). Mr. Biju said he would definitely help when this matter comes up for discussion since he believed it is a just cause. Mr. Madhu was even more receptive to the idea and said he would circulate the note which we had given to all the members of the Standing Committee and also write a letter strongly recommending this
case to the Prime Minister and the Standing Committee.

Mr. Javed Abidi, India’s most famous and accomplished disability rights activist, took Nirmita and me to the Prime Minister’s Office where we met Joint Secretary Mr. Sanjay Mitra who promised to put our note to the Prime Minister.

 

Last but not least, over the last 2 weeks this initiative got some great press coverage from socially conscious journalists from around the country. We now have to prepare for submitting evidence to the standing committee when the hearings start. We understand that this will happen within the next 3 months. Let us keep our fingers crossed. If you would like to contribute to this effort mail me at rahul.cherian@inclusiveplanet.com

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The Lok Sabha, on 4th August 2009, passed the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education’ Bill. Kapil Sibal, the HRD minister, promised that this Bill, a historic step, would be his signature reform initiative in the first 100 days of the Government.

Disability rights activists across the country feel, however, that the Bill excludes from its purview the country’s 30 million differently-abled children. Their expectation from the Right to Education Bill was very simple – make education inclusive for the differently-abled by integrating them into the mainstream schooling system. The rationale being, that the protected environment in a special school would not equip the children to face real world challenges.

The disability activists have two major areas of concern:-

  1. The bill has a wide definition for disadvantaged children, but does not specifically include differently-abled children; and
  2. The bill sets out minimum physical infrastructure requirements, but has no mention of specific infrastructure for the differently-abled

The activists led by Mr.Javed Abidi, voiced their concerns to the HRD Minister, and the prime minister, and it resulted in the UPA Convener Sonia Gandhi seeking a clarification from Mr. Sibal.

Mr. Sibal, in his speech, clarified that the disabled have not been excluded and that the Government was sensitive to their rights. In his words “In the definition about the child belonging to a disadvantaged group, when we frame the model rules we would like to ensure that all children suffering from whatever disabilities- and we will set it out in the model rules- must be part of the disadvantaged groups.” Although disability may not be a specifically mentioned in the definition, disabled children are entitled to an education as a matter of right. The obligation, he said, is on the state government to identify the disadvantaged groups within the state (this would naturally include the disabled) which require inclusive education into the system.

Sibal also noted that while the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (PWD Act) does not include certain disabilities like autism in the definition of disability, and this definition was referred to in the bill, the PWD Act is in the process of amendment. Once the definition is amended, a wider super-set of the disabled would benefit under both the PWD Act as well as the Bill.

The Bill, like most things, is not even close to perfect. Yet the Government’s recognition of the need to educate the disabled is indeed a significant step, and one that must be welcomed by the community. It gives the disabled a foot in the door to inclusion into society. After all, the HRD Ministry has promised: “ So we intend, as a Government, because we are committed, to provide for the disabled facilities to ensure that they too have a right to lead a full life to the extent that it is possible…  That is the commitment of this Government to the Nation“.

Hopefully, the model rules will be framed through a consultation process with stakeholders and the concerns of the differently-abled will be addressed. And finally, it would be the old bugbear, implementation, which will decide on whether the Bill would indeed be what UNICEF considers a “great opportunity for India” or just another gazette notification.

Priyanka Shelat*

Guest Blogger for Inclusive Planet

*Priyanka is a corporate lawyer working with a leading law firm, and is our first guest blogger!

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Some great news!!! I was invited to present a paper with my comments on proposed exceptions and limitations under copyright law for the benefit of persons with disability. The conference was sponsored by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and organised by the Centre for IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Studies at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat).

As some of you are aware, copyright law gives the owners of copyright certain exclusive rights with respect to their works, rights such as making copies, distribution, publication etc. Persons with certain kinds of disability are unable to enjoy works in their normal format (eg. visually impaired cant enjoy books, movies, hearing impaired cant enjoy movies without subtitled, persons with certain physical disabilities cannot hold books and therefore cannot read, persons with learning disabilities cannot enjoy books etc.) The objectives of the proposed amendments are to provide works to persons with disabilities so that persons with disabilities can enjoy works to the same extent as persons without disabilities.

Anyways, to cut the story short, the suggestions made by Mr. Madhukar Sinha,(who also presented a paper on the same topic) and me were accepted. The gist of the suggestions are the following:
1. Persons with all disabilities should be covered;
2. Exceptions to cover all formats and not just specialised formats such as Braille;

What also came out of this meeting is that a detailed research paper has to be drawn up for the Government for the Government to take this issue forward and it appears that I will be the point person for preparing this paper. Nirmita and Achal have agreed to work on this with me which is great news.

So it appears that at least temporarily I have become an academic!!! Cool eh?

News item on this from the Hindu http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/16/stories/2009051657820700.htm

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An excellent piece by the amazing Mithu Alur (Head of ADAPT – formerly Spastics Society of India) on how taking the vote-bank approach is the best strategy to ensure inclusive thinking at a policy level.

http://telegraphindia.com/1090324/jsp/opinion/story_10693815.jsp

Excites us because we believe that Inclusive Planet could go a long way in ensuring one voice of a large community. Will a million strong disabled community, heavily networked and expressive still be ignored?

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