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Improving Braille Availability in Canadian Public Libraries

    Creator: Michelle Creedy, Holly Hoffman, Kerry Kijewski, Marcia Yale, and Mary Ellen Gabias

    Date Updated: March 26, 2024


    This study on improving Braille availability in Canadian public libraries was requested by NNELS in 2018 and written by a group of Canadian writers and researchers led by the Canadian Federation of the Blind. The paper’s purpose is to explore how to improve access to Braille for those who need it.

    This study includes a history of Braille and describes the basic process of Braille book production, and how technology has changed this process. It also identifies four main issues and makes five recommendations. The study is available in several accessible formats and will be of particular interest to library staff.

    The information on this page is summarized from the Improving Braille Availability in Canadian Public Libraries Report.

    Quick Facts

    There are 836,000 Canadians with significant vision loss, roughly ten percent of whom read Braille. Less than 5% of books are available in an alternative format, and even fewer are available in Braille. For many, especially those looking for specialized information such as music, math, science and tactile graphics, Braille is limited by where people live, the technology they have, and their ability to pay for software or services.

    • “Born-accessible” ebooks are a challenge for publishers to produce and therefore a challenge for libraries to procure.
    • Braille reading technology is expensive and therefore inaccessible to many.
    • Hard-copy Braille books are not available to all readers who want or need them.
    • Fluency in accessible formats is lacking in libraries.
    • Encourage publishers to publish accessibly and encourage libraries to favour accessible books and platforms in their procurement practices.
    • Request federal funding for refreshable braille displays.
    • Develop a distributed, shared, hard-copy Braille collection for Canadian public libraries.
    • Produce hard-copy, embossed Braille upon reader request.
    • Support Braille and alternate format expertise in public libraries.
    • This report, written and led by a community of Braille users, provides valuable recommendations for improving public library service for people who read Braille in Canada.
    • By advocating for and implementing these recommendations, public libraries can go a long way toward ensuring equitable access to books for all.

    For more information, read the Improving Braille Availability in Canadian Public Libraries Report.


    Creedy, M., Hoffman, H., Kijewski, K., Yale, M., & Gabias, M. E. (2018). Improving braille availability in Canadian public libraries. National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS).