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Governments Play a Significant Role in Supporting Accessibility in Libraries

Kim Johnson has been the Library Network Advisor for Alberta’s Provincial government for eight years, and she knows it’s a team effort to reach our shared goal of accessibility in libraries.

The Alberta government supports accessibility in libraries by paying for NNELS and CELA, which provide accessible reading materials to Canadians with print disabilities. The province also sets the requirements that all libraries in Alberta must have a policy for underserviced or disabled members of the community.

As the Library Network Advisor, Kim strives to remove barriers for libraries and their patrons. She recognizes that as accessibility requirements expand and new processes are being developed, there’s a need to have accessibility requirements integrated seamlessly with other requirements for libraries and government services to make things easier for all involved.

Kim’s role in supporting libraries in reaching their accessibility goals is wide-ranging. Kim’s work, like a lot of the accessibility work the Provincial government does, is backend work and not necessarily visible to the public, but it’s important work.

She also works to remediate documents, assessing their quality, reviewing, and adding structure and alt texts to ensure their readability through a screen reader. Another project that has been gaining momentum internally involves training on how to create an accessible document on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. There is interest in rolling out the training to the public library community in the future to expand capacity across the province.

Growing Capacity

As awareness around accessibility has grown, Kim reported that most people they’ve been working with have much more to say about accessibility than they did a few years ago. On Kim’s accessibility team, there are two members who have print disabilities, and they are quite open about encouraging libraries and boards to include more diversity in their teams. Including those with lived experiences broadens an organization’s perspective on accessibility and inclusiveness.

The Alberta government has plans to increase capacity by sharing presentations on accessibility and having accessible communication with libraries to expand everyone’s knowledge. One innovative program is an internship available to students enrolled in Alberta library-related programs. The internship allows students to work with NNELS and enrich their learning of accessibility. NNELS has also offered support in developing accessibility requirements and, more recently, providing testers for accessible materials. As the need for accessible resources increases, so does the need for testers.

The goal is that by providing tools and resources, libraries can become more proactive in their planning. Kim has been pleased that more than 500 Government of Alberta staff have been trained in under a year, and the hope is to expand this even further.

 “We want to move beyond the idea that “mostly accessible” is sufficient and find ways to support fully accessible services,” says Kim. That will definitely be a team effort.

If your library is interested in connecting and assisting or has any questions regarding these resources, please email Kim Johnson at