Ken Jensen is launching a campaign to keep access to his audio library books. (Photo submitted).

White Cane Club president lobbies to preserve audio book access

Ken Jensen is urging others to send letters to federal government to preserve funding for CELA.

The president of the 100 Mile House & District Blind & Visually Impaired White Cane Club is spearheading a campaign to keep access to his audio library books.

Ken Jensen, who lives in Bridge Lake, is urging others to join him in sending letters to Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and minister of finance asking the federal government to commit to ongoing, stable funding for the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).

CELA is an accessible library service, providing books and other materials to Canadians with print disabilities. Products range from Braille to e-books and audiobooks. The letter was prompted after the federal government recently reinstated $1 million in funding to the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) and CELA for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

However, “without a funding guarantee, CELA may face a 50 per cent reduction to its production and distribution budget next year which will have a devastating impact on its ability to produce and distribute accessible reading materials,” Jensen’s letter states. He said the aim of the letter is to develop a strategy to meet the needs of one in 10 people with print disabilities.

READ MORE: White Cane Club offers support, camaraderie

“We’re trying to get long-term funding,” Jensen said, adding he relies on CELA for his weekly stash of human-read library books that his wife downloads for him. Without it, he said, he would have to travel an hour into 100 Mile House to the library or have to start listening to computer-read books, which he doesn’t enjoy as much. It may also mean fewer Braille books available to those who need them.

“Unless there was an awful lot of public support through contributions without the money the federal government is giving it would mean the end of NNELS and CELA,” he said.

Jensen, who is visually impaired also suffers from arthritis which makes it difficult for him to hold print materials. “Trying to hold a book and a magnifying glass and turn the pages really doesn’t work very well,” he said.

CELA, NNELS and our colleagues in the publishing industry all believe the idea of born accessible publishing is a laudable goal, and we are working together to increase the amount of material that can be produced this way. Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Publishers, says “CELA and NNELS are valued partners to the Canadian publishing industry as we implement strategies to ensure that our books are born accessible. We know that continued progress in this area depends on developing sustainable models that include partners in all parts of that ecosystem, and look forward to continuing to work with the government, NNELS and CELA in support of this goal.”

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