Time to turn the page

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The Canadian National Institute for the Blind pressed federal and provincial governments last week to help fund its library services for people with vision loss.
While the $10 million price tag may seem steep at first glance, Canada has turned a relative blind eye to the CNIB's not-for profit library services since it commenced in 1918.
Duncan Williams, the organization's executive director in the Maritimes, says it is frustrating for people with vision loss or partial sight to not have the same access to public libraries as the sighted and the current model creates a two-tiered system, one funded by government and the other through charity.
According to Williams, there are 30,000 people in Nova Scotia who are blind or have partial sight and Canada is the only G8 nation to not have a public policy on funding library services for people with vision loss.
As Canada moves away from its dark days of segregation, persons with disabilities are receiving long overdue respect and a mutual access to knowledge, while not necessarily a fundamental freedom, should be tantamount of any developing nation.
If the CNIB's numbers are correct and there is a demand for 30,000 Nova Scotians to access audiobooks, books written in Braille and software that converts Internet pages into a format people with vision loss can use, then it should be the role of government to be part of the solution.
When Canada's first public library opened in Saint John, N.B., in 1883, no one at that time could have peered into the future and argue the Internet should be available to all Canadians through their public library system. As technology evolved, though, this means of information sharing was embraced.
Braille, however, predates that first public library by 60-years and is a service that has been waiting far too long to become part of our public collection.

Organizations: Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Geographic location: Canada, Nova Scotia, Saint John

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