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Yesterday was a “red-letter day” for T&T’s visually impaired citizens.

Tens of thousands of people who are visually impaired in some way will soon be able to access published works from the National Library and Information Systems Authority (NALIS), which will convert information for their use.

The development comes via amendments to the copyright law presented in the Senate yesterday by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

And it was a special majority vote bill which the Opposition and Independent senators supported: the bill was passed in the Senate yesterday afternoon.

Both UNC Senator Wade Mark and Independent Senator Paul Richards deemed yesterday a “red-letter day” for visually impaired people because of the bill.

Al-Rawi said the bill will amend the Copyright Act to effect the provisions of the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty. This facilitates access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise “Print Disabled.” It will also operate with the 2012 Beijing Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances.

Al-Rawi said NALIS will be the authorised entity to convert previously inaccessible published works to material which can be used by the visually impaired. Materials will be issued by NALIS and made available locally or internationally

The AG said the bill was meant to bring human rights for the visually impaired and would assist tens of thousands of people who suffer from a scarcity of literature for people who can’t read normally. He said after lack of headway on such issues for years, the time is right for this step.

He paid tribute to Independent Senator Anthony Vieira and writer Kenneth Surat, whom he said was a champion for the disabled/visually impaired. Al-Rawi declared his interest in such issues – he holds a masters in intellectual property matters.

Mark, who said the previous government was the architect of the matter, affirmed UNC support for the bill.

“We’d like to congratulate all the players,” Mark said.

“This is a red-letter day for the 15,000 to 20,000 citizens who’ll benefit and for the first time will be able to read printed works and formats…this provides lots of joy to citizens in T&T who are suffering.”

Mark everyone faces disabilities as they age.

“In the next 20 years I won’t be in Parliament – many of us won’t. But this law will have beneficial impact on all citizens as we grow older,” he said.

He noted the bill was expanded to include comedians, dancers and actors who will have greater leeway accessing royalties.

Independent senator Richards said his 90-year-old mother – a former nurse and avid learner – is blind and would be among thousands benefitting from it.

“Today’s a red-letter day for them. If it’s passed we’d have realised our anthem that every creed and race find an equal place. Many will have equal rights to education and freedom of expression,” he said, adding the bill will breathe life into differently-abled people’s lives and under COVID restrictions it could help visually-impaired youths access education.