Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities


National Organizations

This section provides summaries of some of the organizations that provide information on and/or production of alternate format materials. The organizations profiled in this section are either offered through the federal government, are part of disability service organizations with a national mandate, or are in operation outside of Canada but offer some services to Canadian students with print disabilities.

Library and Archives Canada


Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a mandate to promote equitable access to library and information resources to all Canadians. In support of that mission, LAC has developed tools and publications designed to maximize the sharing of materials in alternate format used by Canadians with disabilities and to support Canadian libraries to serve their clients with disabilities.

LAC’s Union Catalogue of Alternate Formats in AMICUS contains records for works in alternate format, including works contributed as Canadian Works in Progress (CANWIP), pre-publication titles under production by Canadian non-profit institutions serving people who are print disabled or hearing impaired. Upon publication, the producers submit additional bibliographic and holdings information and the record is updated online in AMICUS. These records facilitate resource sharing among Canadian libraries by making the information available on AMICUS to help reduce costly duplicate production.

However, as noted in the publication Fulfilling the Promise: Report of the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians (National Library of Canada, 2000): “Unfortunately, the local alternate format collections of most colleges and universities are not reflected in AMICUS, because the libraries themselves treat these materials differently from the rest of their collections. They are not catalogued and recorded in the university catalogue, a tape of which is loaded into AMICUS on a regular basis.” (p. 27)

LAC has published a manual for libraries to use to evaluate their service to persons with disabilities (The Accessible Canadian Library II), a list of publications produced through the Large Print Publishing Program (a program that ran for four years under the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities) and a list of federal publications available in alternative formats (1981-1996).

LAC also established and supports the Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians, which is currently involved in the following projects with other partners:

The National Network for Equitable Public Library Service for Canadians with Print Disabilities

A Canadian Library Association Working Group was mandated to define the scope of a network of co-operating libraries and production centres, with national support, providing alternative format publications and public library type services to Canadians with print disabilities, comparable to those received by citizens who read conventional print.

The Network would be comprised of a partnership of three distinct, but closely connected components:

  1. Service Libraries to provide accessible public library type services that are appropriate to the needs of Canadians with print disabilities in their local communities
  2. A National Co-ordinating Office at the federal government level to co-ordinate the Network and fund its activities
  3. Production Centres to provide staff expertise and specialized resources to acquire, catalogue, produce, store and preserve alternative format collections

The final report of the Working Group, Opening the Book, will be completed by the fall of 2005. Funding for this initiative has been provided by LAC and the Department of Canadian Heritage. In the February 2005 Budget, the Government provided for a $6 million contribution to assist CNIB in improving the accessibility of information and has made a commitment to support the development of the Network to enhance library services to Canadians with print disabilities.

The E-text Clearinghouse for Canadians with Print Disabilities Pilot Project

This pilot project will test the feasibility of making publishers’ master e-files available to alternate format producers to improve access to information for Canadians with print disabilities. The Clearinghouse will be a critical component of the National Network for Equitable Public Library Service. Funding for the pilot will be provided by the Social Development Partnership Program of the Office for Disability Issues.

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)


The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is a national, not-for-profit organization providing services to approximately 100,000 Canadians who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf/blind. The CNIB library, founded in 1906 by the country’s first blind university graduate, is one of the largest producers of materials in accessible formats in the world.

The CNIB library currently contains more than 60,000 titles. A digital transformation of library services and titles is now underway, which the CNIB claims will eventually double the size of its collection. In 2002, 1.8 million items were circulated in alternate formats by the library, either delivered to clients by Canada Post or accessed online.

A service available via contractual agreement between the CNIB and post-secondary institutions or other service providers means print documents received by the CNIB can be reproduced in desired alternate formats – Braille, audio, E-text or large print – and distributed via the Internet, courier, fax or email.

Services provided by the CNIB Library are funded entirely by donations and are offered thanks to the efforts of more than 600 volunteers across the country.

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D)

Princeton, New Jersey; Offices throughout the United States.

The organization started in 1948 as Recording for the Blind, to provide recorded textbooks to soldiers injured in the war. More than 70 percent of the organization’s current members have been identified as having a learning disability.

The following text, from the organization’s Website, explains the technology used to convert books to alternate formats, and the number of texts available through the library:

Our recording technologies have changed with the times. SoundScriber discs were long ago replaced with the high-fidelity, four-track cassettes still in use today. In September 2002, a collection of over 6,000 RFB&D's AudioPlus® digitally recorded textbooks on CD was released. Eventually, members will have access to digitally recorded versions of many of more than 98,000 titles in our CV Starr Learning Through Listening® Library. AudioPlus textbooks allow texts that might be recorded over 10 to 12 cassette tapes to be presented on one CD. These are also navigable by page or chapter, either with a special player or on a PC with appropriate software.

While institutional memberships are not available to schools and other organizations that do not have a U.S. address, individual memberships are available to those living outside the U.S. However, non-U.S. members only have access to materials in RFB&D’s Classic Cassettes format, which must be played on a four-track player.

Table of Contents