Statement of the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the occasion of the World Braille Day – 4th January 2019

    The Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa (the Working Group) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) celebrates this 4th January 2019, the World Braille Day[1].

    This celebration is an occasion to pay tribute to Mr Braille whose invaluable contribution and achievement has led to the inclusion and participation in society of visually impaired persons. The invention of Mr Braille is particularly significant because it allows visually impaired persons to fully contribute to all aspects of society with the removal of illiteracy, a stiff barrier which they used to face.

    Protection from discrimination based on disability is well-established in international human rights law, namely in major legal instruments like the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, the Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the Marrakech Treaty)[2]; and now most importantly, in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa (the Protocol)[3], which was adopted last year by the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Head of States and Governments of the African Union (held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 22 to 29 January 2018).

    The Protocol which has registered so far only one signature from the Central African Republic, with no single ratification to date is a critical instrument for the promotion and effective protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Africa, including persons with visual impairment. Further, the provisions of the Protocol dealing with accessibility identifies Braille as one of the tools which need special attention from states parties in order to enforce “…the right to barrier free access to the physical environment, transportation, information, including communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public” as far as every person with a disability is concerned. Thus, it needs to become operative by gathering the necessary fifteen ratifications from Member States of the African Union. The celebration of the World Braille Day is thus another opportunity for the Working Group to call on Member States of the African Union to ratify the Protocol as a matter of utmost priority.

    The same call applies to The Marrakesh Treaty mentioned above as it addresses some of the main barriers hindering the empowerment of persons with visual impairment; namely the unavailability of reading material in accessible formats.

    The Working Group also uses this opportunity to commend again efforts towards the promotion of Braille and to call upon Member States and other relevant stakeholders to join efforts in making Braille accessible to all persons who are visually impaired as this remarkable writing and reading tool is still somewhat of a luxury to many of them.

    Finally, the Working Group wishes a happy World Braille Day to all visually impaired persons.

     

    Done in Banjul, The Gambia, on 4th January 2019


    [1] Mr Louis Braille the inventor of Braille was born on 4th January 1809 in France. Braille is a writing and reading system utilised worldwide by visually impaired persons.

    [2] This is a treaty on copyright adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 28 June 2013. It entered into force on 30 September 2016.

    [3] It will be recalled that, at the request of the African Union, the drafting process of the said Protocol was led by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights through its Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa.

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      Date: 04 January 2019

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