Original Research

Freedom to read: A personal account of the ‘book famine’

Brian Watermeyer
African Journal of Disability | Vol 3, No 1 | a144 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v3i1.144 | © 2014 Brian Watermeyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 July 2014 | Published: 21 November 2014

About the author(s)

Brian Watermeyer, Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Even in the digital age, access to literature and other information for people with print impairments remains extremely poor, especially in the developing world. Reading access holds cascading implications for education, economic empowerment, social participation and self-worth. In June 2013 member states of WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization)concluded a landmark treaty to reduce copyright impediments to the dissemination of literature to print impaired people. Its effectiveness is not yet clear. Meanwhile, critics hold that disability studies’ analyses have too often lacked insight into the personal and psychological ramifications of exclusion. This article provides an account of the ‘book famine’ from the perspective of a print impaired South African disability researcher, arguing that thorough investigation of the impressions of exclusion is necessary for change. The account highlights the personal, even malignant psychological reverberations of deprivations such as the ‘bookfamine’, which may carry traumatic effects which cement the status quo.


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