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ARCHIVED - The Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians

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Council Achievements
February 2001 - December 2001


Introduction

Dr. Roch Carrier established the Council on Access to Information for Print Disabled Canadians in response to Fulfilling the Promise: Report of the Task Force on Access to Information for Print Disabled Canadians (October 31, 2000). To implement the 26 recommendations of the Task Force, it was acknowledged that a group of experts needed collaboratively to develop strategies and implement solutions to provide more content in multiple formats for the three million Canadians who do not read conventional print, because they have a visual, perceptual or physical disability. More resources are needed to ensure accessibility of services and products on the Internet; and to build a strengthened network of trained service providers who are able to maximize the systems and services already in place and create new ones for digital content.

As only about 3% of the world's library materials are available in multiple formats, such as large print, braille, audio and marked up electronic text, it becomes evident that the technologies must be used to create new content and that sharing existing materials is imperative if users are to have access to the information they require, in the format of their choice. In a knowledge-based economy, where access to information is a prerequisite to educational opportunity and education facilitates employment, the Council's work is critical and time-sensitive.

The first meeting of the Council was held in February 2001. The first task was to digest the essence of the Task Force report and to arrange the recommendations in groups that allowed for quick progress as well as longer-term improvements.

In the two subsequent meetings, the Council, having learned of the programs of key departments within government and several lead organizations, has taken decisions about appropriate actions and has debated varied approaches to policy, service and funding issues. Between meetings, Council members and the Secretariat have furthered the implementation of the Council's decisions.

Highlights

  • Through a letter and a meeting with officials of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the revised Communications Policy of the Government of Canada has been strengthened to include the need for multiple formats in its opening statement and in subsequent sections of the document;

  • With resources from Treasury Board, Industry Canada, through its Assistive Devices Industry Office, has consulted widely with the community in preparing the Manager's Guide to Multiple Formats. This manual, in French and English and multiple formats, will be available early in 2002 and may be used by all authors and publishers in planning multiple format materials for publication and the Internet;

  • The Manager's Guide to Multiple Formats will also be an appendix to the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada;

  • Training sessions on use of the Manager's Guide are planned; a session has already been confirmed for the Government's Communicators Annual Conference in Ottawa, April 23 - 25, 2002;

  • Council has applauded the National Library for making AMICUS free to service providers and end users; the AMICUS data base contains about 250,000 records of materials in alternate format;

  • Several meetings have been held with senior officials at Canadian Heritage to ensure that the terms and conditions of their agreements for distributing monies to organizations producing digital content also ensure the accessibility of the products on websites;

  • The Council has taken part in the reform of the copyright legislation and has written Canadian delegates to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) about the need for an international convention on alternate format materials;

  • Council members have met with senior officials at Canadian Heritage to discuss possible programs and approaches to acquiring funds for the production of multiple format materials, using digital technologies and internationally recognized standards;

  • A committee of the Council has met with members of the Canadian publishing community to plan for the development of a clearinghouse of electronic text masters; the purpose of the Clearinghouse is to facilitate the timely and affordable production of multiple format titles, while protecting management rights and keeping a copy of the original text for archiving;

  • From the discussion with educational publishers, a pilot project is planned for 2002 to learn the procedures, standards and systems necessary for publishers, the depository agency and the authorized alternate format producers;

  • The Minister of Industry has gained approval and is seeking money for a proposal to strengthen research and marketing of the Assistive Technologies industry in Canada; one part of the proposal aims to support libraries serving the public in becoming accessible in the presentation of materials and delivery of services in both the print and the digital environment;

  • A successful workshop on resource sharing for 30 persons was held at the National Library of Canada at the end of October. Included were four users, alternate format producers, service providers, and staff from several types of library. The purpose was to learn what materials and services are available to print disabled Canadians; to share experience and expertise in training, technologies, policies and services; and to build a more coherent set of guidelines and information on services to students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, college and university students, employed and unemployed adults, and seniors. The workshop report is available on the website at:
    www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/accessinfo/005003-3001-10-2001-e.html.

  • Council members and Secretariat staff have visited several of the alternate format producers and service providers in Montréal: l'Institut canadien pour les aveugles (INCA), La Magnétothèque, l'Institut Nazareth et Louis Braille; others have had a tour of the CNIB Library in Toronto;

  • Secretariat staff have had demonstrations of services provided by Carleton University, which has attracted 800 disabled students to its campus, 400 of whom have learning disabilities; the Secretariat staff go to the University of Ottawa in early January;

  • The Council hosted a meeting between staff of Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) from Princeton, N. J. A number of Canadians acquire audio titles from this organization; the Council is developing approaches to increasing the sources and types of materials available in alternate format for Canadians, including works from RFB&D.

  • The activities of the Council are regularly presented to the Assistant Deputy Ministers' Steering Committee on the Federal Disability Agenda and to appropriate committees within Parliament and the bureaucracy.

  • Information and training sessions on materials and services for print disabled Canadians have been held in 2001 at conferences and regional meetings; more are planned at the local, provincial and national levels for 2002, to meet the concern of lack of awareness of the needs of print disabled Canadians and the need for training of service providers and users.

  • Training materials are being shared among service providers, so that a more coherent and consistent service may be provided to all print disabled Canadians;

  • The first issue of the Council bulletin Access Info was published in the fall of 2001 after consultation on its format with staff from the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada.

  • Articles on the work of the Council and links to the website have been made in several magazines published by organizations working with disabled persons;

  • The website on Council activities includes a resource page; the site is regularly updated at
    www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/accessinfo/005003-5000-e.html.

  • Listservs have been created to encourage discussion and exchange at Accessinfo-L and the email address is accessinfo@bac-lac.gc.ca. In addition listservs maintained by disability organizations are linked to the Council website.

The Council Secretariat is pleased to facilitate communication among readers and members of the Council and other groups and organizations. If you are looking for information, a speaker, or a reference to service providers and experts, please write accessinfo@bac-lac.gc.ca or call 613-995-3904. Staff would be pleased to assist.