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Final Report (April 2006)
Access to information is a fundamental right of Canadians. Approximately three million Canadians are print disabled and require alternative formats to gain access to information. Yet less than 5% of published material is available in alternative formats. This is a serious inequity which further marginalizes an already disadvantaged group. Access to leisure reading and to educational material as well as material for lifelong learning is limited and frequently seriously delayed. An electronic Clearinghouse for alternative format production will significantly reduce the time delay for provision of alternative formats and will help to increase its availability. This will be accomplished by creating a mechanism whereby publishers can make their electronic files quickly and securely available to alternative format producers. The development of a Clearinghouse will also be a cornerstone to establishing a National Network for Equitable Library Service (www.cla.ca/AM/Template.cfm?Section=News_Item_
Documents&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=3463), another Canadian Library Association (CLA) initiative.
The development of a vision for a Clearinghouse began in 1998 with the Report to the Book and Periodical Council on options for making published materials more accessible to the visually impaired. In 2000, the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians recommended that the Government of Canada establish and fund a clearinghouse for e-text to which Canadian publishers make their works available. In 2003, the Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians (the Council), created by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), commissioned and endorsed the Vision and Implementation Plan for a Clearinghouse for Print-Disabled Canadians. In 2005, a partnership between CLA, the Council who will act as a Steering Committee, five other national non-profit organizations, and three regional educational bodies was formed to test the Clearinghouse model.
The purpose of this pilot project is to test the Clearinghouse Vision concepts, determine the viability and sustainability of the network, examine issues of conversion and format standards, measure the costs and benefits to all participants, and formulate recommendations for next steps. The key objectives are:
The pilot project is being conducted by the Canadian Library Association, with the active participation of LAC's Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians, the Canadian Publishers' Council, the Association of Canadian Publishers, l'Association nationale des Éditeurs de Livres, and leading Canadian alternative format producers, with funding from Social Development Canada.