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City of Delta urging feds to avoid 'devastating' funding cuts for accessible books

The federal government is being urged to develop a long-term funding solution for accessible book production and distribution
delta, bc braile books at library
Federal funding for services for Canadians with print disabilities through CELA and NNELS has been secured for this year. However, long term funding beyond remains in question, the FVRL warns.

The City of Delta is asking the federal government to ensure those with visual impairments don’t lose access to specialized books.

Council last week endorsed a staff recommendation to ask Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, and MP Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, for sustainable funding for the Centre for Equitable Library Access and the National Network for Equitable Library Services to support the continued production of accessible reading materials for Canadians with print reading disabilities.

The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and the National Network for Equitable Library Services (NNELS) use the funding to convert books into such accessible formats as audiobooks or braille books, which are provided to public libraries.

The federal government's 2020 Fall Economic Statement included an announcement of cuts to funding for accessible book production for those with print disabilities.

Both organizations receive combined annual funding of $4 million from the government, which planned to reduce the funding by $1 million annually beginning in 2021 before ending entirely in 2024/25.

Last month, Scott Hargrove, CEO of the Fraser Valley Regional Library, reached out to library board members asking municipalities to support a campaign to urge the federal government to reverse the plan.

Qualtrough then met with representatives from CELA and NNELS, and later announced this year's funding cut was reversed.

“While this was a positive step forward, funding for future years was not confirmed, and FVRL has, once again, reached out to member municipalities to support the campaign for long-term, sustainable funding for accessible services,” a Delta staff report notes.

“The loss of funding would have immediate and devastating impacts for those who have print disabilities. For CELA, there would be a significant reduction in its ability to produce and distribute new materials, including audio CDs and braille, and for NNELS, there would be a significant reduction in the scope of accessible publishing work being done, and a reduction in staff, many of whom have print disabilities,” the report adds.

The potential loss of future funding would also further compound the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is already having a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, the report notes.