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MR. SANDERS: I first started reading, thanks to talking books, in the 1950s, and I did so, of course, in the latter, for the good majority on cassettes. So annually I used to go to my doctor, and if I were sighted I'd be known as book worm. So I was always checked for tape worm on an annual basis.
MR. SANDERS: Thank goodness, those days are over. The only thing I have to worry about now of course is slipping a disk.
MR. SANDERS: Good morning.
I'm very pleased to be here. Mr. Wilson, thank you for the invitation.
In 2003, I addressed the Access Council of then the National Library, and as a matter of fact, Mr. Carrier, you were there at the time.
My presentation: I called my presentation a closed book. I shared with the Access Council my dream. My dream to walk into my local public library, register as a client, know what was available, determine how to receive it, make the selection and have access to the services of my library.
My dream also said that I did not have to worry about where the material and the books would be sent, whether it is CNIB, Bibliothèque nationale et Archives du Québec or other producers and suppliers.
I challenged the Access Council at that time to work with CNIB, all levels of government and other print-disabled people to develop a strategy that would provide such an opportunity.
I urged the Council to debate, to challenge and ultimately to implement my dream.
Two years later, the Canadian Library Association prepared and submitted a report to the government called, somewhat flattering at least to me, Opening the Book, a strategy to create a national network of equitable library services.
Two years after that, in 2007, the federal government provided three million dollars over three years to the Library and Archives of Canada to develop and cost such a network. A network, of course, that would meet the long-term needs of people unable to read print because of a disability.
I commend the federal government for this leadership. I recognize and commend the Library and Archives of Canada, along with Ralph, Mary Frances, the IELA team, stakeholders and individuals from across Canada working together to bring forward a plan, a made-in-Canada plan, to develop a national network of equitable library service.
My dream is closer. And the book, to continue the metaphor, is opening. But I still cannot read the book. I am confident, however, that with the leadership of the federal government, the work of the Library and Archives of Canada, the Access Council, all together, we will bring this national work of equitable library services to fruition.
I hope that the strategy that will be submitted to the federal government will be funded and that the momentum that has been created over the last five years will continue and ultimately result in public library services coast-to-coast opening up for those who are not able to read print.
Print-disabled people have been waiting a long time. You heard Dr. Herie say "From 1980 concerted effort". Well, in fact, public libraries have been closed to us for 102 years. In 1906 a blind person, at his own home in Markham, Ontario, started the Canadian Free Library for the Blind. Back then, of course, embossed material, primarily braille. The Canadian Free Library for the Blind asked CNIB to assume responsibility when it received its charter in 1918. And you all know the history from there.
And now, the ability to walk into my local public library, take out a library card and receive services like every other person is still my dream. Thank you.
MR. MANNING: Thank you very much, Jim.
That was quite inspiring, and I have to say, on behalf of myself and many of you who are here and who have been working so hard on the follow-up to Fulfilling the Promise and Opening the Book to try to provide benefits to persons who can't read conventional print and to improve the access in Canadian libraries to those persons, that it really is helpful for us to know that we are giving help.
And we are very confident that what we are doing will help you at some point to be able to read that book.
At this point now I would like to ask Mr. Wilson to return to the podium... to give you a little explanation of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access.