Government improving access to copyright material for visually impaired and print-disabled Canadians

News Release

March 24, 2016 – Ottawa – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, today tabled legislation that will help ensure greater access to reading material for print-disabled Canadians.

Once passed, the Act to Amend the Copyright Act (access to copyrighted works or other subject-matter for persons with perceptual disabilities) will allow Canada to be among the first group of countries to join the Marrakesh Treaty, helping to bring the Treaty into force and to open up the exchange of print material around the world in a variety of languages. The Act will also enable schools, libraries and charitable organizations to support the education and employment of people with disabilities.

More than 800,000 Canadians have a visual impairment. Close to 3 million Canadians are print-disabled, which means that they have an impairment related to comprehension (e.g. autism) or the inability to hold or manipulate a book (e.g. Parkinson's disease). It is estimated that only 5 to 7 percent of published works are accessible to these individuals.

Around the world, people with disabilities do not have sufficient access to information in accessible formats. Weak market supply and an international patchwork of intellectual property laws make it difficult to import or export accessible works. The Marrakesh Treaty was negotiated to address both challenges.

In order to join the Treaty, Canada needs to make amendments to the Copyright Act, including:

  • making exceptions for large-print books;
  • allowing exports, regardless of the author's nationality; and
  • creating greater flexibility to circumvent "digital locks" in order to assist persons with print disabilities.


"I am honoured to join my colleagues to introduce this important legislation. This action is long overdue and is an important step toward ensuring inclusive growth and greater opportunity for all Canadians, particularly Canadians with print disabilities. For too long, technological limitations, limited supply and international intellectual property laws have prevented print-disabled people around the globe from being able to access much of the world's available print material and from reaching their full potential. This legislation is an important step toward addressing this challenge."

– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

"Ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities in their communities and workplace is a priority for our government. This new legislation will take an essential step in breaking down one more barrier for Canadians with disabilities by allowing greater access to reading material, especially in our schools and libraries."

– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities

"I am proud that the Government of Canada took an important step today to improve global access to print material for persons who are visually impaired or have a print disability. Supporting this initiative is a shining example of how we can improve Canadians' quality of life and enhance social cohesion."

– The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Quick facts

  • The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization that was adopted in Marrakesh in 2013.
  • It establishes standardized exemptions to copyright laws, allowing people to produce copyright-protected works in accessible formats and to import or export them.
  • Once 20 countries have joined, the Marrakesh Treaty will come into force. As of March 24, 2016, 15 countries have ratified or acceded to the Treaty.

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