October 27 2016
Then and Now – Is anyone Listening
This submission relates to broadcasting and telecommunications addressing the issues and questions contained in the DISCUSSION GUIDE What does an accessible Canada mean to you issued by the Office for Disabilities Issues.
By Chris Stark and Marie Stark
This area has a vital role to play in the inclusion of people with disabilities in the mainstream of Canadian society. The problem is illustrated by the lack of coverage of this consultation in mainstream media. This exclusion is directly linked to the lack of persons with disabilities at every level of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications sectors in Canada today.
The only progress that has been made is when the CRTC has been forced to make regulatory or licence renewal requirements. CRTC has, for example, formally decided to forbear when it comes to accessibility of sector web sites, digital platforms and mobile applications. This one scandalous decision has meant that industry has been licensed by the CRTC to exclude people who can not see from the benefits of new media in Canada.
The only practical way to address this situation is for the new act to require changes in the way this sector does business.
Although public awareness is sited as the way to make change for the better by enhancing understanding: it is impossible to do with the level of exclusion by this sector. There is not an easy fix but a start must be maid.
In the case of people who are blind and others with disabilities we do not have access to the benefits of this sector as users, content creators or most importantly employees and decision makers.
Instead of inclusion the CRTC has adopted the charitable medical model when it comes to persons who can not see. A legitimate question is have people who can not see received practical help from the 36 million dollar annual surcharge on broadcasting distribution Undertakings, BDU’s, for people who are blind. Giving all this money annually to a charity for more than a decade has directly contributed to the lack of access to main stream service benefits of this sector enjoyed by most Canadians. The question is whether or not this levey on all BDU subscribers provided lasting, , and tangible benefits in accessing all that broadcasting offers to all in Canada for those who can not see?
The new act must mandate changes in this sector.
***The new act must require this sector to serve equally ALL Canadians.
***The new act must set out the mechanism to enforce the recognition of the human rights of people who are disabled in all aspects of this sector.
***The new act must end the industry dominance over persons with disabilities by this sector in all processes and level the playing field for persons with disabilities.
***Consumers who are disabled must be included in CRTC Commissioners appointed by the Government of Canada.
A comparison between Canada, The United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand will aply demonstrate that this is yet another sector where accessibility and usability for people with disabilities and in particular people who can not see are lagging further and further behind.
We have provided some ideas that may help at the end of this submission. For most Canadians with disabilities freedom of speech means the reality of censorship by the media. Public awareness of disability is just one casualty of this exclusion.
The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Has taken a prescriptive approach to the industry while relying on consumer complaints to address issues. People who are deaf and hard of hearing have been the most successful in gaining usable access. People who are Blind have been the least successful. In my view the difference is in the approach by society, CRTC and organizations of and for persons with disabilities account for this exclusion.
In cooperation with others I helped to force a reluctant CRTC to hold a public hearing on services to persons who are disabled. Although concluded seven years ago the modest recommendations have yet to be adequately implemented by the CRTC. As a result, problems identified then are still very real barriers today for people who cannot see. ( Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430 Route reference: Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing 2008-8 / Telecom Public Notice 2008-8 File number: 8665-C12-200807943 Ottawa, 21 July 2009 Accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services )
Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430 is a “converged” determination. It is the first Regulatory Policy (previously known as a “Decision”) which has been issued by the CRTC that covers both Broadcasting and Telecommunications service providers.
The proceeding leading to this determination was initiated by the CRTC, on its own motion, in a Public Notice dated 10 June 2008. In addition to the filing of written comments, the proceeding included an oral hearing (with an appearance by Chris, Marie and Jeff Stark) which took place from November 17 to 21, 2008.
November 18, 2008
File #: 8665-C12-200807943
Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing 2008-8
Telecom Public Notice CRTC 2008-8
Furthermore, researchers are invited to review the testimony and report of this hearing as well as the submissions by people who are disabled to another hearing seven years later the CRTC Lets Talk TV process. To date people who can not see have gained little as a result of CRTC and industry excuses and foot dragging.
People who cannot see have been long suffering under the medical model approach to disability. Given the abnormally high unemployment, under educated and poverty of those who can not see, there is little time left from coping with day to day exclusions to advocate.
1. Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, published on February 29th of this year located online at:
2. Additional statistics are from a recent Ipsos Omnibus survey conducted for CNIB, which is posted on their website under “Canadian Polls” at:
Thus Charities like AMI get the money an estimated ($35 Million a year) from Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings mandatory collection of a tax on subscribers to be turned over to this not for profit: by CRTC order. Over nearly 20 years this has done little to facilitate mainstream usability for people who can not see People who can not see have had little or no input into the expenditures from this vast annual sum. However, this sum pails in the context of the switch from analog to digital television and the subsequent visual enhancements 4K after HD. The point is that all these enhancements did NOTHING for persons who can not see but we have to pay the increased costs to maintain service even though much of the service like visual quality, on screen programming including taping of programs for later listening and descriptive narration are not offered to subscribers who cannot see.
