Sustainable plan needed to close gap in availability of audio, braille and e-text books
TORONTO, May 29, 2017 /CNW/ - As National AccessAbility Week begins, CNIB is calling on the federal government to develop a long-term plan to fund and produce more accessible books in Canada.
"Thousands of new books are published in Canada each year, but as someone with sight loss, I can only access a fraction of them," said Diane Bergeron, CNIB's executive director of national and international affairs. "That's not accessibility – it's exclusion. And it has to change."
More than three million Canadians live with a physical, visual or learning disability that could impede their ability to read standard printed materials. For these Canadians, books in accessible formats like audio, braille and electronic text represent a lifeline to literacy, and are critical to their participation in education, employment and community life.
However, Canadian publishers are not required by law to produce their books in accessible formats. The result is that only a small percentage of all published trade books are available in these formats – most produced by CNIB and only partially funded by federal grants.
The charity is proposing to partner with the government and other stakeholders in the print disability community on a task force to develop a sustainable strategy for accessible book production and ultimately close the access gap.
"For people with disabilities to truly have an equal opportunity to succeed, we must level the playing field when it comes to accessing published content," said John M. Rafferty, CNIB president and CEO. "It's 2017. It's time to end the double standard."
Additional pressure to resolve the issue comes from Canada's 2016 ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. By enabling accessible books to be shared across borders without copyright infringement, the treaty promises to increase access to alternative-format reading material internationally while substantially expanding the availability of multilingual content in Canada. But without a plan to produce new accessible titles domestically, Canada's contributions to the treaty could fall short of expectations.
"The Marrakesh Treaty means it isn't enough to coast on the accessible books we have now," said Bergeron. "Canada must lead the way in publishing new material for our citizens, and people around the world."
CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. Founded in 1918, we're entering our 100th year of operation – and celebrating a century of changing individual lives and society as a whole. Throughout our history, literacy has been a key focus of our work – previously through the CNIB Library for the Blind, and now as a producer of and advocate for accessible books and information. To learn more, visit cnib.ca or call 1-800-563-2642.
For further information: For further information and interviews, please contact: Sara Wilbur, Specialist, Communications, CNIB, 416-486-2500, ext. 7157 or [email protected]