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SDPP-D Federal Grant Updates - July 2019

Press Release from Employment and Social Development Canada: Government funds library network service expansion to make more published works available in formats accessible for Canadians with print disabilities


From January to June 2018, NNELS worked on a series of special projects to enhance the production and availability of accessible-format material in Canada. The project was funded in large part by a grant from the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Component (SDPP-D).

In September 2018, the BC Libraries Cooperative received an additional $1 million to carry out a series of new special projects to build on the momentum created from the previous grant work; a public announcement was made by Employment and Social Development Canada on November 14th. New projects focus on three main areas: accessible publishing, accessible reading, and braille availability.

Summaries of these projects follow, and this page will be updated as the projects are carried out. For answers to your questions please write to

1. Accessible Publishing

NNELS continues to work with partners to support publishers in creating born accessible material.

a) Accessible Publishing Summit

This invitation-only summit was held in Toronto on January 28th and 29th, 2019. It included stakeholders in the ebook production, distribution, and reading chain. We discussed best practices for accessible EPUB relevant to communities along that chain and came up with a number of working groups for futher collaboration. Related documentation is being added to our Accessible Publishing website. View a short summary of the summit here.

b) Accessible Publishing Workshops

In February and March, Lisa Snider of Access Changes Everything hosted ten, two-day accessible publishing workshops across Canada. A recorded webinar is available on for anyone who missed these workshops. Please note: the recordings are available until October 26, 2019.

c) EPUB Accessibility Reports/Audits

We worked with Lisa Snider, Farrah Little, and our stellar team of accessibility testers to create accessibility reports for 60 EPUB files from 30 Canadian publishers. An overview of the audits, as well as a document containing best practices for EPUB Accessibility, can be found on

d) DAISY Consortium Partnership

We worked with the DAISY Consortium to develop and enhance their open-source, user-friendly version of the Ace by DAISY accessibility checker. To date, Ace by DAISY has been a command-line tool, but the new release has a graphical user interface. DAISY is also preparing the Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base and website for language localization, and translating both Ace by DAISY and into French.

e) Plugins for Publishers

Publishers have asked for plugins they can use with their ebook editing software to automate repetitive tasks and improve accessibility. We worked with a developer to create an app and scripts for EPUB accessibility which people can use with any ebook development software.

2. Accessible Reading

a) Purchasing

We purchased Canadian e-books from eBOUND, and we've invited participation from publishers who did not work with us in the spring. We also sent an invitation through Canadian publishers' associations to purchase their material directly from them or through their distributors, and so we are working with a number of publishers that way.

We have agreements in place with two major digital audiobook vendors to purchase jointly with CELA/CNIB.

b) Testing Library Reading Apps

Our team of accessibility testers are exploring the accessibility of library reading applications, including Libby/OverDrive, RBdigital, and Press Reader. The purpose of this project is to give vendors specific feedback about their reading apps so that audiobooks and accessible ebooks are available to all readers through those platforms. Full and summarized versions of the reports are now available, and we are encouraging everyone to read, share, and comment on these reports.

c) Partnership with Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired

We were thrilled to continue working with the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired to further develop the beta version of their Production Tool, a tool that automates and streamlines the EPUB remediation process.

d) National Requests

We accepted requests to produce books that are not currently available in accessible formats, and we are working on producing those requests.

3. Braille Availability

a) Print-Braille Childrens' Books

In partnership with the Vision Impaired Resource Network (VIRN) in Manitoba, we produced 5 titles in French to be distributed through every provincial and territorial Public Library Authority. Special thank you to staff at BAnQ for helping us select titles! This project builds on previous work done with VIRN to expand the Canadian print-braille collection in public libraries.

b) Hardcopy and Electronic Braille Pilot Project

Our Saskatchewan-based Braille Production Coordinator, Riane LaPaire, coordinated the procurement of 50 hardcopy and 50 electronic braille titles for distribution through NNELS and Canadian public libraries. This pilot project will inform future decisions on choosing braille producers, braille quality, and distribution methods. This project is based on recommendations from the “Improving Braille Availability in Canadian Public Library” research study. The electronic titles are available on the NNELS website, and the hardcopy titles have been distributed to public libraries that volunteered to house and share the collection with other public libraries across Canada.

c) The 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology in Braille and EPUB

NNELS approached publisher, House of Anansi Press, to coordinate the simultaneous release of the poetry anthology in both braille and print formats. House of Anansi was eager to collaborate on this project, and on June 4, 2019, the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology was released. It is be available to borrow in EPUB, BRF, and embossed braille through NNELS.

Read the full story of the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology here!

This page was last updated: August 1, 2019