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Sunday, July 3, 2022

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Blind hampered by apartheid legislation

Published Sep 11, 2021


A few weeks ago, I gave kudos to eThekwini Municipality for its “Read For Rewards” programme, which is designed to get residents reading.

This week commemorated International Literacy Day, under the theme “Literacy for a Human-centred Recovery: Narrowing the Digital Divide”.

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However, neither initiative would have been of much comfort to the blind or visually impaired in this country. Their access to reading material continues to be hampered by the apartheid era Copyright Act, which allows no exception for copyrighted material to be converted into accessible formats such as braille, audio, large print or other suitable formats. This severely limits the availability of published works for people with visual disabilities, and infringes on several rights guaranteed to people with visual disabilities under our Constitution, including the rights to equality, dignity, education and freedom of expression.

Reading for pleasure, or to learn, is denied them.

Social justice NGO Section 27, which is taking up the battle on behalf of advocacy group Blind SA, says an amendment to the legislation, which would address these concerns, has been wending its way through Parliament since 2015.

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This six-year delay is unconscionable in a country which prides itself on a Constitution that emphasises equality.

Opportunities for the disabled are limited. They least need dinosaur-era legislation which further hampers their prospects for advancement and, indeed, quality of life.

Kudos to Gcina Mhlophe for releasing her book in braille.

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The Independent on Saturday

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