Stevie Wonder strikes chord with UN appeal for disabled

20th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Blind US soul music star Stevie Wonder struck up a singalong at a UN agency Monday, urging members to unlock access to copyrighted material that disabled people need for their education and livelihoods.

"What I would like to do today is launch what I call the 'Declaration of freedom for people with disabilities'," he told delegates at the opening of the World Intellectual Property Organisation assembly.

"It's a call to action, a plan that will empower the independence of people with disabilities by providing them with the tools to learn and grow," he explained, championing the cause of visually impaired, deaf or physically disabled.

Wonder argued that millions of intellectually capable disabled people are being deprived of information and knowledge that is essential for their education and opportunities.

The Motown Legend struck a chord with the grey-suited diplomats and legal experts, bringing out hums and hesitant singing with a few bars from classics like "I Just Called to Say I Love You," "My Cherie Amour" and "You are the Sunshine of My Life" to illustrate his point.

"I gave the example with the songs, people know the songs because they were able to hear them," he told journalists afterwards.

"There are people who have probably even far more to offer than myself who are locked into this kind of prison because information is not available to them."

WIPO member states are at loggerheads over broader access to copyrighted material for people with disabilities, that would allow it to be copied more readily into braille for the blind or provided in an accessible digital form.

Some 314 million blind or visually impaired people alone stand to benefit, the agency argues.

One of Wonder's aides estimated that five percent of printed materials and books are available in a readable form for the blind or visually impaired in industralised nations, and just one percent in developing countries.

African nations, Brazil, the European Union, Mexico, Paraguay and the United States are among those that tabled different approaches for an agreement at WIPO.

"I promise you, if you can (agree) between now and next year this time, I'll come back and do an incredible celebration concert: it's on you, do what you have got to do," Wonder concluded.

© 2010 AFP

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