Government of Canada increases funding for alternate format materials for persons with print disabilities


News release

March 16, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

The Government of Canada continues to take important and decisive action to ensure that all Canadians are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know Canadians living with disabilities are facing significant challenges during this difficult time and that long-standing barriers to inclusion have been heightened. As we work together to restart the economy, we must continue to protect health and safety, and ensure the right supports are in place for all Canadians.

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.

Today, 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.


“Everyone should be able to access information and reading material. This is why our government has developed and been implementing a comprehensive long-term strategy for the production of alternate format materials that includes support to the publishing sector, advancements in technology, and non-profits. In recognizing that the pandemic has affected the timeline in the realization of this transition, and the ongoing need for alternate format materials, we will be funding CELA and NNELS with an additional $1 million for this coming year. This will keep us on the path to accessible publishing, and ensure that persons with print disabilities continue to have access, particularly during this unprecedented time.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Quick facts

  • In 2016, the Government of Canada joined the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. This helped bring the treaty into force and to open up the exchange of print material around the world, and was a historic step towards disability inclusion.
  • In 2017, a working group on alternate format materials was established to develop a strategy to address the limited availability of materials published in multiple, accessible formats for Canadians with print disabilities.
  • In 2019, the Government of Canada provided funding of $3 million for CELA and $1 million for NNELS.
  • Budget 2019 announced a five-year Transition Strategy to emphasize the production of alternate format books in Canada. The Strategy included:
    • an investment of $22.8M over five years for the Canada Book Fund (CBF), to assist Canada’s independent book publishing industry in increasing the production of accessible books. The CBF supports the Canadian publishing industry in its effort to integrate accessible features into the production and distribution of digital books (ebooks and audiobooks), and to improve access to digital titles by Canadian authors.
    • support for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises, to create more efficient and cost effective technologies for producing accessible books and facilitating their access through the Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge, administered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canada program.
  • In the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the government announced an additional investment of $10 million over four years, starting in 2020-2021, for CELA and NNELS to support the transition towards industry-based production and the distribution of accessible reading materials for Canadians with print disabilities

Associated links


For media enquiries, please contact:

Marielle Hossack
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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