We need your help!
We are asking for your help to ensure that NNELS can continue to offer the choices and services you depend on.
Without warning or consultation, the federal government announced in its 2020 Fall Economic Statement that it would withdraw the current $4 million which supports accessible reading materials and programs, ending all support by 2024-2025. This $4 million funding is split between CELA ($3 million annually) and NNELS ($1 million annually) to provide material to those across Canada with print disabilities.
This decision to cut funding will have a devastating impact on NNELS’ ability to produce new books for our collection and distribute materials including physical braille to our users. The initial decrease in funding in 2021-2022 will result in an immediate reduction in our services and further compound the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a disproportionate impact on those with disabilities across Canada.
We know how important accessible reading materials are to you. Unfortunately, we have a limited amount of time to convince the federal government that full funding needs to be restored. Please help us by raising your voice, writing letters, and sharing the impact of these devastating cuts.
You can download a sample letter here.
Every year, the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) relies on a budget of one million dollars from the federal government to advance accessible publishing initiatives across Canada, provide quality employment opportunities to people with print disabilities and build capacity, create digital literacy tutorials and demonstrations to support persons with print disabilities in understanding the digital technology (hardware and software) required to access digital books, as well as offer on-demand production of books and to grow the collection of books in accessible formats for people with print disabilities in Canada.
Sustained funding that we can rely on is crucial to our ability to plan and maintain the services we provide to our users. In its Fall Economic Statement, the federal government has indicated that its funding for NNELS will be reduced by 25% per year in the coming 4 years, down to no federal funding by the year 2024-25. The decision to terminate funding was made without consultation or advance warning and will have a devastating impact on NNELS’ ability to operate.
The loss of funding will mean a dramatic reduction in the scope and depth of accessible publishing work being done, the reduction of staff, many who have print disabilities, and a significant drop in the production of accessible content.
The maintenance and development of the NNELS digital platform, which is part of NNELS’ core, ongoing work, is funded by the provincial governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon. However, a significant portion of projects focusing on advancing accessible publishing, and the expansion of the collection, including the production of some content in alternative formats such as braille and audio, are funded federally. Our users will see an immediate reduction in our services if full funding is not restored. With the loss of this funding, these projects and initiatives will be unable to continue or be significantly reduced:
- Annual Accessible Publishing Summit, which supports the publishing industry and related stakeholders, in creating born accessible content.
- Providing resources for publishers looking to publish in accessible formats and who want to create accessible workflows.
- Accessibility experts, staff with lived experience of disability who consume print content in non-traditional ways. They have expertise in assessing and evaluating the accessibility and usability of ebooks, reading applications, digital library platforms, and much more. They work to identify accessibility barriers so improvements can be made.
- Print-braille children’s books that have both embossed braille and printed text alongside the original illustrations which have been distributed to each of the provinces and territories for circulation in public libraries.
- Simultaneous releases of braille with traditional formats that fosters inclusion for all readers.
- Human narrated audiobooks, which are necessary for equitable reading. Ongoing projects include the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Voices Project, which works to connect Indigenous narrators with books written by authors from the same bands or nations the narrator is a part of, and the Under-Represented Voices Project, which works to ensure narrators voicing our audiobook productions are representative of the protagonists and/or authors identities. Besides providing own-voice narration to these books, these projects provide quality employment opportunities to marginalized groups in the publishing industry.
- Conference participation to spread the message of the importance of an equitable reading landscape and provide expertise in the industry
- Content purchasing to expand the titles held in the NNELS digital repository beyond direct user requests.
- Reduction of staff, many of which have print disabilities.
- The amount of NNELS produced accessible content. In 2020, NNELS made over 2,500 alternate format versions of titles available to those with print disabilities. Of these, 45 were commissioned audiobooks and 26 were physical braille books that did not exist in any other accessible format and NNELS produced from start to finish. Without funding, the number of titles NNELS can produce will be severely reduced.
You can download a sample letter here.