Statistics Canada recently issued a report on Print material accessibility in Canada in 2023. The report, with is available on the Statistics Canada website, revealed some interesting information about accessible reading materials and the people who use them.
Among the 5.2 million Canadians who indicated they had a difficulty with print material:
- 77.4% had difficulty seeing words in print,
- 25.0% had difficulty holding or turning pages of print material,
- and 42.2% had difficulty reading or understanding words in print.
Over one-third (35.8%) of those who had difficulties with print materials use reading materials in at least one alternate format. The most commonly used alternate formats were large print versions, accessible file formats and audio formats.
Around seven in ten persons who had difficulties with print material encountered at least one barrier when trying to access the alternate formats they needed.
Just over one in ten (11.2%) Canadians who had difficulties with print material reported that they needed an assistive aid, device or technology that they did not have access to. The top three cited reasons for having these unmet needs were:
- cost (61.7%),
- being unsure how or where to get them (40.9%),
- and not knowing how to use them (28.6%).
The proportion of people requiring alternate formats was higher among racialized populations (63.9%) than the non-racialized and non-Indigenous population (48.8%).
Younger Canadians who had difficulties with print material were more likely than their older counterparts to report unmet needs for alternate formats.
One-fifth (20.1%) of those with difficulties with print materials, who require alternate formats, reported that in the past two years there was a time they needed an alternate format but were unable to access it. The proportion reporting unmet needs for alternate formats was 19.5% among those with difficulties with seeing words in print. While unmet needs were reported by around 27% of both those with difficulties holding or turning pages of print material and those with difficulties reading or understanding words in print.
Among those who require alternate formats, 69.5% indicated they encountered at least one barrier when accessing them. Cost (29.7%), unavailability of the alternate format of choice (28.3%), and difficulty finding information (22.9%; Chart 3) were the most commonly cited as barriers to accessing alternate formats.
Persons with difficulties with print materials who required multiple types of alternate formats were more likely to report a barrier (74.0%) than those who required one type of format (61.5%).
Technology and the Internet
Around two-thirds (61.2%) of those who use alternate formats reported that they used the Internet to do so in the past two years. In terms of devices used to access alternate formats, a smartphone (67.5%) or a laptop or netbook (60.6%) were the most commonly used devices. Most users of alternate formats reported using technology to access their alternate formats either daily (41.2%) or weekly (31.7%).
When asked how they felt about their skills in terms of using the required technology for reading their alternate format material, almost seven in ten (68.3%) alternate format users indicated their skills were “very adequate” or “adequate”. In terms of training, close to half (47.4%) of users of alternate formats reported they would take training or participate in learning activities to improve their skills related to the use of computers, devices, softwares or applications.
At the conculsion of the report the authors stated "This article provides some key insights from the 2023 Survey on Accessible Print Material (SAPM) regarding the experiences of those who had difficulties with print material and some information on the access to the materials these individuals require in alternate formats. While improving access to information in accessible formats has been highlighted as an important goal in Canada, the research in this area is somewhat limited, making this an important data gap to be filled."