Introducing CELA

Screenshot of the advanced search box on the CELA website

I guess I should start this series of blogs by introducing the service on which I work, CELA.

CELA, the Centre for Equitable Library Access, is Canada’s national digital library for people with print disabilities, and is a service offered by Canada’s public library system. The service is run out of Toronto by CNIB, the Canadian National Institutes for the Blind on behalf of CELA.

CELA is a large and complex system that provides online and downloadable digital media, and physical audio, video and braille material.It provides direct access to approximately 400,000 items of a growing collection. It also provides physical copies of material to public libraries for local distribution.

CELA’s target audience is people with print disabilities. A print disability is a learning, physical or visual disability that prevents a person from reading print material. From CELA’s website:

More specifically, a print disability can be a:

  • Learning disability: An impairment relating to comprehension
  • Physical disability: The inability to hold or manipulate a book
  • Visual disability: Severe or total impairment of sight or the inability to focus or move one’s eyes

This definition of print disability is from the Canadian Copyright Act because it is this Act that lets CELA reproduce published materials in alternative formats for its collection. The term used in the Act is “perceptual disability”.

A print disability, as defined in the Canadian Copyright Act, does not include reading difficulties that result from low literacy levels.

When determining eligibility for CELA services, ask yourself if the barrier could be removed by presenting the same content in a different format. If the barrier is related to the material’s content, the definition in the Copyright Act does not apply.


CELA’s main public website is bilingual and has two entry points:


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