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NNELS Accessibility Testers: The Path to Accessible Publishing

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Current estimates indicate that 5-10% of all published materials in any given year are available in accessible formats. It’s no secret that the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) is passionate about making books accessible for all library patrons in Canada. However, were you aware that NNELS is also championing the cause for accessible publishing? Accessible publishing means that books are created at the outset in a way that readers with print disabilities can read them using assistive technologies, such as screen readers, or other measures such as enlarging font sizes.

With support from the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component, NNELS has hired a team of accessibility testers with vision impairments to conduct tests to assess what the experience is like for someone with a print disability to read files from a sample of content creators, publishers, and public libraries using assistive reading technologies. This incredibly insightful initiative was led by Accessibility Testing Coordinator, Daniella Levy-Pinto. Read on to find out more about Daniella and her team.

Daniella Levy-Pinto: Accessibility Leader

Daniella has been an avid user of assistive reading technologies for over twenty-five years. Without the assistive technologies that enable her to read print materials, conduct research, and write documents to share her findings, she would not have been able to pursue and complete her PhD in Political Science. Her experience with assistive reading technologies led her to work with NNELS early last year as a production assistant, converting books to accessible format for the NNELS digital library that is available to member library patrons across Canada.

Given her experience and academic background, Daniella was a natural fit to lead the accessibility testing initiative for NNELS. As a result of her leadership, the research was undertaken in a methodologically sound way, and the results will hopefully help shape the future of accessible publishing in Canada.

The Accessibility Testing Team

NNELS assembled a team of accessibility testers from BC and Ontario. The team is formed by people who have vision impairments and learning disabilities, with expertise and extensive experience using assistive technologies in their daily lives. Several members in the team are also proficient in HTML code. Some of the key team members are profiled below.


Karoline Bourdeau, from Toronto, Ontario has a J.D. from Queen’s and is a professional mediator. Karoline quickly acquired the knowledge necessary to test both ebooks and library applications in a wide diversity of platforms.


Danny Faris, from Nanaimo, B.C. is a computer programmer and adapts easily to new requirements and tasks with great enthusiasm. His experience with software design was invaluable for the project, as he developed tools to detect common errors in EPUB files that lead to accessibility challenges.

Kaden Faris, from Nanaimo, B.C. is familiar with assistive technology due to his own need for accessibility, and as a result he was able to highlight which adaptive features are most important.


Simon Jaeger, from Nanaimo, B.C. is an assistive technology instructor which enabled him to consider the user experience from different perspectives, including that of users whose technical expertise may be below average.


Ka Li, from Markham, Ontario brings an abundance of technical accessibility knowledge, and considerable experience evaluating eBooks and software in any operating system, application and device.


Steve Murgaski, from Markham, Ontario is pursuing a master’s degree in the Inclusive Design program at OCAD University. He is particularly interested in the accessibility of texts that contain mathematical symbols and graphs, and aims to ensure that these materials are accessible.

Stay tuned for a future NNELS story on the team’s testing procedures and research findings!