Leading Australian Disability Law Academic Dr. Paul Harpur Appointed BBI Distinguished International Visiting Fellow

January 20, 2016

Dr. Paul HarpurDr. Paul Harpur has been appointed a Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) Distinguished International Visiting Fellow during February, 2016. Dr. Harpur is a tenured academic at the TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland.  The TC Beirne School of Law is a research intensive institution, which in the 2015 QS World Rankings was ranked the 49th best law school in the world. 

Dr. Paul Harpur's research analyses the practical and theoretical operation of laws and institutions that impact upon equality for persons with disabilities.  This research agenda considers the capacity of persons with disabilities to exercise various rights protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Dr. Harpur brings his personal experience to his research, being totally blind, a former Paralympian and practicing lawyer, in addition to his extensive research experience.

Dr. Harpur's research focus at BBI is on his contracted book with the Cambridge University Press, "Disability Human Rights: Opening the Book for Print Disabled". 

People read for education, employment, health and to participate in the economic, cultural and political life of their community. People with print disabilities, such as blindness, low vision, mobility impairments and dyslexia, depending where they live in the world, can access between 7% and less than 1% of the world’s 130 million titles. Standard paper books require scanning and alteration so that persons with print disabilities can access them.  This is an expensive and time consuming process for the 17 million print disabled in the US and even more difficult for the estimated 300 million print disabled in less wealthy countries. Unlike books printed on paper, E-Books start digital and have the capacity to solve the book famine. As the numbers of commercially available E-books grows through the thousands and into the tens of millions, the dream of universal access could be a reality. To realise the potential of this, technological changes will require a paradigm shift in how laws and institutions balance copyright and human rights. Dr. Harpur’s monograph will critically analyses the role of laws and institutions in enabling and disabling access to the written word.  Historically, laws and institutions constructed disability access as an exception which was partially tolerated.  A new disability human rights paradigm has emerged which is placing human rights over copyright interests. The new disability human rights agenda is connected with a range of legal and policy developments at the international and national levels. 

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Dr. Paul Harpur discusses Disability, Access, and Libraries in the Digital Age