2006 Recipient

CNIB Presents Canada Post with Prestigious Award to Honour Outstanding Contribution To Canadians Living With Vision Loss

June 16, 2006

[left to right] Margaret Thomson, member, CNIB Library board with guide dog Glover, and Danny Dobbs, Letter Carrier, Canada Post Since 1898, Canada Post has provided postage-free mailing of reading materials to Canadians living with vision loss. Canada was the first country to legislate this service and remains an international leader of postal services for people with vision loss to this day. This year alone, Canada Post has distributed 1.3 million CNIB library books in alternative formats to Canadians living with vision loss.

2006 marks the 100-year anniversary of library services for people with vision loss in Canada. In 1906, Edgar Bertram Freel Robinson, Ontario’s first blind university graduate, created the “Free Library for the Blind” and began circulation of a small collection of braille books. This library later became part of the newly-founded CNIB in 1918.

Library service by post evolved to resolve a challenge that still exists today: people with vision loss are part of every community across Canada and have the same diversity of library and information needs as the rest of the general population. The key difference is the need to have that information in an accessible format. This poses a challenge in that libraries cannot replicate their print collections in all accessible formats to serve a small percentage of their community. Many countries, including Canada, have addressed this challenge by providing a centralized national library service in which accessible-format materials are circulated via the post. The national service is complemented by local collections and services at public libraries.

It was Canada Post that laid the foundation for library service for people with vision loss in Canada. In 1898, Postmaster General Sir William Mulock granted free postage, known as franking, for all braille material sent through the mail. As a result, Canada was the first country to provide this service and remains an international leader of postal services for people with vision loss to this day.

Sir William was particularly attuned to the issue. As a young boy growing up in North York, Ontario, he was part of an inseparable trio. His two friends were blind and because of this friendship, he vowed to make a difference for people with vision loss.

As Postmaster General, Mulock was well aware of the enormous expense of sending a braille book through the mail. In his House of Commons introduction of the groundbreaking Bill 110 to amend the Post Office Act, he stated: “These books are large and bulky and very heavy. … In some cases the postage alone is equal to the cost of the book in ordinary type.”

 Presentation of the Dr. Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award to Canada Post The histories of Canada Post and CNIB are intertwined. Sir William Mulock became an honourary president of CNIB in 1940. His grandson, William Pate Mulock, also became a Postmaster General, and in 1942 extended free postage to the new book format known as “sound-recordings”. In 1948, Deputy Postmaster General W. J. Turnball granted permission for sound recording and braille books to be delivered free of charge when sent by air, which had a significant positive impact on people with vision loss who were living in the territorial regions.

In 1998 Canada Post and CNIB celebrated 100 years of postage-free mailing of materials for people with vision loss. In honour of Canada Post, CNIB unveiled a tactile sculpture representing the geography of Canada by sculptor Robert Murray and Canada Post produced a limited edition commemorative envelope featuring a photograph of Sir William Mulock.

While braille books were the basis for implementing postage-free delivery, it was the changing audio format that prompted further collaboration between Canada Post and CNIB over the years. Audio formats evolved from having one book on as many as nine discs, or records in the 1940’s, to variations of tape technologies over the next 55 years, to the present-day book on CD. Every step of the way, CNIB and Canada Post worked together on details such as planning the packaging for each new format to streamline sorting and mailing processes.

In 1906, Edgar Robinson began circulating his private collection of 81 braille volumes to just 26 readers through the mail. Today, Canada Post annually circulates 1.3 million CNIB Library items to tens of thousands of readers across the country.

Sir William Mulock’s considerate and practical act more than 100 years ago resonates to this day with the unwavering support and leadership of Canada Post. CNIB Library Board of Directors is honoured to present the 2006 Dr. Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award to Canada Post for outstanding service in the advancement of library and information services for people with vision loss.

For more information, please contact:

Shelagh Paterson
Director, Advocacy, Sales, and Marketing
CNIB Library
Tel: 416-486-2500 x7670

Photo captions:

  1. [left to right] Margaret Thomson, member, CNIB Library board with guide dog Glover, and Danny Dobbs, Letter Carrier, Canada Post
  2. Presentation of the Dr. Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award to Canada Post. [left to right] Margaret Thomson, member, CNIB Library board, Manon Tardif, General Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Canada Post, and Jane Beaumont, chair, CNIB Library Board
Back to top of page