Celebrating Fair Use

Fair Use logoThe Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States struck a blow for fair use on 10 June, 2014. A panel of three judges affirmed the ruling of District Court  Judge Harold Baer, Jr in Authors Guild of America, et al v. HathiTrust, agreeing that full text search and providing accessible format copies of works for print disabled persons were both fair use.

The Appeals Court vacated Judge Baer’s ruling on preservation, as Judge Baer did not consider whether the plaintiffs had standing to make the claim, and  remanded to the District Court for further consideration. Further, the Court held that the Authors Guild does not have standing to bring the claim on behalf of American authors, although certain foreign Authors collective rights management agencies do. Lastly, the court affirmed the decision that the Orphan Works Project (dealing with books that have uncertain copyright status, where the rights holder is indeterminate or cannot be located), which has been on hold since before the District Court opinion, was not ripe for adjudication at this time.

The HathiTrust Digital Library is a partnership of several academic and research institutions that, along with Google, have endeavored to digitize their collections. These digital collections will then be accessible for full text word search, displaying the number of times a word or phrase appears and on which pages, but not the actual text of the document. The collection will also provide full text accessible format books for print disabled persons. Lastly the collection was intended to provide a digital archive of the partner libraries’ collections.

The Appeals court decision came quietly, with little fanfare, with little to no mention in the mainstream media, all but ignored by everyone except stakeholders, technologists and lawyers. It has been primarily reported by blogs. Those of us who have been following the HathiTrust case since the District Court decision in 2012 (or since the inception of HathiTrust) were thrilled by this major victory in the fight for fair use, accessible cultural materials and access to knowledge.  Publishers and authors groups were less thrilled.

An interesting facet of this decision was that although the Second Circuit opinion affirms the finding of fair use, it disagreed with the District Court reasoning that creating books for persons with disabilities was a transformative use. Judge Baer, in his HathiTrust decision asserted that to him, providing books for persons with disabilities was a transformative purpose, as the publisher did not intend to enter the accessible book market. The Appeals Court likens accessible formats to translations of a work into another language, which creates a larger audience for the book, but is not transformative. However, whether a work is transformative is not the end of the fair use determination. They find fair use on a number of other grounds, including the Supreme Court Decision in Sony Corp of America v. Universal City Studios, the Chafee Amendment granting specific permission for the making of accessible format copies of books and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This decision also specifically addresses the accessibility of images and diagrams, which had not been authoritatively discussed before. The accessibility of images is of vital importance, particularly in education. The work of the DIAGRAM Center at Benetech, which is pioneering making images accessible for persons with disabilities, has been provided a valuable legal support in this opinion. The Court points out that the image files contained in the archive allow persons with disabilities the ability to manipulate the image to make it accessible (i.e. add contrast or enlarge), which they could not do with a text only file.

This decision, while quietly received, is terribly exciting, at least for those of us working on issues of accessibility of cultural materials. This is a substantial leap forward in sheer numbers of accessible format books. The HathiTrust Digital Library strikes a serious blow to the long standing book famine, where annually between 1-7% (depending on where in the world you are living) of all books published are translated in to formats accessible to persons with disabilities. It contains more than 10 million accessible volumes. That is something to celebrate.

VirtuAssist: increasing the autonomy of persons with cognitive disability in working environments

People with learning difficulties or memory problems face barriers in the working environment because they need extra supervision. New environments, unfamiliar equipment and changing of tasks can be especially challenging.

VirtuAssist provides real-time guidance to operate working equipment so people can work with minimal supervision in these challenging environments. VirtuAssist combines cutting-edge technologies such as computer vision, pointing gesture recognition, machine learning and task modelling with smart-glasses. This personalises information and interaction to the end-user’s needs and preferences in a fun and effective way. 

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Call for Papers: From Each According to Ability? Capitalism, Poverty, and Disability

Canadian Journal of Disability Studies published by the Canadian Disability Studies AssociationFrom Each According to Ability? Capitalism, Poverty, and Disability

Karl Marx (1875/1978) described the political economy of a just society as one organized around the ethos “from each according to … ability; to each according to … need!” (p. 531). The reality for people with disabilities, however, is persistent and disproportionate rates of poverty and unemployment worldwide (World Health Organization, 2011). How well do we understand the reasons for this? And more importantly, what can be done about it? Has disability studies produced an adequate theorization of the political economy of disability?

The Canadian Journal of Disability Studies invites contributions to specifically explore these questions, using a definition of “political economy” as “the study of the social relations, particularly the power relations that mutually constitute the production, distribution, and consumption of resources” (Mosco, 1996, p. 25).

