Press Statement of the Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John O. Asein, in Commemoration of the International White Cane Day on 15th October 2019

The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) joins the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) and the blind and visually impaired community all over the world in celebrating this year’s International White Cane Day on October 15. The day draws attention to the white cane as a symbol of blindness and a sign of the strength and independence that the user must continue to exhibit in today’s world.

Millions of blind people all over the world have conquered their physical challenges and excelled in virtually all areas of human endeavour without being a burden to society.

This year’s theme: White Cane: My Safety, My Productivity again underscores the need to educate the rest of the society about blindness and how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently. As in other years, the Day is an occasion to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind and visually impaired people in a sighted world and to honour those who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life as professionals, academics, public servants, entertainment practitioners, etc.

The Nigerian Copyright Commission wishes to specially celebrate the immense contributions of blind and visually impaired persons, particularly in the creative sector. We recall with pride the achievements of the Nigerian popular music producer, Cobhams Asuquo who, despite being blind, has gained international recognition as a frontline entertainment entrepreneur.

Concerned about the challenges faced by millions of blind and visually impaired persons who are denied access to learning materials, the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in June 2013 adopted the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Persons with Print Disabilities.

The treaty promotes easy access to books and learning materials by allowing for the production and cross-border transfer of accessible format copies for the benefit of persons with blindness or otherwise print disabled. Nigeria deposited its instrument of ratification in October 2017 and the provisions of the treaty are already contained in the Draft Copyright Bill.

The provisions in the Draft Copyright Bill will make it easier for print disabled persons in Nigeria, including the blind, visually impaired persons and dyslexics, to access millions of books in Nigeria and from other parts of the world.

In furtherance of Nigeria’s ratification of the treaty, the Nigerian Copyright Commission is supporting a project under the Accessible Books Consortium of WIPO aimed at capacity building assistance; provision of accessible books and assistive technologies to persons who are blind and visually impaired in Nigerian schools. The project, which is designed to address the book famine experienced by the over 500,000 students of school age in Nigeria, will also promote inclusive publishing and build the capacity of authorised entities to take advantage of the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty.

It is our hope that the project, upon completion, would:

  • Document and build a database of schools catering for the needs of blind and visually impaired students;
  • Produce and make books available in accessible formats (braille, audio and large prints) in the selected schools;
  • Procure and make appropriate assistive devices available to blind and visually impaired students to aid their reading of books;
  • Educate and provide capacity building for publishers who desire to provide accessible formats of their books and help develop capacity for inclusive publishing;
  • Enlighten relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government and other major stakeholders on the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty, the activities of the Accessible Book Consortium and their responsibilities towards blind and visually impaired persons.

Once again I celebrate all blind and visually impaired persons for their commitment to the Nigerian project and also thank the Federal Government for ensuring a congenial atmosphere for the exponential growth of the creative sector in today’s knowledge and information driven society.

The Commission will continue to work with the Nigeria Association of the Blind and other partners to support the creative endeavours of the blind and visually impaired for the greater good of Nigeria.