“In the world of vision loss, the invention of
braille must be compared to the invention of the printing press – its birth was nothing short of a revolution.

Braille Literacy Canada celebrates tabling of the new federal accessibility legislation and calls on federal government to address information accessibility gaps for blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadians

TORONTO (June 21, 2018) -- Braille Literacy Canada/Littératie braille Canada is encouraged by the introduction yesterday of Canada's new proposed federal accessibility legislation into the House of Commons and hopes that it will help to fill the information accessibility gaps that so often confront Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted.

Braille is a tactile reading system whereby characters are formed by patterns of six raised dots (cells) in a 2x3 matrix, and read by running fingertips across these raised dots. It can be embossed onto paper or presented on electronic refreshable braille displays connected to computers, smartphones, and other devices.

"Braille is literacy," said Natalie Martiniello, President of BLC. "It provides access to critical information in text that audio does not: page layout, the ability to skim through headings, to understand spelling, punctuation, the presence of quotation marks, for example. This is really very critical when reading," Martiniello added. Moreover, research has demonstrated links between braille literacy and positive educational and employment outcomes for the blind, as well as increased self-esteem and self-concept.

For the 65,000+ Canadians who are blind or who are losing their vision, one of the most pressing concerns remains equal access to information. Less than five percent of information in print is available in an alternative format, and only a fraction of that has traditionally been available in braille.

During the public consultations leading to the introduction of this legislation, BLC/LBC submitted a report (available at http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/CMFiles/cda.pdf) calling on the government to require that information made available in print also be available in braille for those who read it. Recommendations included:

  • Regulated entities (such as banks and the federal government itself) should incorporate accessibility considerations into their document preparation processes, so that alternative format materials including braille will be available from the start rather than as an afterthought;
  • Any entity receiving funding or other resources from the federal government (e.g. publisher incentives through Canadian Heritage) be required to ensure document accessibility and the availability of braille materials.

It is hoped that through this legislation and the supporting regulations, meaningful standards will be adopted to ensure that information is available to braille readers on a timely basis.

"We will be reviewing this legislation and looking to see what, of our prior recommendations, the government has adopted," Martiniello said. "We look forward to working with the government over the coming months and to ensure that braille and information accessibility concerns are comprehensively addressed."

Braille Literacy Canada / Littératie braille Canada is a national charitable organization that is dedicated to the promotion of braille as the primary medium of literacy for those who are blind or visually impaired and is recognized by the International Council on English Braille as the authority for the development and adoption of standards relating to braille in Canada.

For more information, please contact Natalie Martiniello, President, at 1-877-861-4576 or email president@blc-lbc.ca.