PLE for the blind

April 17, 2007

I set out today to write an entry on public legal education for the blind. I have to report, however, that I’ve found almost nothing on this topic.

Statistics Canada reports that there were nearly 600,000 Canadians with a “seeing disability” in 2001. Several sole-purpose and major PLE providers produce audio (and audio-visual materials)—distributed over the radio, the internet, and on videocassettes and DVDs—and a couple produce print materials with extra large type. In the late 1970s, the People’s Law School recorded a number of their publications as “talking books” and distributed them at free law classes about the rights of blind people. But in my travels, although several staff have mentioned a need for materials and access specially for the blind, I have not heard of any contemporary project that is actively targeted at the visually impaired. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Of course, many visually impaired people use the web extensively, with the help of screen readers and other accessibility devices. I have not heard of any major Canadian PLE organization validating the accessibility of its website, or providing content related to legal issues that visually disabled people face. There are tools, including the free Watchfire WebXACT, for checking the accessibility of any website. Research and centres also provide tips on web accessibility, and I should note that I did find a policy on accessible web content on PovNet. Again, please leave a comment if you know of programs that I have not heard of or am not thinking of.

UPDATE: CLEO and CLEONet have dealt thoroughly with accessibility issues. See CLEONet’s page on web accessibility, its checklist for compliance with accessibility standards, and CLEONet Project Manager Fiona MacCool’s and CLEO Clear Langauge Editor Kim McCutcheon’s comments below.

UPDATE 2: The LSS Family Law website is also accessible for vision-impaired web users. See Thom Quine’s comment below.

UPDATE 3: Éducaloi has begun adding audio to some of its “infosheets,” an addition specifically targeted at the blind. See Philippe Miquel’s comment below.

Are the blind and their legal issues not showing up in PLE needs assessments? Does more work and effort need to given to this area? What strategies could be used to reach this group?

6 Responses to “PLE for the blind”

  1. For CLEONet we spent considerable time ensuring our site was accessible and had our developers prepare details on our compliance levels. We have not had the opportunity to test the site with users with visual impairments to ensure it works perfectly for them, nor are we under the illusion that there isn’t room for improvement but we have created a page dedicated to our accessibility standards including a link specific to our W3C compliance. For more information visit:

    I agree that more work needs to be done in this area because the W3C guidelines are not easy to understand for non-technical users and the online testing tools like “Bobby” are not always enough in ensuring your site is accessible to users with visual impairments.

  2. Kim McCutcheon Says:

    Here at Community Legal Education (CLEO), when we re-did our web site about five years ago, we very much had accessibility and literacy in mind. After interviewing a few accessible web design companies, we hired the National Literacy Database (NALD) because of their proven track record in designing accessible web sites. They had web design standards that they followed and tested to ensure compliance.

  3. Thom Quine Says:

    Our Family Law website is fully compliant with Canadian guidelines for accessibility to the vision-impaired. The main benefit is that the blind can use a site reading tool (such as to have the site read to them as they browse.

    – Thom

  4. Philippe Says:

    Hi Ruitchie,

    at Educaloi, we just added 10 info-sheets in text and audio format especially for blind people and people with low reading skills.


    These recordings were made with La Magnétothèque an organism entirely dedicated to record books for the blind:

    We presently are working on a project of partnership with La Magnétothèque to have more infosheets in audio format on the website.


    Philippe Miquel

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