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CADSPPE is the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education. The 100 members of CADSPPE provide comprehensive support services for college and university students with a variety of disabilities. A significant percentage of these students are print disabled because of problems related to visual acuity, because of difficulties in the processing of print because of a learning disability, or because of conditions which prohibit the physical manipulation of text. The students we work with on a daily basis are as motivated to learn and succeed as their peers. Yet for many of these students printed text is a barrier to gaining knowledge.
Our members, faced on a daily basis with trying to ensure equal access to learning for these students, have developed a piece-meal approach to the problem. Access varies across the country depending on local conditions related to financial resources of both students and institutions, availability of personnel, and the availability of technology and knowledgeable technological support. Because education is a provincial rather than a federal responsibility, funding also varies across the country both at the institutional level, and for individual students. The result is that some students may have reasonable access to academic materials while others have poor access. This differential must be reflected in success levels and, indeed, may determine whether students decide to even attempt studies at the post-secondary level.
In this environment some post-secondary institutions run their own, non-standardized, books-on-tape service. Others rely heavily on the services of the U.S. organization Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, though this organization rarely has texts on Canadian topics. Others find material from electronic sites such as Amicus, or others that offer materials in audio format. Some are fortunate to have access to the latest scanning and brailling technology on site. Still others can access provincially based alternative format production facilities. A few have begun to call individual authors and publishers in an attempt to obtain books in electronic format. A round table of CADSPPE service providers held in June 2000 concluded that none have a system they would consider satisfactory for their students. All the searching and production takes time. Often this means students do not receive texts until well into the semester, and sometimes they never receive them. Hence the need for a comprehensive, Canadian based, system where we, and our students, can access texts in alternative format in a timely manner. This also implies access to appropriate technology.
We cannot over emphasize how important an issue this is for both our members, our students, and for society as a whole. Not providing adequate access to post-secondary level text materials deprives a section of our community, who are otherwise capable of benefiting from such an education, of this opportunity. It therefore deprives society of educated, contributing individuals.
The National Library of Canada has a role to play in providing access to print materials for all Canadians. They also have a leadership role to play in working with libraries in post-secondary institutions to ensure that materials in accessible format are available through inter-library loan, and that data base and other research materials are available in an accessible format.
CADSPPE wants for its professionals and students:
What are we Proud of:
That, despite the difficulties, our students graduate well, and move on from post-secondary education and make a contribution to society.
Other than those mentioned in the presentation two areas are of real importance: