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On February 22, 2001, National Librarian Roch Carrier announced the establishment of the Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians.
The Council recognizes that all Canadians have the right to access information in timely, affordable and equitable manner. Print disabilities prevent people from reading standard print due to a visual, perceptual or physical disability. They need print material in alternate formats (e.g., Braille, audio, large print) and accessible electronic resources to meet their information needs.
The Council developed a Work Plan to address the recommendations from the Task Force report. Of particular focus was Recommendation 7 in which the Task Force recommended that the Government of Canada establish and fund a Clearinghouse for e-text to which Canadian publishers must make their works available. At the Council's meeting in April 2002 it made the decision to proceed with Recommendation 7.
The Council is engaged in the development of a pilot project for a Clearinghouse for e-text to which Canadian publishers make their works available to alternate format producers, and initiatives designed to facilitate interlibrary loans and encourage the sharing of materials in alternate formats. The aim is to have as much material in the appropriate format in the hands of Print-Disabled Canadians in a timely and affordable manner.
The Vision and Implementation Plan for a Clearinghouse for Print-Disabled Canadians is the first piece in the development of a Clearinghouse of e-text. The report builds on the work done by the Book and Periodical Council in 1998 and the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians. There are many challenges facing publishers; alternate format producers and Print-Disabled Canadians. These include;
These challenges can only be addressed through a structured program that works in phases to create a Clearinghouse. To be achievable the Clearinghouse must ensure that the rights of all participants are protected and that a trusted environment is established. To help ensure this, the initiative would be coordinated by the Library and Archives of Canada as the parent body of the Council for Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians.
It would establish a Clearinghouse between publishers and alternate format producers to facilitate the delivery and storage of e-text to alternate format producers; who in turn would produce Braille, audio formats and accessible electronic text formats for Print-Disabled Canadians. Access Copyright would handle the copyright management and access for the alternate format producers and the deposits of e-text for the publishers.
This model encompasses all aspects of producing e-text and ebooks for Print-Disabled Canadians and in fact Canadians as a whole. It provides the publishing community the opportunity to test the creation and distribution of e-text in a controlled and safe fashion to a distinct audience who have copyright free access to the material.
It is recommended that the development of the Clearinghouse will be done in phases. In the first phase a number of steps will be undertaken as follows:
The costs for this phase would be in the order of $200,000.
In the last five years there has been significant advancement in the development of standards, the establishment of digital libraries, and the movement towards an ebook distribution model. These advancements make the creation of the Clearinghouse much more feasible and cost effective as all of the participants are making investments in technology and new processes to make e-text a reality.
The development of the Clearinghouse helps to focus these investments and energy around a need that will directly impact in a positive way the access to published material by Print-Disabled Canadians.