CNIB urges governments to provide fair public funding for accessible library

Right to Read campaign highlights human rights issue affecting 800,000+ Canadians

TORONTO, Jan. 19 /CNW/ - CNIB is urging Canada's governments to provide immediate and fair public funding for nationwide accessible library services, or risk compromising the right to read of more than 800,000 blind and partially sighted Canadians.

For more than 90 years, CNIB has operated Canada's largest library of braille and accessible audio materials, funded entirely through donations. The charity announced today that it can no longer sustain the $10 million annual operating cost of the service without ongoing government support.

"Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the right to read, and the right to a library that provides information in formats they can read," said John M. Rafferty, CNIB President and CEO. "The federal, provincial and territorial governments must partner with us to sustain this lifeline to literacy."

CNIB is urging all Canadians to visit, where they can send a letter asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper and premiers to fund accessible library services in their upcoming budgets; and to help spread the word about the campaign.

Some provinces have already committed funding, including Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Alberta, which announced its support this morning in Edmonton. However, CNIB says support from the other provinces and federal government is crucial.

The campaign brings to light the inequitable approach to library funding in Canada. Whereas regular public libraries are funded by taxpayers, accessible library services for blind and partially sighted Canadians to date have received no such support. Without funding, CNIB warns services could be affected as early as April 2010, with increased wait times among the most immediate impacts.

Meanwhile, less than five per cent of reading material in Canada ever makes it into accessible formats like braille or audio - and much of what does is produced through the CNIB Library. Insufficient funding will mean even fewer books can be produced, leaving blind and partially sighted Canadians without access to current titles other readers take for granted.

Canada is, in fact, the only G-8 country that does not publicly fund any library services for people with vision loss.

"This is a human rights issue. It's unacceptable that a progressive country like Canada has a two-tiered system when it comes to accessing books and information," said Rafferty. "Disability should not dictate whether the government supports your right to read."

Over 836,000 Canadians have significant vision loss and a further 3.4 million more have sight-threatening eye diseases that could limit their ability to read printed material. These numbers are projected to double within approximately 20 years.

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About CNIB

CNIB provides 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. CNIB delivers programs and services that help people overcome the challenges of sight loss, increase their independence and achieve their goals. Our advocacy efforts strive for equal access and an inclusive society. CNIB also promotes the effective prevention, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease.


For further information: For further information: and interviews, please contact: Yeena Peng, Specialist, Media Relations, CNIB, Office: (416) 486-2500, ext.8355, Cell: (416) 529-1628,

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