As a member of the board of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), a division of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), I was lucky enough to get to travel to Geneva recently for board meetings and a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Marrakesh Treaty. The Treaty is an international agreement whose goal is to make sure that books are accessible and available equitably to people with print disabilities. At present 119 countries are Marrakesh signatories. The global book service has more than 800,000 accessible books in 80 languages available for disabled people to borrow through entities like libraries for the blind.
The WIPO Headquarters Conference Hall is absolutely stunning, with seats for every member country and live translations at every table. Star-like lights in the ceiling, along with lighted globes in a wood-panelled hall lend the space an ethereal quality.
The lobby of the building is dominated by a wall fountain of multi-coloured marble, six metres high by 11 metres wide. Symbolising human thought, water seeps out from the joints in a wall representing the history of the world, then trickles down into a red basin from which five ribbons of marble – the continents – emerge, snaking through the lobby in colours as varied as the nations of the world. There is actually a moon rock integrated into that wall! The golden cupola is inscribed with Latin which translates as, “Human genius is the source of all works of art and invention. These works are the guarantee of a life worthy of men. It is the duty of the State to ensure with diligence the protection of the arts and inventions.”
We had two days of meetings with the board of the Accessible Books Consortium. Here I am pictured with my colleague Hugo Setzer, the president of the Mexican Publishers Association.
Across the street from the WIPO building, is the storied grounds of the United Nations. The Broken Chair sculpture is a symbol of opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, is striking and worth reading more about.