On March 22, 2023, Camille Gomez-Jones, Registrar General of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, along with Regan Asgarali, Controller of Intellectual Property Office of Trinidad and Tobago, and his colleague, Kavish Seetahal, Deputy Controller, paid a courtesy call on Beverly Williams, the National Library and Information System Authority’s (NALIS) Executive Director (Ag.) and eight members of her team.
The purpose of the visit was for Gomez-Jones to learn about NALIS’ implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty for the conversion of works for persons who are blind, visually impaired (VIP) and print disabled. Under the stewardship of Asgarali, the Intellectual Property Office of the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs was instrumental in the negotiation and the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Trinidad and Tobago legislatively through the copyright amendment act no. 14 of 2020. NALIS’ Corporate Secretary was party to those negotiations.
At the meeting, NALIS’ Director, Information Networks Division (IND), Helen Johnson, lead on the project, talked about what NALIS has done since being named the “Authorized Entity” under the Treaty. Johnson said that the amendment of the Copyright Act in 2020 to name NALIS as the sole “Authorized Entity” under the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled (VIPs) was significant, and this achievement could not be overemphasized, as support for the bill was unanimous among Parliamentarians, and its benefits are far reaching for VIPs.
The visiting delegation was informed that in March 2022, NALIS entered into an Authorized Entity Agreement with the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) of the Geneva based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This historic signing, again under the stewardship of Asgarali, facilitates access to over seven hundred and thirty thousand (730,000) titles in 80 languages in a range of accessible formats for this community of individuals.
In April of 2022, NALIS in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association successfully submitted an application for technical assistance from WIPO. The first phase of this assistance entailed the training of persons in the conversion of items to accessible format. Fifteen persons along with three coordinators participated in the online training, which ran from November 2022 to February 2023. Areas covered included the creation of electronic braille files, tactile images for braille, EPUB books and Daisy audio books. Key technical features of this training involved the proper placement of headings in texts to facilitate easy navigation of sections and chapters, use of ALT Text to facilitate description of images and the segmenting of audio into phrases to allow for easy playback.
To further advance its implementation of the Treaty, recently (on March 3) NALIS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association (TBWA) to continue the work they had begun in 2019 under the previous MoU. NALIS and TTBWA also executed an Eligible Third Party Agreement by which TTBWA has been empowered to exercise rights as an “Eligible Third Party” under Article 5.6 of the Authorized Entity Agreement between NALIS and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Before the meeting concluded, Williams pledged NALIS’ support to Bahamas. She said, “NALIS stands ready and willing to provide consultancy services to Bahamas with respect to your country’s implementation of its Marrakesh Treaty.” After the meeting, the visitors received a tour of the National Library, which included the VIP Music Studio and Multimedia Services at the Adult Library, other VIP Rooms in the building and the Heritage Library.
Other members of the NALIS team attending the meeting were Jasmin Simmons, Deputy Executive Director (Ag); Brahma Beharrysingh, Corporate Secretary; Charmaine Glasgow, Director Educational Library Services Division; Maria Cherrie, Librarian IV, Information, Digital Literacy; Betty Ann Sieudath, Librarian IV, Research, Planning; Cleavon Brathwaite, Systems Librarian, IND, and Debbie Goodman, Manager, Corporate Communications.