The influential social model could be seen to situate current definitions and experiences of disability within capitalism (Oliver, 1999), and to identify “institutional discrimination” as the source of social inequality (Barnes, 1991). The theory and praxis of disability politics focuses on challenging the medicalization of disability, exploring and developing a positive disability identity and pride, opposing the demeaning practices and policies of welfare states, promoting disabled-led organizations and direct payments for services, advancing disability arts and culture, and most significantly pushing for anti-discrimination legislation and the implementation of human rights for persons with disabilities. Do these political responses follow from the original theoretical contention that the contemporary social construct of disability is rooted in capitalism?

More recently the social model has called for “a radical re-appraisal of the meaning of work for disabled people that goes beyond the rigid confines of paid employment…” and which organizes work around social necessity, obligation, and interdependence (Barnes & Roulstone, 2005). Furthermore, between the need for professional services and the development of self-directed attendant services, people with disabilities should be recognized as both creators and managers of employment (Barnes, 2003). Russell (1998), however, points out the dangers of this “commodification” of disability, in which people with disabilities are seen as a lucrative source of money for medical and institutional organizations. Albrecht (1992) also raises concerns about the implications of “the disability business”.

And what of those people with disabilities who are genuinely unable to work because the nature of their disabilities, rather than the lack of opportunity? Taylor (2004) argues for the “right not to work” and in favour of “cultivating a skeptical attitude regarding the significance of work”—at least as it constructed in a capitalist economy. How do we situate this argument in a political economy of disability?

We welcome article submissions on these and related questions. Other possible topics include, but are not limited to

  • Strategies to address capitalism’s recurring crises as they relate to disability
  • Theories, practices, and crises of the welfare state and disability
  • The intersections of human rights theory and practice and political economic theory and practice
  • Intersections and conflicts between feminism, race theory, queer theory, and crip theory and political economy approaches to understanding and theorizing disability
  • Marxism, neoliberalism, and other economic theories and disability
  • Notions of cross-disability solidarity versus class solidarity
  • The business(es) of disability such as vocational and medical rehabilitation, pharmaceutical and biotechnological interventions, personal support workers and “care” industries, new paradigms of disability employment, etc.
  • Political economy issues of disability in developing countries and across global contexts
  • Issues of identity and inclusion/exclusion within a capitalist political economy

The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2014. All manuscripts must be submitted electronically, in Microsoft Word format, directly via email to this issue’s guest editor Bonita Heath at bheath@yorku.ca.

Manuscript submissions must be no more than 6,000 words, excluding references, notes, and tables. Submissions should have no more than 40 references.  Keep tables, figures — including graphs, charts, diagrams — and other images to a minimum (no more than 10); all such material must be accompanied by a brief narrative description to ensure accessibility.

For further information please see “Author Guidelines” at http://cjds.uwaterloo.ca/index.php/cjds/about/submissions

References

Albrecht, Gary L. (1992). The disability business: rehabilitation in America. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.

Barnes, C. (2003). Disability. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press; Blackwell Publishers.

Barnes, C. (1991). Disabled people in Britain and discrimination: A case for anti-discrimination legislation. London, UK: Hurst & Co.; University of Calgary Press, in association with the British Council of Organizations of Disabled People.

Barnes, C., & Roulstone, A. (2005). Work is a four-letter word. In A. Roulstone, & C. Barnes (Eds.),Working futures? Disabled people, policy and social inclusion (pp. 315–327). Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.

Marx, K. (1875). Critique of the Gotha Program. In R. Tucker, (1978) The Marx-Engels reader (pp. 525–541). New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company.

Mosco, V. (1996). The political economy of communication: rethinking and renewal. London, UK: Sage.

Oliver, M. (1999). Capitalism, disability and ideology: A materialist critique of the normalization principle. In R. Flynn J., & R. Lemay A. (Eds.), A quarter-century of normalization and social role valorization: Evolution and impact (pp. 1–16). Leeds, UK: University of Leeds, Centre for Disability Studies.

Russell, M. (1998). Beyond ramps: Disability at the end of the social contract. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.

Taylor, S. (2004). The right not to work: Power and disability. Monthly Review55(10), 30–44.

World Health Organization, World Bank. (2011). World report on disability. Geneva: World Health Organization.

DREAM Researchers Participate in Round-table Discussion on Human Rights and Disability

""DREAM researchers, Ieva Eskyte, Anthony Giannoumis and Magdi Birtha participated in a round-table discussion titled Human Rights and Disability: between choice and control at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas Lithuania on 21st October. The event aimed to facilitate  discussion and raise awareness on the importance of disability studies and disability rights.

The round-table addressed the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stating,

Since the key message of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) is that disabled people have to exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms equally with non-disabled citizens, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss disability and human rights issues in different contexts. For instance, different models of disability will be discussed from Scandinavian, British and Lithuanian perspectives. In addition, the relation between accessibility, disability movement and private markets will be analysed. Special attention will be paid to disability research, ethics and methods.

Practitioners, scholars and graduate students from a variety of disciplines presented their professional and academic experiences in the field of disability and human rights.

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The full program included,

  • Welcome &  Some Thoughts about Social Sensitivity, Reciprocity & Dialogue. Dean prof. Jonas Ruškus of Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Vytautas Magnus University, People with Disabilities and the Right to Reveal Potential. Ieva Danilevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University
  • The impact of family and friends social support on accepting mobility impairments. Laura Alčiauskaitė, dr. Liuda Šinkariova, Vytautas Magnus University
  • A comparative case study of e-accessibility policy implementation in the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States. G. Anthony Giannoumis, The Norwegian Social Research Institute
  • Information provision in the mainstream private market: business practices and disabled customers’ realities. Ieva Eskytė, University of Leeds, Centre for Disability Studies, UK
  • Participation of persons with disabilities in policy and decision-making processes. Magdi Birtha, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway

DREAM would like to warmly thank the conveners at Vytautas Magnus University for the opportunity to work together in realizing the rights of persons with disabilities.

The African Disability Rights Yearbook has been published!

The first volume of the African Disability Rights Yearbook has been launched on 5 November 2013 by the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. The Yearbook is the first peer-reviewed journal in the African region to focus on issues at the intersection between disability and human rights against the backdrop of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The African Disability Rights Yearbook will be published annually. The Yearbook is available online free of charge at: http://www.pulp.up.ac.za/pdf/2013_07/2013_07.pdf 

One of the DREAM ESRs, Magdi Birtha (CDLP, NUIG) has a chapter published in this very important publication:

‘Nothing about CRPD monitoring without us’: A case study on the involvement of the disability movement in policy-making in Zambia. 

 

Disability issues within the workplace

The following is a guest post from Simon Barnett. Simon Barnett writes for Disability Sanctuary, an online community for disabled people and their carers. He examines a number of issues and looks to add to the wider debate.

Entering the workplace environment can sometimes seem daunting, but an increasing number of employers are becoming more aware of disability issues and are keen to take positive action. There’s undoubtedly been a realisation that a failure to recruit those with disabilities means that businesses can miss out on vital resources.

It’s still fair to say, however, that experiences do vary. Some employers seem unable to grasp what real equality means and there’s often a lack of awareness about their legal obligations. This can undoubtedly cause some difficulties, given that few individuals want to be put in the position of pointing out such obligations at an early stage in the employment process. On the other hand, by being afraid to speak out, there’s the very real risk that you won’t be dealing with a level playing field.

Good employment practices

The onus is certainly on the employer to understand how they are required to act. In many cases, of course, this simply involves a certain amount of common sense. You may find that you spend some time educating your work colleagues at the outset, with the aim of making relationships considerably easier in the long run.

With this in mind, it’s useful to understand exactly what it’s reasonable for you to expect from an employer. Looking at UK law, there’s very clear guidance:

“It is discrimination to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability (eg a tendency to make spelling mistakes arising from dyslexia). This type of discrimination is unlawful where the employer or other person acting for the employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, that the person has a disability.”

The above may seem to many of us to be little more than an expression of common decency. If an employer is unable to behave in line with the above, then it’s likely that there will be significant issues within the workplace for any employee, including those with disabilities.

But the law also goes much further. Employers are instructed to make reasonable adjustments to both jobs and workplace environments, in order to make life easier for those workers with disabilities. This most obviously involves ensuring that a disabled worker is given time off, where such time is required for specific medical treatment, or for appointments relating to assessments.

As might be expected, provision is also made for ensuring that equipment is suitably modified. If you’re working within an office environment, for example, then it’s reasonable to expect that suitable desks and chairs should be provided. In addition, you might also expect to be provided with additional aids, if those are required to ensure that you can do your job efficiently and safely.

Why it’s important to understand your rights

By understanding your rights, you are in a much better position to outline your expectations and to discuss potential problems, before they arise. It’s understandable, however, that there may be a level of concern about disclosing details of a personal nature to a senior member of staff.

I think that there are two elements to consider here: firstly, an employer cannot reasonably be expected to make allowances, without having a full understanding of your disability. If there are areas where you have some limitations, then you’ll need to declare these to your employer.

That may, of course, seem incredibly daunting. Fortunately, the law is on your side here: the second point that I would make in this area is that the employer has a legal obligation to keep any details of your disability confidential, unless you suggest otherwise.

Conclusions

In practical terms, I would suggest that this should mean that you can speak openly about your requirements, safe in the knowledge that you are having a confidential conversation. You may be happy for your employer to discuss some elements of your conversation with other members of staff, but that’s very much your choice.

Many issues can be resolved before they become significant problems. My own experience suggests that the key is to have good two-way communications between the employer and the employee. This limits the room that’s available for misunderstandings and ensures that there’s clarity within the working relationship.

About the Author

Simon Barnett works on the Disability Sanctuary website, providing insights on a range of issues to those with disabilities, carers, friends and relatives. He aims to provide practical advice, helping to ensure that individuals are receiving the assistance that they are entitled too. He’s particularly concerned about the complexities of the current disability benefits system. Having previously worked as the editor of a finance website in the UK, he’s keen to offer clarity in such areas.

Help DREAM respond to the public consultation on Article 9 – Accessibility of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Logo

UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Logo

The DREAM network will be responding to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ general comment on Article 9 – Accessibility.

We would be honoured if you would join with us in making this contribution to the Committee. Therefore we invite you to send a formal statement or informal comments, thoughts, ideas, etc. by November 15th to anthonyg@nova.no so that we can take advantage of this opportunity.

We will compile the comments and draft and distribute our response to the consultation in January 2014.

The general comment outlines the normative content, state obligations, and inter-sectional issues related to accessibility.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to to leave a comment, and thank you for your contribution!

Developing Europe’s policy skills to advance disability rights

DREAM featured as success story by EU Directorate General for Research, led by Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. The following is an excerpt of the story featured on the EU Directorate General for Research website.

Most Member States of the European Union (EU), and the EU itself, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). However, while the Convention will mark a major advance both for disability rights and also for European business, the necessary changes to turn it from vision into reality will not happen overnight. Adopting the Convention imposes numerous legal obligations on signatories affecting many areas of daily life.

In the words of the DREAM (Disability Rights Expanding Accessible Markets) project coordinator, Professor Gerard Quinn of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway: “EU Member States need a lot of new skills and competences to drive this forward.”

The article concludes stating with a quote from the DREAM project coordinator, Gerard Quinn.

“The researchers are already developing a common instinct for where the opportunities for change may lie, and indeed they are starting to create that space themselves. It is beautiful to watch,”

“The phrase I use to sum it up is ‘policy entrepreneurship’ – developing people who can really bring about change that transforms the lives of our citizens with disabilities,”

The remaining article may be found at the EU Directorate General for Research website.

Zero Project 2014 – Accessibility: Call for nomination of Innovative Policy and Practice

The Zero Project´s mission is to support the rights of persons with disabilities, as stated in the UN Convention adopted on 13 December 2006. Its main activity is to research the most outstanding Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies worldwide by engaging leading experts in the nomination and evaluation process. The selected practices and policies will be presented in the Zero Project Report, on its website and at the Zero Project Conference.

The Zero Project’s research is based, among others, on nominations of both Innovative Practice and Innovative Policy that address the issue of accessibility and persons with disabilities.  Their approach to accessibility is in accordance with Article 9 of the UNCRPD and covers the areas of built environment, access to information and communication, transport, products and services and several others.

The Zero Project will welcome any contributions of Nominations of Innovative Practices and Policies by any person or organization that is interested.

Here is a link to the documents on the Nomination of Innovative Practices and Policies http://www.zeroproject.org/about/nominations/

The procedure that follows the receipt of the nomination is described on the website as well. The deadline to submit nominations is the 19th of August 2013.

DREAM Launches Disability Rights Digital Bibliography

As a joint project between researchers at NUI Galway and DREAM, the Disability Rights Digital Bibliography seeks to provide a single point of contact for academic references in disability rights. The bibliography was compiled based on individual contributions from researchers in seven research institutions throughout Europe. The bibliographies were established based on the thematic interests of the researchers and represent a wide array of areas impacting disability in Europe and internationally. Each bibliography is available as an accessible Microsoft Word document as well as a Research Information Systems (RIS) format which can be imported into most reference management software applications.

We want to encourage our users interested in contributing further to this initiative to contact Suzanne Doyle or Anthony Giannoumis

A permanent link to the bibliography can be found at NUI Galway.