National Initiative Growing Strong - Opening Access to Digital Library Resources for Canadians with Print Disabilities

Vancouver, B.C. - May 28, 2014 - Canadians with print disabilities are receiving increased open access to digital library resources, thanks to an innovative low-cost project that initially launched in December, 2013 and continues to come available in communities across the country.

The National Network of Equitable Library Access (NNELS) offers free and open digital access to a growing library collection that includes popular novels, classics, and non-fiction. Participating public libraries in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are enabling seamless access to the collection.

NNELS is an ambitious grassroots plan aimed at helping libraries to better serve their print disabled patrons by providing libraries with free access to digital resources in accessible formats. There is no charge to use NNELS - it is fully funded by participating jurisdictions, and is supported by the BC Libraries Cooperative, a non-profit shared services delivery organization.

"By drawing upon the resource sharing potential of the Internet, NNELS helps libraries do what they do best - provide free and accessible library services to all Canadians, regardless of their income, background, location or print disability" said Ben Hyman, Executive Director of the BC Libraries Cooperative.

NNELS enables libraries of all sizes to combine resources and collections, and provides free and open access to a growing selection of titles, as well as improved services for print-disabled patrons. Print disabilities include:

  • Impairment of sight or the inability to focus or move one's eyes;
  • The inability to hold or manipulate a book; and/or,
  • An impairment relating to comprehension.

Millions of Canadians have print disabilities "but they shouldn't be denied the joy of reading," said Doris Koop, Executive Director of the Vision Impaired Resource Network (VIRN). "NNELS helps libraries provide their patrons who have a print disability with full access to all of the wonderful books that can be enjoyed by everyone."

Joining NNELS is easy and will connect you with up to 3000 Canadian libraries eligible to share in the project and the open technology that powers it. The BC Libraries Cooperative continues to work with provinces and libraries to further expand the service across Canada. For more information on how library patrons with print disabilities and public libraries can take advantage of the new service, visit:


Media Contacts:

VIRN: Doris Koop, 204-793-0245 /
BC Libraries Co-op: Ben Hyman, 855-383-5761 /