The right to read

EIFL supports adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities and swift implementation into national law

You are here

Two young men sitting at a library desk working with new Daisy players. The instruction booklet is on the desk.
Blind and visually impaired students in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, work with digital audio equipment.

The Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities (official name: Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled) was adopted by member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)  in  2013. 

EIFL actively supported negotiations on the text of the draft treaty over five years at WIPO's headquarters in Geneva, and we participated in the Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh that adopted the final treaty text on 27 June 2013. 

Since then, EIFL has been working hard to promote ratification of the treaty and implementation in partner countries. We raise awareness among librarians and policy-makers, support advocacy campaigns, organize seminars, develop and publish multilingual guides explaining librarians’ rights and responsibilities under the treaty, and how best to put the treaty into practice. We respond to government consultations, review copyright laws and make recommendations for amendments needed to implement the treaty into national law.

The Marrakesh Treaty set out to address a huge problem: the fact that only 1-7% of published books are in a format that blind and visually impaired people can read. As a result, millions of people are deprived from reading books and newspapers, gaining education and employment, and participating fully in society. This problem was partly caused by obstacles created by copyright law - obstacles that the treaty committed to remove by introducing mandatory exceptions allowing the making of accessible format copies, and the cross-border sharing of such copies between Marrakesh countries. And as one of the primary sources of accessible reading material, the treaty provides libraries with an opportunity to boost information services to people with print disabilities.

The Marrakesh Treaty entered into force on 30 September 2016, when the required number of countries (20 in total) joined. Now it has become a global success story: it is WIPO’s fastest moving and most popular treaty in terms of take-up by member states, reaching the milestone of 100 countries by October 2020. By the tenth anniversary of its adoption on 27 June 2023, a total of 119 countries had joined - over 60% of WIPO’s membership.

EIFL is proud to have supported ratifications by 26 developing and transition economy countries in Africa, Asia and Europe - more than a fifth of the total number. Take-up in low income countries is especially important since 90% of people with print disabilities live in developing and least developed countries.


2013 - Ongoing

MAIN ACTIVITIES and achievements

  • By December 2023, EIFL advocacy had contributed to 26 current and former EIFL partner countries joining the Marrakesh Treaty benefiting an estimated 37 million people who are blind and visually impaired: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Estonia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Malawi, Moldova, Mongolia, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
  • We reviewed the copyright laws of 27 countries and made recommendations for implementation of Marrakesh Treaty provisions into national law. 
  • In 2020, our work in support of the Marrakesh Treaty won recognition when we were selected as a finalist for the ABC International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing
  • In 2019, we co-organized the first international workshop dedicated to operationalizing the Marrakesh Treaty among a regional group of libraries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus and Russia.
  • We have developed multilingual resources for librarians and policy-makers including: 
    • The first library guide to support librarians advocating to their governments to ratify the treaty. ‘The Marrakesh Treaty: an EIFL Guide for Libraries’  (2014) provides a straightforward introduction to the treaty, its key provisions and benefits. It is available online in nine languages, Arabic, English, French, Lithuanian, Nepali, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish.
    • Implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty: EIFL FAQs (2016).
    • Together with our international partners, we developed and co-launched ‘Getting Started: Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities. A practical guide for librarians’ (2018). The guide, aimed at countries that have joined the Marrakesh Treaty, and where national implementation is completed or advanced,sets out steps for libraries of all types on how to use the treaty to serve people with print disabilities. It  is available in English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
    • We also adapted the ‘Getting Started’ guide for local copyright law in three countries: Belarus (English and Russian), Brazil (Portuguese) and Kenya (English).​ 
    • We prepared Information Notes on specific issues: 'Why libraries in Armenia can use the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities without changes to national copyright law', (English and  Armenian), and  ‘Supporting Ukrainian Refugees with Print Disabilities: Information for EU libraries providing accessible reading materials’, to mark the entry into force in 2023 of the Marrakesh Treaty in Ukraine (English and Ukrainian).


How a WIPO treaty for persons with print disabilities can change lives - testimonies presented by EIFL at the WIPO Diplomatic Conference that adopted the Marrakesh Treaty (2013).

Imagine being able to easily get accessible materials from other countries, that would be a dream. It would spur other students in Lesotho to study and lead fulfilled lives. It will assist the real efforts of the government of Lesotho to promote the participation of people with disability in society.
Nkhasi Sefuthi, Human Rights and Advocacy Officer, Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD)