March 18, 2021 – CARL welcomes the announcement made by Minister Qualtrough on March 16, 2021, restoring $1 million in funding for accessible reading materials for the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS).
This funding allows for the continuation of the important work carried out by these two organizations in the production and distribution of accessible reading products for Canadians with print disabilities.
Despite some advances in accessible digital publishing resulting from recent funding from the Federal Government, most publishers are a very long way from producing some, let alone all, of their works in accessible formats. CARL believes there is a strong case to be made for sustained federal government funding for CELA and NNELS, continuing beyond this one year’s reprieve.
There remains a large corpus of existing works that need conversion, and many Canadians rely on formats other than e-books or audio books, such as braille and printbraille picture books. These are the gaps that CELA, NNELS, as well as Bibliothèque et archives Nationales du Québec (BaNQ) continue to fill. Currently, less than one in ten published works in Canada is produced in an accessible format for Canadians with print disabilities, and the percentage of accessible works in French and Indigenous languages is even smaller.
For Canada to meet its obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty, continued investment will be needed. The ARL-CARL Task Force on the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation was formed in 2020 to explore Canada’s obligations in making accessible formats available to Treaty signatories. While the work of the Task Force is still in its early stages, it is clear that a national coordinated effort will require legislative and policy developments as well as continued government funding for the production and discovery of accessible formats. Finally, as Canada works to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, governments must continue to invest in reducing inequality and building stronger communities through increased knowledge.
CARL looks forward to continued discussions with stakeholders, as progress in this area depends on developing sustainable models that include partners in all parts of the knowledge ecosystem.
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CARL members include Canada’s twenty-nine largest university libraries as well as two national libraries. Enhancing research and higher education are at the heart of its mission. CARL develops the capacity to support this mission, promotes effective and sustainable scholarly communication, and public policy that enables broad access to scholarly information.
For more information, please contact:
Canadian Association of Research Libraries
(613) 482-9344 ext. 101