Frequently Asked Questions – for Publishers

Why do CAER agencies create learning materials in alternate formats?

Schools have a legal obligation to provide learning material in a format that allows the student to learn the material. For students with a perceptual disability this format may be varied (see the list below). CAER agencies assist the schools within their respective regions with this obligation by providing and or procuring the required alternate format.

The advantage of having a regional CAER agency  provide or procure this material is that the CAER agency can review current holdings of other CAER agencies across Canada. Alternate format production can be expensive and time consuming. Time and costs are saved when CAER agencies share material between them.

What is an alternate format material?

An alternate format textbook refers to a version of a textbook that is presented in a format other than the traditional printed book. This alternative format is designed to accommodate individuals with perceptual disabilities . Some common alternate formats include:

  • Digital Format: Textbooks may be provided in digital formats such as PDF, ePUB, or other electronic formats. This allows for easy access on computers, tablets, or e-readers.
  • Audiobooks: Textbooks can be converted into audio format, making the content accessible to individuals with visual impairments or those who prefer auditory learning.
  • Braille: For individuals with visual impairments, textbooks can be transcribed into Braille
  • Large Print: Some individuals with visual impairments benefit from larger font sizes. Textbooks can be produced in larger print formats to enhance readability.

Alternate format textbooks are essential to ensure that all students, regardless of their abilities or learning preferences, have equal and timely access to educational materials.

What is a print/perceptual disability?

For educational purposes:

a student whose visual acuity is not sufficient for the student to participate in everyday educational activities without the accommodation of instructional and related materials in multiple formats;

an inability to hold or manipulate printed materials; or

any other impairment related to comprehension (including but not limited to dyslexia and brain injury) such that the student cannot use print publications other than in formats not available from the publisher.

What legislation enables CAER agencies to create alternate format versions of copyrighted materials?

Materials produced in alternate format are created in accordance with Section 32 of the Copyright Act.  Section 32 is an exception in the Copyright Act that permits the production of alternate format materials for persons with perceptual disabilities without infringing copyright.

 Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42)

Section 32: Persons with Perceptual Disabilities

Why is it necessary for CAER agencies to do this work on behalf of students with print/perceptual disabilities?

Alternate format materials refer to text formats – often used in conjunction with assistive technology – that support individuals with print or perceptual disabilities. Examples of alternate format materials include enlarged print, audio, digital, and Braille. Many alternate format materials required by students are not commercially available, and must be created. 

 CAER agencies create alternate format materials required by students in public school and post-secondary institutions. Through lending libraries, they ensure that students with print or perceptual disabilities have access to required learning resources.

Why do CAER agencies ask publishers for source files as a starting point to the alternate format publishing process?

CAER agencies are able to work from print, but there are inherent delays in waiting for the student to send us a print version as well as the time it takes to process a print book into a machine readable file. Scanning can also produce a lower quality product for downstream productions, so we prefer to work from a clean publisher file as we can typically obtain it more quickly and the higher quality means we can produce an alternate format much faster than from print.

Why is it so critical that, if available, CAER agencies receive timely access to source files from publishers?

We only produce alternate formats at the request of students who need materials for their courses. Students receive book lists for their course shortly before the beginning of term and then request accessible materials from us. Ideally, we will be able to get an accessible version to them before the start of their classes or at the very least, at the point in the semester when the material is needed. Receiving publisher files quickly means we are more likely to send them to the student in time.

Delays in sending course materials to students can result in various negative impacts to students such as not being able to participate in class, not completing assignments on time, or not having what they need to study for quizzes or exams.