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Proposal for Canadian Heritage Support for Alternate Format Production of Canadian Content

January 2003

The focus of our cultural policies for the future must be on excellence in the creative process, diverse Canadian content, and access to the arts and heritage for all Canadians. (Speech from the Throne, January 2001)

The Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians was formed by the National Librarian of Canada to pursue implementation of the recommendations contained in Fulfilling the Promise, the final report of the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians. The Council membership comprises individuals with extensive experience in all areas of not-for-profit and for profit production and delivery of accessible content including direct service to user communities. Its mandate is to improve access to information for all Print-Disabled communities; according to the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2001, 17.4% of adults reporting disabilities had visual disabilities, and an almost equal number, or 16.7% had learning or developmental disabilities.

The Council is proposing that the Department of Canadian Heritage fund a three-year pilot project to increase the availability of Canadian-authored works for all Print-Disabled Canadians. This proposed annual grant program calls for annual expenditures of $2.5 million. The program would fund up to 50% of the production cost of a master copy of eligible audio and braille titles. Based on reliable estimates of current alternate format production in Canada, this proposed grant program would result in the availability of 500 new audio book titles and 200 new braille titles per year. That these seemingly small numbers would result in a significant improvement in access to Canadian writing for the approximately 3 million Print-Disabled Canadians is a reflection of the totally unacceptable situation which currently exists-it is estimated that only 3-4% of what is published is available in accessible formats for the Print-Disabled.

The Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians recommended that the Government of Canada, through the Department of Canadian Heritage, annually appropriate at least $7.5 million to support the production of multiple formats of titles which have authorship outside governments. The Council fully supports this Task Force recommendation. Since the Task Force report was issued, the situation has worsened as a result of the recent well-publicized decision by the Province of British Columbia to cancel its audio book production program. In order to immediately address this deplorable lack of access to Canadian writing, the Council is proposing this pilot project. The pilot project, once evaluated, would lead to a permanent program to guarantee a more acceptable level of access to written culture in Canada for Print-Disabled Canadians. It is also recommended that in cooperation with the National Library of Canada, a consultant be retained as soon as possible to develop the implementation details for the program including criteria for supporting titles with significant variations in production cost.

The Council proposes the following general parameters for the pilot project:

  • Both for profit and not-for-profit producers should be eligible;
  • Grant monies must be allocated to the production of new alternate format titles;
  • Funded titles must be unabridged versions of Canadian authored works;
  • Funded titles must exist in digital form although distribution may be in traditional formats;
  • Government publications should not be eligible for support;
  • The determination of eligibility should be structured to ensure nominal administrative requirement for program operations;
  • The National Library of Canada should administer this program;
  • Funded titles must be listed in the National Library of Canada's CANWIP (Canadian Works in Progress) program and be available for inter-library loan to eligible institutions and individuals.

Prepared by Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians January 2003