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OSU-OKC faculty member publishes article on treaty

OKLAHOMA CITY – A faculty member’s academic article about the Marrakesh Treaty for the Journal of Disability Policy Studies is more intriguing than the description might imply.

The article by Cynthia Vleugels, assistant professor of communication at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, was published this summer.

It examines the development of a treaty led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to remove some of the barriers that result in a “book famine” for people with visual and other physical disabilities.

Vleugels wrote the article as part of her work toward a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies at OSU. She landed on the topic when she learned about the unusual process used to ratify the treaty in the U.S. Senate by “unanimous consent.”

According to the World Blind Union, only 7% of the world’s published books are made into an accessible format due to a lack of clear international copyright regulations. The treaty is intended to provide access to people who have visual and physical disabilities that make it nearly impossible to read or hold a typical book. 

The United States was among the last of 71 countries to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty. In her article, Vleugels explains how the treaty implementation act passed unanimously in 2018.

She wrote: Roll Call journalist Alan Ota noted that after a lengthy debate on the farm bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was left standing alone on the Senate floor (2018). Ota wrote, “When presiding officer, Indiana GOP Sen. Todd Young, called for senators in support to ‘stand and be counted’, McConnell was standing. When Young asked for opponents to stand, McConnell briefly sat down” …  this little-used Senate procedure met the threshold of approval because two thirds of the senators present need to meet the requirement for a “standing” vote.

President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Oct. 9, 2018, two days shy of the WIPO deadline for ratification.

“It’s harder to get materials in some countries. It’s not just access but political structures that don’t support education and intellectual property,” Vleugels said.

“This is the only progress on this front in decades,” she said. “Individual countries are setting up systems to work with this.”

Vleugels said her interest in educational policy that affect multiple countries stems from her husband coming from Belgium and other loved ones living on the African continent.

 Here is the link to her article: The Marrakesh Treaty - Cynthia Vleugels, 2021 (