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Improving Braille Availability in Canadian Public Libraries

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    (version français)

    This study on improving Braille availability in Canadian public libraries was requested by NNELS in 2018 and written by a group of Canadian writers and researchers, led by the Canadian Federation of the Blind. The paper’s purpose is to explore how to improve access to Braille for those who need it.

    There are 836,000 Canadians with significant vision loss, roughly ten percent of whom read Braille. Less than 5% of books are available in an alternative format, and even fewer are available in Braille. For many, especially those looking for specialized information such as music, math, science and tactile graphics, Braille is limited by where people live, the technology they have, and their ability to pay for software or services.

    This study includes a history of Braille and describes the basic process of Braille book production, and how technology has changed this process. It also identifies four main issues and makes five recommendations.


    1. “Born-accessible” ebooks are a challenge for publishers to produce and therefore a challenge for libraries to procure.
    2. Braille reading technology is expensive and therefore inaccessible to many.
    3. Hard-copy Braille books are not available to all readers who want or need them.
    4. Fluency in accessible formats is lacking in libraries.


    1. Encourage publishers to publish accessibly and encourage libraries to favour accessible books and platforms in their procurement practices.
    2. Request federal funding for refreshable braille displays.
    3. Develop a distributed, shared, hard-copy Braille collection for Canadian public libraries.
    4. Produce hard-copy, embossed Braille upon reader request.
    5. Support Braille and alternate format expertise in public libraries.

    This report, written and led by a community of Braille users, provides valuable recommendations for improving public library service for people who read Braille in Canada. By advocating for and implementing these recommendations, public libraries can go a long way toward ensuring equitable access to books for all.

    This report was written with support from the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component.

    For comments or discussion, please email coordinator at nnels dot ca or call the NNELS helpline.

    Original Publisher: BC Libraries Cooperative, Vancouver, BC
    Language(s): English
    Collection(s)/Series: Disability Perspectives Collection