The right to read: Copyright barriers and e-publications

Picture of a Kindle reading deviceFluent readers might be surprised to find that their world of books is not accessible to everyone. In Gerard Goggin’s foreword to Paul Harpur’s book, Discrimination Copyright and Equality, we are introduced to some thorny problems in the e-publications world. The ability to read is something that most people take for granted. Books can expand a person’s worldview, be entertaining, enlightening, and of course open up a world of knowledge and understanding. But what if you can’t read the printed word? Hard print books are translated to Braille, talking books, and there are apps that will ‘read aloud’ the text. But the e-Book world is another matter.

Goggin provides a comprehensive overview of the issues covered in Harpur’s book and gives an excellent snapshot of things we should all consider. The actions of Amazon and the impact on Kindle are mentioned. The right to read is clearly not recognised in the e-publication world. Goggin says, “The continuing oppression of print disabled readers, and their exclusion from the world of books, can no longer continue…” It is time to bring these issues into the mainstream, apply the principles of universal design, so that those who need accessible formats are no longer considered an exception needing special treatment. 

Those unable to access the printed word include people who are blind and have low vision, people with difficulty holding or manipulating a book, and people with cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, and acquired brain injury.

Gerard Goggin was a presenter at the 2016 Austalian Universal Design Conference. He is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney.

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