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Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


No Alternative

A Review of the Government of Canada's Provision of Alternative Text Formats for People Who Are Blind, Deaf-Blind or Visually Impaired

To read the full review online go to, or download a zipped plain text copy at (21.3 kb).

Analysis and Conclusions

The Government of Canada is increasingly seeking the views and participation of Canadians when developing and delivering policies and programs. Engaged citizens read pertinent information on federal websites and they order print copies of publications and brochures. People who are print-disabled are at a serious disadvantage because not all government publications are available in an alternative format, such as Braille or audio. The findings of this review show that it can be frustrating to order a publication in a multiple format, and that people who are print-disabled have less than a 50/50 chance of obtaining the desired publication within a reasonable time. Indeed, out of 50 requested publications, only 22 arrived within a reasonable time. Moreover, the quality of these alternative publications is often unsatisfactory.

A review of the comments recorded on the analysis grids, such as the interactions between consultants and publications officers during the ordering process, shows that some federal institutions do not have a clear policy and established procedures for responding to requests for publications in alternative formats. If such policies and procedures exist, they are not well communicated to publications officers.

In addition, while many publications officers were helpful, others were not aware of the needs and realities of clients who are blind or partially sighted. Awareness training could benefit these employees and enhance the client-centeredness and service delivery of federal institutions.

When comparing the findings and recommendations of the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians in 2000 with those of the current review, one can see that the three recommendations listed earlier in this report are still relevant today. As the consultants observed during the review, there remains an apparent lack of standards for and awareness, adoption and promotion of alternative formats-a sign, perhaps, that the situation has not improved much in six years.

This inadequate level of service persists despite the fact the Government of Canada has publicly committed itself to providing, and is legally required to provide, equality of service for all.

During this study, consultants received comments indicating that demand for publications in alternative formats was low. That is an interesting observation, but it is not a justification for providing inequitable access and inadequate services. The law and jurisprudence on this issue are clear: the number of people requiring accommodation does not determine whether accommodation should be provided. Only undue hardship is recognized as a justification for not accommodating a legitimate need.

Based on the findings of this study and on expert advice from consultants, there appear to be four main reasons for the current situation.

In summary, the problem of inadequate availability and accessibility of services for people who are print-disabled still exists. Since there are no standardized guidelines or best practices, each institution uses its own approach, which creates inconsistency and confusion.


Following are the key recommendations of this study.

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