Over the last 25 years I as an individual without funding support have dealt with many issues using the CRTC processes. A search for “Stark” on the Commissions web site will give the reader a deluge of information, but here are a few of the issues:.
Industry trying to charge blind persons for directory assistance because we could not read print phone books which subscribers were expected to use,
Numerous lengthy complaints about usable bill in a format a person who can not see can read,
On screen programming usable by a person who can not see,
Access to descriptive video and descriptive narration programming, industry web sites usable by people who can not see,
Digital content usable by people who can not see,
Program guides for my service that a person who does not see can use,
Contemporary examples of industry INTENTIONALLY excluding people who can not see are the new and now closing Show Me movie service, the 2016 Olympic broadcasts without descriptive narration especially when the 2012 Olympics including the opening and closing ceremonies had descriptive narration broadcasts, access to smart phone technology usable by people who can not see and also have other disabilities with NO help from service providers, ,
Usable video players for people who can not see,
Video players able to play content with descriptive video, etc.
Set-top Converter Boxes and cable boxes that now have user controls which cannot be used by people who are not able to see,
There are many other issues that could be included in the above list, however the point is that the industry does not strive to serve people with disabilities and in particular people who can not see. AMI is consistently being used as a reason that persons who are blind do not need mainstream usable access.
In this environment the CRTC is not keeping up with the fast pase changes in the industry and new services and options are routinely roled out that exclude people who can not see from their benefits.
CRTC does not proactively use its authority to help people who can not see. Complaints do not result in industry wide changes but a case by case corrective action. Furthermore, now the CRTC is trying to further distance itself from consumers including people who can not see by privatizing its government mandated complaint process to industry.
***Recommendations for the new act
No organization holding a license from the Government of Canada should be permitted to introduce a new service or substantially upgrade and change existing services and licenses without usable service delivery usable by all particularly persons who do not see.
CRTC should be required to report to the new act review process for its report to Canadians on how it is increasing access and usability for persons with disability under existing legislation it administers.
The new Act should require All Agency’s and Commissions such as the CRTC to have at least one Commissioner who is a person with a visible disability and a consumer advocates background who has a mandate to champion the needs of people who are disabled.
There is not any central point within the Government of Canada that holds Schedule 1 and 2 organizations accountable for ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities in their implementation of the organizations enabling legislation. The new act should include a provision for the creation of a central accountability office under the direct supervision of Parliament that has an audit function
The new legislation should require all Schedule 1 and 2 organizations to establish and maintain an advisory committee reporting to the Chairman or Minister that publicly meets at least once a year, holds public consultations with persons who are disabled and issues publicly available minutes of its meetings and recommendations and furthermore all consumer members should be limited to a 4-year term with staggered membership changes. These committees should be funded by the governmental entity they advise.
As a conclusion we would like to submit a 2008 document containing recommendations for persons who can not see which has yet to be implemented by the CRTC All of the below recommendations could be required of the CRTC and those it licences by this new proposed act of parliament.
1. Speaking as individuals
It is strongly recommended that the CRTC reaffirm the divergent nature of the way people with disabilities cope with their functional limitations.
2. Industry has never taken any action unless ordered to do so by CRTC
It is recommended that the CRTC implement the conclusions of the stakeholder consultation report prepared for this process by the external consultant.
It is recommended that the CRTC require all new services and service changes only be allowed once the service provider has incorporated accessibility features.
- Need accountability
It is recommended that the CRTC suspend forbearance as it relates to peripherals.
4. Human Rights limbo
- No one assuming jurisdiction for peripherals
It is recommended that the CRTC work with other human rights bodies to establish a clear process for adjudicating complaints about broadcasting internet and telecommunications equipment.
5. Inaccessible Phone features
- Cell phone
It is recommended that equipment provided by service providers for using their systems of a proprietary nature be required to be accessible.
6. Cable on screen programming - a broadcast
It is recommended that onscreen programming be made accessible orally since it is a program service generated by the cable or satellite program disseminator.
7. Radio on cable
It is recommended that radio broadcast carried over the cable or satellite systems be identified in audio format on the SAP.
8. Descriptive Narration on digital
It is recommended that at least ten channels be dedicated to broadcasting descriptive narration programming being aired by broadcasters similar to the express view solution.
9. Escaping from problems with onscreen directions only
It is recommended that audible equivalence to onscreen program directions be required to be made available.
10. Cable channels that we do not benefit from (i.e. Weather Network)
It is recommended that all stations with closed captioning employ voice synthesis of these captions on the SAP channels for people who are blind.
