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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Meg debates a bill to help visually impaired people gain access to reading material

Friday, June 28, 2002

Meg Munn, Labour and Co-operative Party MP for Sheffield Heeley has been sent a thank you letter by the Director General of the Royal National Institute of the Blind for her contribution to the debate on Friday 21st June in the  "Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Bill".

Under current legislation, all charities are required by law to seek the written approval from a publisher before transcribing books into a format accessible to visually impaired people ie Braille, Moon or audio.

This legal requirement can result in delays of up to 6 months and the occasional refusals do occur. As a result visually impaired people are missing out on books and literature that are easily available to their sighted friends, work colleagues and family.

The Bill, being proposed by Rachel Squire MP for Dunfermline West, removes the requirement for not for profit agencies (charities like the RNIB and the National Library for the Blind) to seek copyright permission before producing materials in a format that visually impaired people can access.

Speaking in the House of Commons debate Meg Munn said


"The RNIB estimates that more than 3,000 people in the average constituency are visually impaired. Yesterday, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was in the Houses of Parliament raising awareness of issues relating to vision, and offering eye tests. I asked what percentage of people were found to be short-sighted or suffering from other eye problems as a result of the tests. Apparently, almost everyone over 45 needs assistance with eyesight, usually when it comes to reading. I am not quite 45 yet, but having been short-sighted since the age of seven I know how important it is to be helped to see properly.

Late in life my father (Reginald Munn, former Lord Mayor of Sheffield) could not read very well, and found books with larger print very helpful. Some people at the church I attend also need assistance of this kind. On Sundays, I usually sit next to Hilda and Ray Horbury, members of my church (Emmanuel Methodist Church, Huddersfield Road, Barnsley) who are in their 80s. Unfortunately, Ray’s sight has deteriorated over the past couple of years. At our church, he benefits from a large-print book, but I see at close range the distress that is caused in a central part of his life when material that is not large print is used during the service. It means that he cannot access information, take part in activities or be part of a service when he wants to be. In these days of technology and despite the array of assistance that is available, it is a dreadful shame that there are barriers that prevent people from participating fully in life for as long as they can."


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