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Access Info

ISSN 1499-3325

Bulletin of the Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians

Volume 1, No. 2, 2002


Welcome to Access Info, the bulletin of the Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians. Access Info will be published irregularly in the following formats: e-text, large-print and Web, with braille and audiotape on-demand. This bulletin is aimed at Canadians who are or who work with Print-Disabled Canadians, to tell them of the Council's work. It will also expand the network of support, expertise and development in this area. To this end, articles can be copied for other purposes as long as acknowledgement is given.

This, the second issue, highlights the major accomplishments achieved by the Council between February and December of 2001.


Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians
Milestones February - December 2001

by Gwynneth Evans

Introduction

National Librarian 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 carry out the 26 recommendations of the Task Force, he invited a group of experts to develop collaborative strategies and implement ideas for providing more content in multiple formats for the three million Canadians who do not read conventional print due to visual, perceptual or physical disabilities. (See "Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians" in the May/June 2001 issue of the National Library's Bulletin.)

Over the first three meetings, the priorities of the Council have become clear:

  • more resources are needed to ensure the accessibility of electronic products and services, some of which are delivered via the Internet;

  • action is required to build a strengthened network of resource sharing through trained service providers who are able to maximize the systems and services already in place;

  • more equitable access to adaptive technologies for Canadians requiring multiple formats is essential;

  • and investment is needed to create new systems and services for the creation of digital content, using international standards and best practices.

As only about three percent of the world's library materials are available in multiple formats (e.g., large print, braille, audio and marked-up electronic text), it becomes evident that technology 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 a timely fashion and in the format of their choice. In a competitive 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, whose membership, terms of reference and work plan are found at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/accessinfo/index-e.html, was held in February 2001. The initial task was to digest the essence of the Task Force report and to arrange the recommendations in groups to allow for quick progress as well as longer-term improvements. The work plan explains the decisions of the Council and gives a status report on each recommendation.

In the two subsequent meetings, the Council, having learned of the current 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, individual Council members and the Secretariat have furthered the implementation of the Council's decisions. [The Council held its fourth meeting on April 13-14, 2002.]

Setting the Stage for Inclusion

  • Through discussion in concert with officials of the Treasury Board Secretariat, revisions have been made to the draft Communications Policy of the Government of Canada; the need for multiple formats is now included in its opening statement and in subsequent sections of the document; [Effective April 1, 2002, the Communications Policy is available in multiple formats and online at
    www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/Pubs_pol/sipubs/comm/comm_e.html]

  • Several meetings have been held with senior officials at the Department of Canadian Heritage to ensure that the terms and conditions of its agreements for distributing monies to organizations producing digital content require that the products are made available on Web sites in formats that are accessible for Print-Disabled Canadians;

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

Building Networks and Encouraging Resource Sharing

  • Council has applauded the National Library for making AMICUS free; the AMICUS data base contains about 250 000 records of materials in alternate format, and these holdings form the basis of resource sharing among libraries;

  • A successful 30-person workshop on resource sharing was held at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa at the end of October. Included were alternate format producers, service providers, staff from several types of libraries, and several users. The purpose was to learn first-hand from users; to make known 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 for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, college and university students, employed and unemployed adults, and seniors. The workshop report is available on the Web site at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/accessinfo/index-e.html;

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

  • Carleton University, which has attracted 800 disabled students to its campus, 400 of whom have learning disabilities, demonstrated its services to Secretariat staff. The University of Ottawa also presented its services for disabled students, including transcription services and library services, to staff of the National Library. Visits such as these are aimed at increasing the knowledge and experience of service providers and are part of network building;

  • In December 2001, the Council hosted a meeting with staff of the not-for-profit agency Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) from Princeton, New Jersey. 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.

Training and Guidelines

  • 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 multiple formats in French and in English, was also made available on the Council Web site in April 2002 to be used by all authors and publishers in planning multiple format materials for publication, including online. Training sessions on the use of the Manager's Guide are planned; a session has already been confirmed for the annual Government of Canada Communicators' Conference in Ottawa, April 23 - 24, 2002;

  • It has been agreed that the Manager's Guide to Multiple Formats will also be an appendix to the new Communications Policy;

  • Information and training sessions on materials and services for Print-Disabled Canadians have been held at conferences and regional meetings throughout 2001. To increase awareness of the needs of Print-Disabled Canadians and the opportunity for the training of service providers and users, more sessions are planned at the local, provincial and national levels for 2002.

  • Training materials and experience are being shared among service providers so that a more coherent and consistent service can be provided to all Print-Disabled Canadians;

Creating New Systems and Services

  • 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 would be 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 to test the concept of a clearinghouse of electronic master files is planned for 2002 to provide them with the opportunity to learn the procedures, standards and systems necessary for publishers, the depository agency and authorized alternate format producers;

Increasing Resources

  • The Minister of Industry has gained approval and is seeking money for a proposal to strengthen research for and the 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 the delivery of services in both the print and digital environments;

  • 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;

Establishing a Presence and Facilitating Communication

  • 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 its Web site now appear in several magazines and Web sites maintained by organizations working with disabled persons;

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

  • A Listserv has been created to encourage discussion and exchange at Accessinfo-L (accessinfo@bac-lac.gc.ca). In addition, Listservs maintained by disability organizations are linked to the Council Web site.

  • The issues and 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.

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 referral to service providers or experts, please write accessinfo@bac-lac.gc.ca or call 613-995-3904. Staff would be pleased to assist.

The National Library of Canada supports the work of the Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians and its efforts to ensure that access to information is a reality for all Canadians.

Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians Secretariat:
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0N4
CANADA
Telephone: 819-934-5810
Fax: 819-934-5839
Email: accessinfo@bac-lac.gc.ca
Website: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/accessinfo/index-e.html

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