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Landmark Treaty Improves Access to Books for Visually Impaired PDF
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International News
Wednesday, 17 July 2013

International negotiators meeting under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have last month adopted a landmark new treaty that boosts access to books for the benefit of hundreds of millions of people who are blind, visually impaired and print-disabled. The treaty, approved after more than a week of intense debate among negotiators gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco, is the culmination of years of work on improving access for the blind, visually impaired, and print disabled to published works in formats such as Braille, large print text and audio books.

"This treaty is a victory for the blind, visually impaired and print disabled, but also for the multilateral system. With this treaty, the international community has demonstrated the capacity to tackle specific problems, and to agree a consensus solution. This is a balanced treaty, and represents a very good arbitration of the diverse interests of the various stakeholders," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

The treaty, called the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled, addresses the "book famine" by requiring its contracting parties to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats through limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright rightholders. It also provides for the exchange of these accessible format works across borders by organizations that serve the people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. It will harmonize limitations and exceptions so that these organizations can operate across borders. This sharing of works in accessible formats should increase the overall number of works available because it will eliminate duplication and increase efficiency. Instead of five countries producing accessible versions of the same work, the five countries will each be able to produce an accessible version of a different work, which can then be shared with each of the other countries.

Currently, it is left to national governments to define what limitations and exceptions are permitted. In practice, limitations and exceptions contained in national laws vary widely. In many countries copying for private use is free, but only a few countries make exceptions for, say, distance learning. Moreover, the exemptions apply only in the country concerned.

The treaty is also designed to provide assurances to authors and publishers that that system will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries. The treaty reiterates the requirement that the cross-border sharing of works created based on limitations and exceptions must be limited to certain special cases which do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonable prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder. The treaty calls for cooperation among its contracting parties in order to foster cross-border exchanges. The parties are committed to increasing the availability of published works as quickly as possible, and this cooperation will be an important step toward achieving that goal.

Say Eye Campaign Gets Support From Online Eyewear Retailer Eyefly PDF
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International News
Monday, 01 July 2013

Eyefly, an online fashion eyewear retailer for men and women, has announced its launch of a social responsibility effort by pledging to donate, one frame for every frame they sell, to the Brien Holden Vision Institute Say Eye campaign. With an initial donation of 15,000 optical frames, Eyefly is lending its support, while serving to promote advocacy and education for the development of eye care worldwide. Brien Holden Vision Institute is one of the largest and most successful non-profit social enterprises in the history of eye care – offering a practical fusion of science with licensing enabling its continuing research success to be reinvested in public health and further research to develop programs, models of vision care and up-scale education in developing communities worldwide. The Institute launched the Say Eye campaign to raise public awareness for the millions of people in developing communities whose lives could change dramatically with a simple eye exam and pair of glasses.

Professor Brien Holden, CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute spoke enthusiastically about the new partnership with Eyefly saying, "We believe at the Institute that everyone, no matter where they live, should have access to affordable, quality eye care. We know the link between blindness, vision impairment and poverty is irrefutable – and sadly in excess of 640 million people globally are still unnecessarily vision impaired or blind because they don’t have access to an eye examination and a pair of glasses. We know providing eye care for such an immense number of people requires an urgent and massive response and I’m excited to say our new collaboration with Eyefly will assist us in this ambitious goal. The support for our work offered through the EyeGive program will provide us with capacity to continue to develop sustainable programs and a world where uncorrected refractive error no longer prevents children from learning, parents from providing for their families and the elderly from living independent lives.”

Ten percent of the world’s population vision could be improved with an eye examination and a correctly prescribed pair of glasses. 90% of these visually impaired persons live in low and middle-income countries. “We look forward to supporting the Say Eye campaign because Brien Holden Vision Institute is incredibly comprehensive in their approach to the globally recognized problem of preventable avoidable blindness and vision impairment which is not being treated in impoverished communities. The work they are doing is inspiring and we see the partnership as our way to make a difference,” explains Rebecca Giefer, General Manager of Eyefly.

Thailand Issues New Banknote With Braille PDF
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International News
Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Thai BanknoteThe Bank of Thailand has recently issued a new 20 Baht banknote. The new notes have high-technology anti-counterfeiting measures. They also have Braille so the blind can identify the value. The watermark of Thai numeral 20 is specially transparent when held against the light; the green security thread embedded into the paper will change to the color of red-purple when user tilts the new banknotes; and the use of raised features and matching element techniques on denomination numeral. In addition, the banknotes were made of better paper quality to provide the longer life cycle.

New Initiatives Launched in UK To Address Decline of Independent Optical Sector PDF
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International News
Thursday, 30 May 2013

Under the auspices of The Association of Optometrists (AOP), a number of UK optical businesses have formed an Independent Practice Support Group to look at ways to halt the decline in independent practices in the UK optical sector. Essilor, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Luxottica and Transitions are pooling expertise, ideas and resources to address the contraction of the independent sector in the UK.

AOP Chairman, Lyndon Taylor, said: “While the AOP supports all its members irrespective of how they practise, it is clear that a vibrant independent sector is good for choice for both the public and the profession.”  Mike Kirkley, Managing Director of Essilor Ltd, said: “As a group, we are delighted to be working with such esteemed partners on a common objective – to secure the long-term success and viability of independent optical practitioners throughout the UK.”

The group has already embarked on consumer research to understand more about the public’s perception of the independent sector. This research will be used by the forum to design and test future pilot programs in the market.

In other related news, VSP Vision Care announced that it will expand eye care offerings to the United Kingdom as VSP Neighborhood Eyecare, following its expansion from the U.S. into Australia and Canada, according to a company press release.

VSP is partnering with the Association of Optometrists (AOP), National Eyecare Group, Generali U.K. and Thomsons Online Benefits in alliances that will focus on increasing awareness of the importance of eye exams and corrective eye wear for employees, the VSP release said.

Australian Government To Provide Funding To Tackle Avoidable Blindness In Asia Pacific PDF
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International News
Friday, 10 May 2013

Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced last week that the Australian Government will provide funding to two Australian organisations to help tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries in the Asia Pacific.

Senator Carr said the Australian Government was committed to helping our closest neighbours respond to the issue of avoidable blindness, announcing funding for the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation and Sight for All Limited to host three Australia Awards Fellowship Programs.

Senator Carr made the announcements in Sydney at the launch of a series of reports commissioned by the Fred Hollows Foundation and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which confirm the considerable economic and social benefits of investing in eliminating avoidable blindness in developing countries.

The Australian Government has invested more than $85 million since 2008 to support developing countries in our region address avoidable blindness. This investment has helped to deliver more than 400,000 vision screenings, 27,000 sight-restoring surgeries and to train more than 9,000 eye health workers.

Hospital-based Consultants Perform Virtual Glaucoma Reviews PDF
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International News
Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A prototype informatics application for the remote collection of glaucoma patients' data to enable it to be viewed by specialists for diagnosis in another location has been developed by U.K.'s Moorfields Eye Hospital's OpenEyes team, Charing Systems and Black Pear software.

The pilot application - designed for use with iPads is seen as a way of enabling the running of virtual glaucoma clinics which potentially can save patients’ numerous and often inconvenient trips to hospital and free up glaucoma specialists time - was funded by a £75,000 award from NHS Connecting for Health‘s Interoperability Toolkit (ITK) Information Sharing Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Glaucoma is a chronic condition of the eye characterised by raised intraocular pressure, and progressive damage to the optic nerve. It is one of the major causes of visual loss in the UK and involves regular examinations for patients (typically every four to six months) to ensure that their treatment (usually eye drops) remains effective in preventing further loss of vision. Frequent visits to hospital for examinations can be very inconvenient for patients and also mean high workloads for glaucoma clinics in hospital.

The medical management of glaucoma is dependent on the monitoring of discrete and relatively small sets of clinical data, looking for changes over time and/or relative to individualised standards. For example, a patient may have a ‘target’ intraocular pressure, above which the risk of visual loss becomes much greater. Therefore, decision-making about treatment can in most cases be made based on the values of those measurements. This makes the running of remote clinics possible as data can be acquired by clinical staff that are not necessarily trained to make management decisions, with the decision-making made in ‘virtual clinics’ by consultants who are expert in the management of the condition.

The need for 'virtual clinics' has been clear for many years, but the technology required to deliver them has previously been lacking. There is a clear clinical need to develop an infrastructure to underpin the use of virtual clinics.

The prototype solution uses iPads in remote community clinics to enable a Black Pear app called iRIS to capture the metrics associated with glaucoma assessments. The patient data is then messaged using ITK from the iPad to the Moorfields’ OpenEyes patient record system, from where a specialist consultant can diagnose glaucoma. Working closely with Charing Systems, data was collected and stored through use of openEHR archetypes. The combination of ITK and use of openEHR archetypes has proven to be an effective method for collecting and transferring clinical data.

It is hoped to develop the prototype further and set up a series of virtual clinics making use of the tablet software in peripheral centres, with decision-making being carried out by experienced consultants at Moorfields City Road branch.

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