Alicia Wise steps down from ABC board

Alicia Wise

A founding member, of the ABC board, Alicia Wise (Senior VP for Global Strategic Networks at Elsevier), stood down at the recent board meeting where she will be replaced by IPA President, Michiel Kolman. We interviewed Alicia about her motivation, Marrakesh and the future.

What is your day job?

I currently work for Elsevier where I am Senior Vice President for Global Strategic Networks, responsible for building key partnerships and also the transition to Open Access and other aspects of Open Science.

Were you involved in accessibility work before joining the ABC?

Yes, this is a long-standing passion of mine. I am lucky my employers have indulged it, and let me spend time on it! My brother is dyslexic, and really inspires me with all the efforts he makes to overcome this challenge in order to enjoy stories. He’s a professional artist and is currently illustrating and writing a children’s book because of his enthusiasm for story-telling. You can read more about him here: https://www.elsevier.com/connect/someone-you-know-has-a-print-disability-heres-how-were-helping

How did the ABC start out?

In 2009 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) convened a ‘Stakeholders Platform’ to bring together those with a stake in proposed copyright legislation changes. In addition to publishing representatives, there were also representatives from advocacy organizations representing people with print disabilities such as blindness and also representatives from libraries serving people with print disabilities. It’s fair to say there was a low degree of mutual understanding or trust around the table in those early days, but that changed slowly but surely. This stakeholders platform morphed into the ABC Board after the Marrakesh Copyright Treaty was ratified in 2013.

How long were you involved in the ABC?

I’ve been involved ever since 2009, and am now stepping off the Board. It’s a terrific group of people, and ABC provides some really essential international services, so I will miss this tremendously. But it is time for fresh perspectives and new energy!

Are there any striking moments from your time at ABC that you would like to share?
Well, the most striking moments are always Stevie Wonder’s appearances at WIPO – all of which have happened without me! He’s a brilliant spokesperson on this topic, as both a blind man and a copyright holder. Would love to meet him someday. Anyway, you can hear more from him here: http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/stories/stevie_wonder_marrakesh.html

Have you seen a shift in the vision of publishers and others to accessibility?

Publishers have always supported the idea of accessibility in principle, but I’m really glad to see increased investment to ensure more titles are born accessible. Digital publishing is a terrific boon in this regard, and enabling technologies like the EPUB format and ONIX metadata can support more publishers to ensure that their publications are usable by all. Ebooks allow for reflowable and resizable text, and text-to-speech for all titles which is so helpful if you are blind, partially sighted, or dyslexic.

Marrakesh is now being implemented, do you have a message for publishers and publishers’ associations who are working on that implementation now?

The Marrakesh Treaty (article 4) specifically allows member states to adopt a commercial availability exception, and our community needs to champion and defend such exceptions as they provide our incentives for investing in born accessible publications. It’s great to be able to do the right thing, and to be paid for it.

What are your hopes for the future of ABC?
That it continues to function both harmoniously and very proactively to drive forward capacity building projects, to champion inclusive publishing, and to facilitate cross-border sharing of accessible books in ways that serve people with disabilities and that protect rightsholders. I’m so very glad that IPA remains an engaged and committed partner in ABC.

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