The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure that all Canadians are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadians living with disabilities are facing significant challenges during this difficult time and that long-standing barriers to inclusion have been heightened.
Four years ago, the Government of Canada established a working group with disability stakeholders and the publishing industry, including the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) and the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), to work together on the common goal of making publishing accessible to all, by ensuring books are born accessible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for information, directives and guidelines on health and safety in alternate formats as Canadians have been asked to stay home as much as possible to flatten the curve.
The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough announced an additional $1 million under the Social Development Partnership Program – Disability component, to support the activities of the NNELS and the CELA in providing accessible reading materials to persons with print disabilities across Canada. This announcement is in recognition that the pandemic has had a profound effect on the accessible publishing industry, and the significant need for access to print materials, as individuals are more isolated than ever.
This investment, along with the $10 million announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, will enable access to alternate format materials, such as braille, e-books, and audiobooks, while Canada’s independent book publishing industry continues to increase the production and distribution of accessible books. This funding will also support Canadians with print disabilities in developing technological skills and the capacity to use new digital tools in an ever-changing world.