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Head of Program
I would like to thank the members of the Council on Access to Information for the initiative taken in setting up this meeting as well as our hosts at the National Library of Canada. The theme of sharing documentary resources seems very appropriate, given the challenges that we face daily within our organizations.
The main purpose of my comments is to tell you about The Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille (INLB): what we are, what we do and - as kindly requested in the literature we received - a summary of what we are most proud of regarding resource sharing and delivery of services.
The Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille and its Activites in the Area of Aalternative-format books
INLB is a rehabilitation centre that is part of the Quebec public network of health and social services. Its mission is to provide rehabilitation, adaptation and social integration services to visually impaired people. In collaboration with other establishments and organizations, we favour an integrated approach that addresses the physical, psychological and social dimensions of users. This approach is carried out through:
All of these activities are carried out in synergy by a team of some 125 people as well as many volunteers. A budget of approximately $7.5 M, of which over 10% is devoted to the adaptation and dissemination of information, helps us to achieve our objectives.
The situation regarding access to information and alternative format books for visually impaired people concerns us directly. On the one hand, clinical interventions supported by the visual aids program help users to develop as much independence as possible regarding access to information. The use of optical, mechanical or electronic aids allow for an optimal use of residual vision and, depending on the case, the development of strategies adapted to the individual's characteristics and needs. In this way, some users make use of only particular optical prescriptions, while others use specialized print-magnifying and vocal synthesizing software or optical scanners and tactile pad. In all cases, a strictly individualized approach is used, which must be revised from time to time to take into account both the user's visual situation and the context in which he operates. On the other hand, the Library and Adaptation in Alternative Format program involves the dissemination and production of information in various adapted formats. The Library Section distributes some 15,000 titles in Braille, audio or digital formats. These include fiction, reference works, documentaries and musical scores as well as games and toys. Its users are mostly from the Greater Montreal area, but some are from Quebec, elsewhere in Canada and occasionally other parts of the world. Library activities are supported by the Adaptation of Information in Alternative Formats Section, whose primary mission is to make information accessible to the visually impaired community using a range of products adapted to tactile perception, fostering social integration for users. In this way, Braille, tactile graphics, audio and digital tools remain the preferred media for adaptation and dissemination activities.
The Library Section
The goal of the Library is to make as many French-language documents as possible available in alternative formats for Quebec's visually impaired population.
To that end it develops, manages and distributes collections in alternative formats (Braille, audio, electronic), with a variety sufficient to answer the needs of its clients in the areas of leisure, personal development, professional development, information and culture.
The library consists of 2 collections:
The CNIB Library is a specialized public library. As such, it is a member of the Association des bibliothèques publiques de la Montérégie (Montérégie public libraries association) and the Association des Bibliothèques publiques du Québec (BPQ). It is also a member of a number of other organizations including ASTED (Association pour l'avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation), Communication Jeunesse and the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions).
The Adaptation Section
The mission of the Adaptation section is to make current information, primarily in French, accessible to the visually impaired.
It works to adapt information into alternative formats: Braille, tactile, large print and digital. In doing this, it contributes to the overall mission of the organization by responding to needs in the areas of leisure, information, culture and social integration of the visually impaired community.
While maintaining an open view to adaptation, it provides a public service, both in its scope and production capacity and its non-profit approach.
Requests are extremely varied in nature, including Braille inscriptions in public areas (requests coming from companies specialized in signage), geographical maps and city maps, information documents, administrative documents, books, Braille invoices, etc.
Over the 1999-2000 financial year, the Section produced 195,138 new pages and 1,208,577 reprinted pages.
Lastly, the Adaptation Section has entered into a number of partnerships: the Canadian Braille Association, the Quebec Braille Consultation and Collaboration Committee, the Quebec Consortium for Alternative Format Books, VoirPlus. It is also a member of the international DAISY (Digital Audio Information System) consortium.
Resource Sharing and Service Delivery
Organisations are increasingly being asked to share resources. In the area of access to information, the Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille has undertaken a number of resource-sharing initiatives. In answer to the first question asking us to state which achievements we are most proud of, we consider it pertinent to mention the following:
These few resource-sharing initiatives are always carried out with a view to maintaining the quality of service. Particularly in the area of access to information, it is important to ensure that our choices reflect the priority that should be accorded to accessibility. From that perspective, the Webmaster of our Internet site (www.inlb.qc.ca) is a blind person who uses speech synthesis and a tactile pad. His mandate is to participate in the site development committee, manage mail and update information as it becomes available.
One of the greatest barriers to the pooling of resources is the instability of organizations, which is felt not only in terms of direction but also with regard to both human and financial resources. Managers must put their decision-making into perspective, which is even difficult within our own organization. When the parameters of resource sharing come into play and more than one organization is involved … the art of negotiation and compromise becomes the lifeline of the organization.
The workshops that will take place will undoubtedly encourage a sharing of our experiences and - who knows? - we may find the magic formula that will enable us to maintain the delicate balance between quality and efficiency in our service delivery.