letter sent to IELA from Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB)

March 19, 2010
Dear Mr. Mitchell,
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) in response to the NGO proposal you distributed.  Our intent is to outline certain key points in our position regarding equitable library access for blind Canadians. 

We as autonomous blind citizens of Canada and members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind declare that a major priority of equitable and accountable access must be integration of service to print disabled consumers into the public libraries of Canada on an equitable basis.  We reject any policy that deliberately promotes segregation from the mainstream as inherently discriminatory.  Since the IELA process was intended to rigorously eliminate any remnants of discrimination for all library users, we believe its mandate requires a thorough exploration of all publicly funded and publicly accountable mainstream library options.
A publicly accountable system of producing and acquiring literature in various formats is the foundation to establish equal access and certainly the provincial public infrastructure has pioneered this approach.  We understand that, under Canadian Library legislation, two copies of all literature in alternative format are required to be deposited with the National Library.  It should be, therefore, a relatively simple task to make these copies available, as required, to the public library system.
Libraries across the country already have an extensive network of relationships to facilitate sharing of information and resources.  We believe blind and other print disabled citizens will be better served in the long run if these relationships are strengthened and protocols are established to formalize collection sharing and development.  The precise form this bottom up approach might take would require discussion, but the final results would most certainly be more flexible and responsive than the proposed NGO.
The IELA consultation process is a noble idea, but requesting input from consumers has value only if that input results in meaningful action. Through the consultation process the IELA obtained carefully thought out recommendations from print disabled library users across Canada.  We understand that consumers overwhelmingly prefer our services be integrated into the public domain.  Yet the NGO recommendation, which came from consultants and IELA officials, not consumers or libraries, ignores the expressed wishes of consumers and would create an unaccountable entity outside the present library structure.  Consumers have been told no option other than the NGO is possible and that the only decisions which remain to be made concern the NGO’s structure and governance.
We reject the notion of a “charity” library in principle.  In our view, NGO is just another name for “charity.”  Creating a new NGO would really result in ratifying the status quo under another name – a concept that is not acceptable to us.  We therefore deem it highly inappropriate to comment on specifics of the structure of an unacceptable entity.
Very truly yours,

Mary Ellen Gabias, Vice President
Canadian Federation of the Blind
 Phone  (250) 598-7154
P.O. Box 8007
Victoria, British Columbia
Canada  V8W 3R7