Funding announced for winner of the Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge 

News release

December 3, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

The Government of Canada continues to take action to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. That is why Employment and Social Development Canada partnered with Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) to create the Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge, to encourage small businesses to innovate, and help increase access to physical and digital alternate format materials for Canadians with print disabilities.

Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) 2021, the Minister of Employment Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough announced that Mr. Tim Rees is the small business winner of Phase One of the Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge. Mr. Rees, who identifies as a person with a disability, will receive funding of up to $150,000 to develop his innovative concept for an assistive voice-app that would include new software and the use of smart speakers. The app would give publishers the ability to upload their creative works to audio format instantly. It would then allow the end user to have books, publications or other resources read aloud through the smart speaker, and to navigate the documents using voice commands.

Technology has modernized and simplified the ways in which we are able to connect with one another. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also played a huge role in breaking down barriers, especially for persons with disabilities. Technology innovators have been key players in disability inclusion through digitalization, by building tools that allow persons with disabilities to have better access to resources, creating greater opportunities for full participation, which would have otherwise not been available.

In keeping with the theme of IDPD 2021, “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”, the Government of Canada is investing to ensure that persons with print disabilities in Canada have equal opportunities to participate in society and realize their full potential.


“When everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in society from the start, we all succeed and leave no one behind. The Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge supports this objective. It promotes inclusivity by design and helps to ensure persons with disabilities have better opportunities to read, learn and enjoy books and other print material.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

“We are helping entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas to overcome some of today’s biggest challenges.  This assistive voice-app will help ensure that all Canadians with print disabilities have access to alternate format reading materials.”
– Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry - François-Philippe Champagne

Quick facts

  • About 1.5 million Canadians have print disabilities. People with print disabilities include people who may have learning, reading, perceptual, physical or visual disabilities that affect their ability to read conventional printed published materials. Less than 10% of published materials in Canada are available in alternate formats that are fully accessible to people with print disabilities, which limits their full social and economic inclusion.

  • Budget 2019 announced an investment of $22.8M over five years to the Canada Book Fund (CBF) for the Transition Strategy for the Production of Alternate Format Books in Canada. The objective is to assist Canada’s independent book publishing industry with increasing the production of accessible books, integrating accessible features into the production and distribution of digital books (eBooks and audiobooks), and improving access to digital titles by Canadian authors.

  • Through the Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge, the CBF also supports Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises to create more efficient and cost effective technologies for producing accessible books and facilitating access. The Challenge is administered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canada program and is a fundamental component of the Transition Strategy.

  • In the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Government announced an additional investment of $10 million over four years, starting in 2020-2021, to the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and the National Network for Equitable Library Services (NNELS) to support the transition towards industry-based production, and the distribution of accessible reading materials for Canadians with print disabilities. In March 2021, the Government provided an additional investment of $1 million to CELA and NNELS in recognition of the profound effect the pandemic has had on society, and the increased need for accessible reading materials.

  • The Government is moving forward with its first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, which will include a new Canada Disability Benefit, improved processes for eligibility for Government disability programs and benefits, and a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities. These strong measures complement the Accessible Canada Act and help create a more inclusive Canada.

Associated links


For media enquiries, please contact:

Ashley Michnowski
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada

Follow us on Twitter

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: