Let's Talk TV

25 June 2014

Secretary General
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0N2

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2014-190, LET'S TALK TV!

Dear Sir:

Please accept the following submission from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities to Phase 3 of the CRTC's "Let's Talk TV" consultation.


Tony Dolan



BRIEF FROM: Council of Canadians with Disabilities
909-294 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB
E-mail: ccd@ccdonline.ca

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2014-190, "Let's Talk TV"

1. Introduction:

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a national organization of people with disabilities working for an accessible and inclusive Canada.  As a cross-disability organization, CCD addresses issues facing people with all types of disabilities.  CCD's members include both national and provincial organizations of people with disabilities.

Both the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) are members of CCD.  CCD acknowledges the leadership demonstrated by these organizations in advancing the cause of accessible broadcasting in Canada. 

In this brief, CCD endorses the position taken by Mr. John Rae, in his June 2014 brief to the CRTC. 

While CCD is not seeking to appear before the CRTC, it reiterates the disability community's call for accessible broadcasting.

2. The Free Market Is Not the Answer

For too long, the CRTC has relied upon the market to deliver accessibility.  Throughout its history, CCD has witnessed the failure of voluntary self-regulation by industry.  CCD urges regulation of the broadcast industry to achieve the progressive realization of complete access to television by Canadians with disabilities and that the CRTC undertake consultation with the representative organizations of people with disabilities as it regulates for accessibility.

3. Accessible Equipment and Content

CCD urges the CRTC to use its regulatory power to ensure the accessibility of both television program content and the equipment that is offered by television service providers.

4. The Legal Framework for Increased Regulation:

CCD is confident that there is a legal justification for requiring broadcasters to deliver accessible goods and services to Canadians.  The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Canada in 2010, calls for access to culture, information and technology by persons with disabilities.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms commits to equality rights for persons with disabilities.  Federal and provincial human rights legislation prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  In the VIA Rail case, the Supreme Court of Canada took a stand against barriers that prevent people with disabilities enjoying services available to the public.  The Court further called on service providers to ensure that "no new barriers" are created.

5. The U.S. Regulates for Access:

As has been pointed out by Mr. John Rae in his brief, the US has adopted accessibility requirements governing both manufacture of equipment and companies that lease or sell this equipment.  In his brief he wrote,

"The FCC adopted rules in October 2013 to implement Section 204 and Section 205 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The October 2013 Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking implementing Section 204 and Section 205 of the CVAA is available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-13-138A1.docx

The following is a summary of the new accessibility requirements adopted in the Report and Order.  The deadline for compliance with these new accessibility requirements is December 20, 2016; three years from December 20, 2013, the date the Report and Order was published in the Federal Register.

Manufacturers of televisions, computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices used to watch video programming will need to make built-in functions related to video programming and on-screen text menus and visual indicators accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, if achievable (with reasonable difficulty or expense).  Manufacturers must also enable viewers to access closed captioning and video description via mechanisms that are reasonably comparable to buttons, keys, or icons.

Manufacturers of set-top boxes and cable and satellite television companies that lease or sell set-top boxes must make their on-screen text menus and program guides that are used to display or select video programming accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, if achievable (with reasonable difficulty or expense).  Accessible set-top boxes or accessibility solutions must be provided upon request and at no additional charge to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  Documentation that verifies that the individual is blind or visually impaired may be required in certain circumstances.  Set-top boxes must also include access to closed captioning via a mechanism that is reasonably comparable to a button, key, or icon."

CCD urges that the CRTC undertake similar action.

6. The Set Top Box Barrier:

Inaccessible set top boxes are a significant barrier to Canadians with vision impairment.  CCD has been monitoring Ross Eadie's Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint regarding the inaccessible set top box offered by MTS.  CCD concurs with Mr. John Rae's recommendation to CRTC, "We believe that it is time for the CRTC to introduce regulations to mandate providers to implement universal design features and offer fully accessible set top boxes."

7. Availability of DV Programming:

In his brief, Mr. John Rae has noted that CRTC currently mandates broadcasters to provide 4 hours a week of described video.  CCD agrees with Mr. Rae's assessment that insufficient progress is being made on achieving an equitable supply of described video programming in Canada.  CCD agrees with Mr. Rae when he recommends that, "CRTC must use its regulatory authority to require a significantly increased level of description when licence renewals come due."

8. Availability of Captioned and Signed Programming:

CCD acknowledges the leadership shown by the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) on improving access to broadcasting by Deaf Canadians.  CCD supports CAD's recommendations to increase Deaf Canadians' access to captioned and signed programming and to improve the quality of captioning.

CCD supports CAD's position regarding broadcasters' responsibility to make their web content accessible to Deaf Canadians.

9. Pass Through of Foreign Programming:

CCD concurs with others who have argued that accessible U.S. programs must always be passed through with the access features to Canadian users.

Like others, CCD agrees that CRTC needs to monitor the pass through of US programming to ensure that Canadians are receiving the benefits of accessibility provisions. 

10. Accessible Advertisements:

CCD urges CRTC to ensure that televised advertisements are accessible to Canadians with disabilities.

11. New and Emerging Platforms:

Many platforms, including personal video recorders, mobile applications, and other platforms that require on-screen interaction are not accessible. Program guides are generally not usable by persons with vision disabilities.

CCD agrees with Mr. Rae's recommendations that the CRTC require, as a condition of license, that all new platforms, services, features and equipment be usable by persons who are blind and that the CRTC Require all broadcasters, BDU’s and Web TV services to offer equipment such as set top boxes, remotes, modems/receivers, built in Wi-Fi and new equipment such as 5TV systems be usable by persons who are blind by 2016. Much of this hardware currently has user configuration features which are not usable without sight.

12. Further Efforts by Broadcasters:

The consultation queries - What further actions can broadcasters take to improve the accessibility of programming for persons with disabilities, including, but not limited to the accessibility of program guides, regardless of the platform on which programming is broadcast?

CCD notes that web sites have become an important source of information for Canadians, but web sites continue to present barriers to people who use screen readers.  CRTC must require all broadcasters, BDU’s and Web TV services to have web sites that conform to W3C WCAG requirements by 2016.

In addition, CRTC must make it mandatory for all broadcasters, BDU’s and Web TV services to offer their web site video players with features that allow their use by persons who are blind by 2015.

13. Measuring Access:

The consultation process has queried - How should the Commission and Canadians measure success with respect to ensuring that television services are made available and well promoted to underserved audiences?

With regard to measuring success on access by persons with disabilities, CCD proposes that the CRTC should consult with the representative organizations of people with disabilities, particularly the organizations of people with vision impairment and the organizations of people who are Deaf.

14. Customer Service Training:

CCD recommends that all technical support staff in the television industry who interact with customers have disability awareness training so that they can provide effective customer service to members of the public with disabilities.

15. Conclusion:

The CRTC has a clear responsibility to improve access to the full spectrum of television-related services so that all Canadians, all of whom pay the same fee to their respective television provider, can benefit fully from available programming and services both now and in the future as new platforms and services are developed.

End of submission