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Elections Toolkit for Accessible Book Funding in Canada

Elections Toolkit for Accessible Book Funding in Canada

September 8, 2021

The National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) and the Center for Equitable Library Service (CELA) have released an elections toolkit to help supporters connect with and educate your local candidates about accessible reading.

The toolkit on the NNELS and CELA websites includes:

  • information about the current status of the federal funding
  • resources to help find local candidates and questions to ask candidates
  • sample letter to send candidates
  • link to the letters submitted to the various political parties urging them to consider this issue in their political platform
  • information about commitments parties have made in their platforms regarding accessible book production or technology

Questions to Ask

Here are some questions you could ask candidates:

  • Will your party commit to supporting a sustainable funding model for accessible book production to ensure equitable access to reading materials for those with print disabilities?
  • What role do you see for the federal government in supporting accessible reading services in Canada in addition to the industry-led transition to accessible publishing?
  • How can the federal government better support organizations like CELA and NNELS to help the federal government fulfill its obligation to the Marrakesh Treaty as well as providing an equitable reading landscape for people with print disabilities in Canada?

What candidates need to know

The federal government’s move towards industry-based production and distribution of accessible reading materials to people with print disabilities across Canada will not replace the important service that NNELS and CELA provides.

  1. CELA and NNELS play an essential role in providing accessible reading materials to people with print disabilities.
    • Relying on an industry-based production and distribution is NOT a sustainable and comprehensive long-term strategy for equitable access to reading for people with print disabilities in Canada.
    • NNELS and CELA provide services which publishers cannot, including providing specific formats, like braille, and ensuring equitable distribution and access across the country.
  2. Our publishing partners cannot replace CELA and NNELS:
    • Kate Edwards, the Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), agrees that “the private sector cannot assume responsibility for producing accessible books in the myriad formats required to equitably serve Canadian readers with print disabilities.”
    • NNELS and CELA provide unique services including ongoing assessment, evaluation, training, and awareness among the different stakeholders, including publishers, distributors, technology vendors, libraries and others to maintain an equitable reading landscape.
    • These vital services, which promote the full participation of Canadians with print disabilities in learning, work and community life, can not be provided without federal funding support.
    • Both industry and public service components are essential to a healthy reading ecosystem in Canada and to a just and equitable society.
  3.   CELA and NNELS support libraries which are essential to equitable access
    • NNELS and CELA provide a centralized service available through libraries across the country that ensures that all people with print disabilities can gain access to a wide variety of reading materials, regardless of the resources of their local libraries.
    • CELA and NNELS offer services and collections no individual library could offer on its own.

What we are asking

We ask that a funding commitment recognize the following principles:

Ensure that all content can be made accessible to a diverse community of people with print disabilities.

  • It is estimated that only 7-10% of the world’s published content is available in accessible format(s).  Canadian and multinational publishers can not (and will not) ensure that all titles will be commercially available in all accessible formats. Organizations like CELA and NNELS are essential to meet this need.

Recognizing that people with print disabilities face economic and social barriers that industry-based production and distribution will not be able to fully address.

  • A publicly-funded service needs to be provided to those users who do not have the economic means to gain access to accessible content.

Support for multiple formats, including braille, is essential for an equitable reading landscape.

  • Many accessible formats, such as braille, are not viable formats in the marketplace, and publicly-funded services such as NNELS and CELA are needed to ensure equitable access to all formats.

Access to published works for people with print disabilities internationally through the Marrakesh Treaty should be facilitated by organizations that are independent from industry.

  • The federal government has a responsibility to fulfill the requirements of the Marrakesh Treaty and must be prepared to continue to fund organizations, like CELA and NNELS, that currently perform this essential service.

Accessibility expertise and equitable reading must be supported and made available independent of market forces.

  • Organizations like NNELS and CELA have expertise in accessible reading content and can ensure that these services and issues continue to be at the forefront.

Mainstream reading systems, tools, and devices can be complicated and expensive, and support for the provision of accessible services will continue to be essential.

  • Both CELA and NNELS offer a repository of reading content for people with print disabilities that provide an essential accessible national reading service.

Where the political parties stand

This information is taken directly from the platforms of the various parties:

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc Québécois platform does not specifically address accessibility with respect to reading materials or technology.

Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservative Party of Canada platform states on page 69:

We will provide an additional $80 million per year through the Enabling Accessibility Fund to provide:

  • Additional incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility.
  • Grants and support for all types of accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work.
  • Enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.

The Green Party has not released an official platform as of September 2, 2021

Liberal Party of Canada

The Liberal Party platform states on page 86:

  • “We will also commit to making permanent funding to support services that ensure equitable access to reading and other published works for Canadians with print disabilities so that more Canadians are able to fully participate in these activities.”

New Democratic Party of Canada

The NDP platform does not specifically address accessibility with respect to reading materials or technology.

(Center for Equitable Library Service and National Network for Equitable Library Service)

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