Please Resist CNIB’s Fundraising Campaign; Library Services for Blind Should be Through Public Library System, not Charity

Canadian Federation of the Blind’s Letter to Premier Campbell
Publish Date Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Dear Premier Gordon Campbell:
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Federation of the Blind to urge you to resist the media and public relations campaign organized by CNIB to fund
its library.

Canada needs a coordinated partnership between local and provincial libraries, as well as a nationwide clearinghouse for materials in alternate formats,
such as Braille, large print, and audio.  The clearinghouse must be part of the library system, not an arm of CNIB, which is a private charity.  Bowing
to CNIB pressure now will delay, or perhaps even prevent, the development of the kind of unified service delivery system we need.

A national consultation process is currently underway as part of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA) to determine the best structure for
a coordinated library service for people with print disabilities.  CNIB is undermining the consultation process by its unilateral actions.
The Canadian Federation of the Blind has long been on record as supporting a publicly funded, publicly accountable library service for blind people.  Directing government money to a private and unaccountable charity operating outside the library system is neither respectful of blind people nor conducive to building better library services.
We object to CNIB’s claims that it is an appropriate entity to fulfill the role of library for the blind for the following reasons:

  • CNIB routinely exploits the names and addresses of its library borrowers by subjecting them to charity fund-raising campaigns.
  • CNIB routinely portrays blind and vision impaired Canadians as pathetic people perpetually dependent on charity.
  • CNIB has a closed private structure; the people who control it are not librarians and patrons who have the greatest stake in how the library is run.
  • CNIB is outside the library system which hinders smooth co-ordination of service.
  • CNIB serves only blind individuals, even though the print disabled community includes many other groups, such as those with physical disabilities which prevent holding books or turning pages and people with dyslexia.  Any coordinated system must serve all who could benefit, not just the small percentage currently served by CNIB.

The British Columbia library system has won national respect among blind people — and those with other disabilities which prevent them from reading print — because of its outstanding commitment to production and distribution of audio books.  Public librarians sincerely seek to provide quality service to blind patrons.  A national clearinghouse integrated within the Canadian library system and completely separate from CNIB is the best method for filling gaps in service within this province.  Why take away resources that could help fund our access to fully accessible public library programs by diverting them to a separate private charity?
CNIB is being deliberately misleading when it attempts to portray blind people as isolated and desolate without CNIB’s library.  Their argument is unconscionable, “Blind people should not have to rely on charity in order to read books, so send money to our charity so blind people can read books.” 
CNIB’s approach uses the wrong tone, the wrong message about blindness, and the wrong structure.

The members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind believe that any specialized library clearinghouse must be governed in such a way that representative organizations of blind people sit on its boards and committees.
If government knuckles under to CNIB’s misleading and bullying tactics, we believe any hope of a meaningful dialogue among all stakeholders to create a coherent, unified, publicly funded and publicly accountable library program is in jeopardy.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind is an organization of blind people committed to the equality and empowerment of blind Canadians.  Through advocacy, public education and mentoring, members work for change, promote a positive perspective on blindness and together gain confidence and skills.
For more information, please contact me at 250-491-7226, or visit our Website at
Very truly yours,
Mary Ellen Gabias, Vice President (Acting President)
Canadian Federation of the Blind
PO Box 8007
Victoria, BC, V8W 3R7
Ph:  250-598-7154
Toll Free:  1-800-619-8789
February 1, 2010

Reproduced from