Thursday, November 13, 2003

Wonderful new digital access for Canadian blind

Look at this and check this out! This is an impressive new service for Canada's blind and visually impaired.

Service includes world’s first Internet portal of its kind for blind children
Toronto, ON, November 12, 2003: More than 105,000 Canadians who are blind or visually impaired gained access to thousands of books, daily newspapers, and magazines today with the launch of The CNIB Digital Library. The online library is the most advanced library of alternative formats in the world and a model for 175 international libraries producing alternative-format information. It also contains The Children’s Discovery Portal, the world’s first portal of its kind for children who are blind.


“For sighted people, technology makes access to information easier. For people like myself who are blind, it makes access possible,” said Jim Sanders, president of The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). “The CNIB Digital Library will open up worlds of opportunity and knowledge. For example, I can now read a newspaper the same day it hits the newsstand. And the new service is particularly exciting for young CNIB clients, who will be able to visit a Web site that is just as much fun, attractive and informative as any other children’s site.”

The CNIB Digital Library offers a completely new reading experience for people who are blind or visually impaired. Currently, only 3% of published materials are available in an accessible format. Highlights include:

Accessible. The CNIB Digital Library was designed from the outset to ensure it met the accessibility needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. It works with major adaptive technology products including screen reading programs and braille keyboards.

Comprehensive and easy to use. Brings all of the Library’s online services including the CNIB catalogue and digital repository of books into one unified, bilingual, Internet gateway.

Vast repository. There are more than 10,000 audio, text, and braille titles available online for instant reading, including bestsellers such as Life of Pi and The Stone Diaries. Clients can also search and order from a collection of more than 60,000 titles.

Exciting new access. Clients can listen to a CNIB Library talking book (with human-voice narration) right from their computer simply by selecting a link for the title of that book.

Newspapers, magazines, databases. The current editions of more than 40 daily, national, and community newspapers from across Canada are available. Full-text versions of thousands of magazines and databases such as the Encyclopedia Britannica Online are also available.

The Children’s Discovery Portal is one of the most exciting parts of this digital transformation. For the first time children who are blind or visually impaired will be able to play online games, participate in online polls, get homework help, sample or read entire books online and chat with other children who are blind from across the country. For some this may be the first opportunity they have ever had to meet another child who is blind.

“The whole Portal is cool but I especially love the chat room because I can speak to other kids like me,” said 11-year-old CNIB client Robert Hampson. “I also like playing games like Dreadnought and it’s fun to be able to read books right away instead of waiting for them to arrive in the mail.”

The CNIB Digital Library is the result of a bold venture to fully transform the CNIB Library’s collection and production process to a digital library environment. The Library was relying on obsolete technology to reproduce materials. The collection was also at risk of being lost forever had it not been digitized. The transformation is being funded by That all may read…, an on-going $33 million nationwide campaign.

The campaign got a boost today when The Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, made a surprise announcement that the Government of Canada would be contributing $6 million towards the CNIB’s digital library.

"This launch is only the beginning for The CNIB Digital Library. In order to complete this historic project, we need to reach our fundraising goal of $33 million,” said Frank Clegg, chair of That all may read… and president of Microsoft Canada. “Thanks to our donors, we are getting there. Everyone should be very proud of this incredible accomplishment, which will help to pave the way for equal access for all.”

Donations total $19.4 million to date with Microsoft Canada as lead sponsor with a $2.5 million commitment. The company also funded and led the development of the Children’s Discovery Portal.

Microsoft Canada designed the platform architecture to manage the digital collection, incorporating an advanced digital access and storage system from OpenText Corporation.

Since 1906, the CNIB Library for the Blind has been working to promote literacy and to ensure that Canadians who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind have equitable access to information, culture, and lifelong learning. The CNIB Library is one of the largest producers of alternative-format materials in the world and circulated 1.8 million items last year.

To try out The CNIB Digital Library, visit the Library’s Web site at www.cnib.ca/library or www.inca.ca/bibliotheque and select the “guest” option on the login screen. Some functions are not available to guests (they are for CNIB Library clients only and available with password access). If you are a CNIB client and you would like to register for the service or to receive a tutorial, contact Reader Services (1-800-268-8818, 416-480-7668, or readserv@cnib.ca).

For more information, or to receive a comprehensive live demo or a CD presentation of The CNIB Digital Library, contact:

Julia Morgan
Communications Coordinator
CNIB Library for the Blind
(416) 480-7423
julia.morgan@cnib.ca

About The CNIB Digital Library
About the Children's Discovery Portal
Microsoft Canada and the CNIB
That all may read...

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