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Webcast: Videos and transcripts of the Panel Discussion, December 3, 2008

Closing speech by Mr. Ralph Manning


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--- Beginning of the presentation

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Wilson.

I am not sure what the word tireless actually means.

--- Laughter

MR. MANNING: I don't want to take up too much more of your time, but I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the major accomplishments that we have been able to accomplish over the first year of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access, known as IELA or, in French, ISBE, which doesn't have quite such a nice ring.

First of all, I'd like to mention the consultations and discussions we've had with our Canadian partners.

We visited Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec [Quebec national library and archives], an organization that plays a very important role in providing library services to people with visual impairments.

A major series of consultations with libraries of all sizes across the country was undertaken in September. We also undertook a survey of Canadian public libraries over the summer to better understand the current level of collections and services being offered.

I can remember back in -- was it 2003, 2002 ? – that Mr. Carrier went across the country and talked about the 22,000 libraries in Canada and the importance of that library network.

In fact, IELA is focused on the public library network. But nevertheless that represents roughly 3,600 library facilities across the country.

We work really hard to try to make sure that all of those buildings and the people in those buildings understand and are able to provide services to people who can't read conventional print.

The work that we are doing in consulting with all of these stakeholders is serving very well to help the IELA team understand the core mandates and challenges of libraries in serving their very clientele.

Throughout the year, we have carried on a dialogue with the clients of those services, and I'm very happy to say that we've just received a report from the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada.

We are making every effort to include input from representatives of all of the various disabilities that we collectively call print disabilities.

IELA has undertaken a number of research projects which are serving to help us understand the Canadian and international environments in this area.

One major project is a research report – which we have just received – on audio and digital publishing in Canada. The primary author of that report is here with us this morning.

We have also just received a report on the impacts of concessionary postal rates on the delivery of material to persons with print disabilities.

Finally I would like to mention the enhancements that we have made to the tool which Mr. Wilson mentioned that we call a « clearing house ». The tool enables producers of multiple formats to access the electronic files of Canadian publishers in such a way that the formats needed by Canadians for their educational and leisure activities can be delivered quickly and accurately.

Just imagine what it was like for a student at any level of education to have need of some kind of text or background material, request that material in the format that that student in fact would be able to use and get text the day after the exam. How devastating can that be?

By creating a clearing house where publishers will make their materials accessible in electronic format, the producers will be able to take that text without having to change it in a major way so that it's accurate and quickly accessible to the people who need it.

IELA is going to be continuing to work on all of these projects as we move into the next year of our project. Our goal is to create de conditions for sustainable and equitable library access for Canadians with print disabilities.

We are going to be publishing, if that's the correct word, posting, a detailed report of our progress on our website in January.

At this point, I would like to invite you all to visit the tables which have been set up around the room this morning by some of our partners. Braille Génico, CNIB, Humanware, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, T-Base Communications and our own Library and Archives Canada have all set up displays which I am sure you will find fascinating and informative.

The exhibition tables around the room will show you the services and tools available for print-disabled people. I invite you to walk around and take a look.

Also, we're offering you a light lunch in the adjoining room.

I would like to invite you all.

But first, I want to mention that we will be making the program that we put together for you this morning accessible on our website in truly accessible form to all persons with disabilities and invite you to watch for that on our website in the coming weeks.

I would also like to invite anyone who has any comments, anything else to add, any questions to ask. This is an opportunity and a forum for anybody to participate.

So I invite comments or questions at this point.

--- Applause

--- Comments and question period