International report on library and information services for visually impaired people

Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the British Library and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions have today published an international report on the governance and funding of library and information services for visually impaired people.

The aims of the report were to:

  • present a wealth of information and key findings to national and international stakeholders including government departments and agencies, voluntary sector organisations, professional library bodies, publishers and visually impaired people
  • identify barriers and good practices
  • draw international comparisons where possible
  • support a longer-term dialogue among stakeholders about how best to meet opportunities and challenges for widening access to reading materials for visually impaired people

The countries that took part in the research are: Australia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, UK and the USA.

Key findings of report include:

  • international comparability remains limited by a lack of consistent or comparable quantitative evidence of performance and varying definitions of user groups served
  • legal frameworks in Canada and Denmark allow specialist library and information services to serve a much wider range of print impaired people than visually impaired people
  • copyright restrictions are the most frequently cited barriers, along with funding levels
  • most respondents favour a system which is delivered as much as is possible via mainstream physical and digital channels worldwide; and with clearly defined responsibilities, whether these are fulfilled by private, voluntary or public bodies
  • regular government funding is considered to produce the best outcomes for users and most respondents consider that relying mainly or purely on voluntary sector funding is inadequate to meet need
  • changes in technology and in society could leave people who are unable to read conventional print worse off, if the moment is not seized.

Commissioned from Rightscom, the research was supported by an Advisory Group including the World Blind Union, the CNIB Library (Canada) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People among its members.

Over the past decade, an international awareness has developed, in particular among organisations of and for visually impaired people, that visually impaired people's access to reading materials remains highly restricted and reduces their life chances both in terms of employment and in leisure.

Organisations around the world are encouraged to bring the report to the attention of national and international stakeholders in order to shape future provision.

The report has been published simultaneously as a DAISY multimedia disk and on our website:

To obtain a copy of the disk or further information, please contact:
Helen Brazier, Secretary,
IFLA Libraries for the Blind Section,
c/o RNIB National Library Service,
Tel: +44 161 355 2004
Email: helen.brazier@rnib.org.uk

Reports, Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities

Last update: 5 October 2012