Accessible Text Repositories -- Canadian and International


Recently, a teacher in BC whose student just received Kurzweil 3000 called and said "Given that many students in BC use Kurzweil 3000, I have two questions:

1) Surely, I don’t have to turn a whole bunch of common Grade 6 novels and textbooks into .kesi files for this specific student?

2) Surely, someone else has already done this work and there is a source for it?"

I answered, “of course you don't,” and “of course there is.” (Bracketed by the phrases “reinventing the wheel” and “don’t call me Shirley...”)

What this BC teacher needs is access to the Accessible Resource Centre (ARC).

There are many different sources for curricular text in accessible formats for educators across the country.  Below, I've listed the ones I know of, as well as, a few good free sites for accessible text. (There are tons of different free sources, but I've included just a few favourites.)

But the ones organized by the individual provincial governments to be used by the schools, can often be hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  What do you Google?

  •  "Alternative text?"
  • "Kurzweil files?"
  • "Textbooks in PDF?"
  • "Provincial repository of accessible text?"

This being Canada, each province uses slightly different terminology.

Interestingly enough, I couldn't find any repository for accessible text for students in the Atlantic Provinces, except for Newfoundland which is on the list.  If you know of a repository for students in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, let me know and I’ll up update this post. 

How the Repositories Work

Most of these provincial repositories follow a similar protocol. Teachers place an order on behalf of a student assessed as having some sort of print disability (physical, sensory, cognitive or learning disability) and a book is unlocked for download electronically via PDF, .kesi or .text format. But from province to province there are many variables when it comes to the who, what, how, where and when of actually getting the text. So some things to consider for each of the provincial repositories, include:
  • Who does the assessment, and what assessments are recognized to give access for an individual student?
  • Who can access the repository – teachers, other educators, parents? Can independent schools or home schoolers access the repository?  Does the student need a specific IEP designation to be eligible?
  • How much lead time is necessary? How big and up-to-date is the repository?
  • How are materials that aren’t already in the repository requested?
  • What format are the materials (.KESI, PDF, DAISY, MP3 or other)?
  • What are the rules governing the material once downloaded? Is there a time limit? Do they need to be checked back to the repository etc. Can it be used to do whole class instruction or just to support that one student?

So check the fine print. If you’re moving from one jurisdiction to another, don’t assume the same rules will apply.  Like I said, this is Canada, after all, and the provinces and territories set their own rules for education.


Don’t forget about textbook PDFs!

Sometimes textbook companies make PDF files of their books available to schools or districts.

Recently, I was training a teacher and she had access to the textbook in PDF format from the publisher and a version that had been scanned to PDF from the local provincial repository. Both opened in Kurzweil 3000. Whereas there was virtually no correcting that she had to do with the PDF from the publisher, she had a lot more work to do with version from the repository that was scanned: a crooked page here, a turned corner there, OCR corrections for fine print or odd fonts etc. Plus, it wasn’t broken down into chapters like the publisher’s version was.

So, ask if you’re school district/school has access to textbooks in e-format from the publisher. In this case the book was buried in a teacher "shared drive" and neither she, nor her colleagues knew about it.


Alberta Education Digital Repository for Students with Disabilities

British Columbia

Accessible Resource Centre - British Columbia


Alternate Format Services for Students with Print Disabilities


Alternate Format Materials Library at the Department of Education


Alternate Education Resources Ontario (AERO) (Ontario).



Service québécois du livre adapté  (switch between English and French by clicking on the link in the top right corner of the page).



Saskatchewan Alternate Format Materials Library  (hosted by Saskatoon Public Schools)

Neat Sources that are not Provincial Repositories

Many of the Canadian ebooks listed here were originally created for the US and Australian site. But also incorporates the French collection from .

Symbolized and considerately written articles from Widgit, the company that makes Communicate: Symwriter, Symwriter Online and Communicate: In Print.  Includes, news, reviews, jokes, recipes.  Downloadable pdf's with free registration.

Centre for Equitable Library Access A public library services for Canadians with print disabilities.

--Bogdan Pospielovsky

Previous Post Next Post

  • Bogdan Pospielovsky
Comments 1
  • Chris Runstedler
    Chris Runstedler

    Great Informaiton – thanks

Leave a comment
Your Name:*
Email Address:*
Message: *

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

* Required Fields