Canadian and US academic libraries celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day by working together to facilitate access for the print disabled

CARL logo with CARL-ABRC in large blue letters and the association name spelled out in full underneath in English and French       Logo for Association of Research Libraries written in large blue lettering



May 19, 2022 – Ottawa (Ontario) and Washington (DC) – Canadian and US academic libraries celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day by working together to facilitate access for the print disabled.

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled was adopted on June 27, 2013 in Marrakesh and is part of a body of international copyright treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The treaty came into force on September 30, 2016.

The Marrakesh Treaty is the first user-focused treaty adopted by WIPO to address the global accessible book famine. The treaty requires participating countries to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats through limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright holders. Canada and the United States are two of the now 80 participating countries.

To support this initiative and realize its potential for beneficiary communities, in 2020, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) formed a Joint Task Force on Marrakesh Treaty Implementation, bringing together the academic and research library community in Canada and the United States to work towards universal access to the 760 million books they collectively hold across member libraries.

The task force is exploring ways that libraries can provide beneficiaries with seamless search and access to accessible formats, reducing barriers currently faced by people with print disabilities. The pilot project has uncovered libraries working in an intricate web to deliver optimal systems functionality, descriptions of works, metadata standards, and user-authentication methods. Practices not only need to be agreed to by participating institutions, some will require international standards adoption.

“I’m proud that we are building on our past success and leadership in advancing library accessibility by participating in this initiative,” said Joy Kirchner, dean of libraries at York University. “Every member of our community deserves access to the tools, resources, and expertise they need for a successful teaching and learning experience, and initiatives like this one demonstrate our commitment to ensuring users are supported to create positive change.”

In collaboration with York University and the University of Florida, the task force is working to implement the first cross-border exchange by early 2023.

“The University of Florida Libraries offer accessibility services in partnership with the campus Disability Resource Center,” said Judy Russell, dean of university libraries at the University of Florida. “The systems and policies we develop through this pilot initiative to lend accessible materials to our partners at York University will strengthen those services and help develop a stronger international network.”

Visit our websites to learn more on Marrakesh Treaty implementation, the task force, and other accessibility related activities happening in Canada and in the United States.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 126 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise; advances diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at

CARL members include Canada’s twenty-nine largest university libraries as well as two national libraries. Enhancing research and higher education are at the heart of its mission. CARL develops the capacity to support this mission, promotes effective and sustainable scholarly communication, and public policy that enables broad access to scholarly information. CARL is on the web at

For more information:

Victoria Owen, Task Force Chair
ARL/CARL Visiting Program Officer—Marrakesh Treaty Implementation

Pascal Calarco
Chair, Systems Implementation Working Group
ARL/CARL Visiting Program Officer—Marrakesh Treaty Implementation

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