This interview was originally published on the Books + Publishing platform.

In October Sarah Runcie from the Australian Publishers Association (APA) travelled to Tokyo to address the Advanced Publishing Lab at Keio University about the APA’s Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (AIPI). She spoke to Books+Publishing about making publishing more inclusive and accessible for those with print disabilities.

Can you give a little bit of background about AIPI and what it does?

The Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (AIPI) was established in 2016 to identify the key challenges in making published material accessible to the print disabled and to identify pathways to address those challenges.

AIPI is a group of stakeholders unified by a common aim. Each participant represents a key element in the accessibility ecosystem—libraries, publishers, authors, editors, print disability peak bodies, copyright experts, government. Having a diverse range of perspectives allows a comprehensive approach to a multi-faceted and sometimes complex arena.

AIPI was originally called the Marrakesh Treaty Forum. What is the Marrakesh Treaty and how does it impact the work of AIPI?

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international agreement that provides exceptions to copyright protections to permit the printing and sending of accessible material within national jurisdictions and across borders. In terms of copyright, the Marrakesh Treaty is very significant—it is the first user right of its kind. Australia was one of the first countries to sign the treaty, which came into force on 30 September 2016.

In Australia there had been an exception for the print disabled for some time in the Copyright Act (1968). However, the government decided to implement the treaty by codifying a specific fair dealing exception that set out the parameters of the right while also protecting the potential of a commercial market in accessible formats. The APA actively advocated to government to ensure that commercial availability remained part of the legislation.

In terms of impact, the signing of the treaty was the catalyst for us to form an initiative, but our work does more than service a treaty. AIPI aims to actively solve problems and not just produce  rhetoric. The reason for the name change in 2017 was to indicate two critical shifts in thinking: moving away from focusing on the treaty, and recognising that the right pathway to achieving the most efficient and cost-effective solution for accessibility is to promote an inclusive publishing industry.

Accessibility focuses on formats and the print disabled, whereas inclusive publishing is about the mainstreaming of accessibility solutions into all publishing and leveraging the advantages of those solutions for all readers. Inclusive publishing is a strategic investment and an innovation pathway—is a way of future-proofing your business. Thinking only in terms of accessibility and formats for a small cohort has limited solutions and opportunities. That mental shift was the first hurdle we had to, as a group, get beyond.

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