11. Internet modem lights need to be seen so customer service knows what kind of modem you have; need tactile markings on modem
It is recommended that all equipment provided by service providers be required to have tactile identification markings.
12. Download limit
It is recommended that these limits not apply to people who are blind since this feature is used to obtain talking books.
13. Pop up menu to manage downloads – not accessible
It is recommended that all services such as download limits have their visual monitoring and managing tools made available audibly as well as by an inaccessible pop-up window.
14. Few particularly newly blinded individuals know about services
It is recommended that companies be required to provide annually to all subscribers a list of services available to people with disabilities.
It is recommended that all service providers make available brochures, in all alternative formats, describing amenities for users with disabilities and how to obtain them.
15. Descriptive Narration - free digital box
It is recommended that these amenities be required to be processed on the systems of the service provider.
It is recommended that each service provider be required to have a “hot key” to access descriptive narration rather than the existing menu sequences.
16. Directory assistance
It is recommended that service provider staff be trained in how to make this service available to people who are blind.
17. Yellow pages
It is recommended that service provider staff be trained in how to make this service available to people who are blind.
18. Multiple format bills, Terms &Conditions
It is recommended that the CRTC reinforce earlier decisions that these items be provided in the format of choice of the subscriber.
Part VII Application of Mr. Chris Stark - Access to Bell
Canada's Telecommunications and Satellite Service Information and Equipment
by Persons who Are Blind
Submitted April 15 2001
Extending the availability of alternative formats to consumers who are blind
19. Instruction Manuals
With the help of CRTC, it was arranged that carriers would ensure that equipment they provided had access to multiple format for print operating manuals. This arrangement has lapsed and is no longer benefiting people who can’t read print.
It is recommended that all equipment sold through service providers have multiple format versions of the users choice available to provide equivalent information as that contained in the print manual.
It is our experience that the CRTC complaints process is really designed for resolving industry disputes between one another. It is cumbersome and does expose people with disabilities to abuse by legal hired guns of such companies as Bell. It is not uncommon to have a simple application made complicated and the applicant required to cope with all the service provider competitors such as occurred in the five-year Smart Home application. It is the Napoleon form of justice, where the applicant is viewed as wrong regardless of the barriers that everyone knows exist.
It is recommended that the complaints process be streamlined.
It is recommended that only one respondent be allowed to participate.
It is recommended that all decisions be made within 120 days.
It is recommended that all decisions include an analysis of human rights and accommodation implication.
It is recommended that the CRTC actively participate during the pleadings to prevent violation of the applicant’s human rights as part of the process.
It is recommended that the focus be changed from the applicant as the problem to a discussion of how the industry proposes to resolve an accessibility barrier (negative to positive).
21. Customer Service Agents
- Need effective training
It is recommended that the CRTC establish training criteria and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that customer service staff have sufficient knowledge to serve the needs of people who are blind.
22. Lack of knowledge of Policies regarding people with disabilities
It is recommended that each service provider make available to the public policies regarding people with disabilities and include this material in a rated criteria for completion of service staff initial training which should take place prior to assuming their duties.
23. Training deficient (i.e. transferring me to relay service for communications with persons who are deaf)
It is recommended that all customer service staff receive general awareness training on the types and nature of disability and the functional limitations and requirements of these groups.
Role of Third Party Vendors
24. Role of third party vendors
It is recommended that service providers not rely on third party vendors to do their research and development unless they are under contract to the company.
It is recommended that each service provider be ordered to spend 1% of their gross revenue on research and development to facilitate access and that these R&D reports be made public and submitted to the Commission annually.
It should be noted that the role of third party vendors is not to work in isolation as a charitable activity. When this option is relied upon, it usually quadruples the price of the end product. It means that equipment is not usable out of the box, like its equivalent for customers who can see. It means that many more people would not be able to access services and accessible software, etc. would be years behind the mainstream product it is designed to work with.
It is recommended that a universal design approach be mandated by the CRTC to ensure that people with disabilities have the same service access, at the same time and at the same cost as other subscribers.
Ottawa, 30 March 2007
Access to specially developed services, equipment, and information by
persons who are blind
Reference: 8665 S49 01/01
Telecom Decision CRTC 2007
25. Conditions of license
- All them needed to operate regulated services and devices, must be accessible/usable as a condition of license
It is recommended that all conditions of license contain a provision to ensure service providers have an obligation to meet the needs of subscribers who are blind.
26. Sell PDA and set-top box protocols
- Need access to
It is recommended that all proprietary interfaces have access codes similar to televisions so that individuals can use universal remotes, etc.
27. Usable websites
It is strongly recommended that all websites, and features available through service provider websites, be fully accessible and usable.
It is recommended that similar to the CRA solution, all documents be made available for download in a variety of formats including PERN, electronic text, doc, html, and PDF.
28. Service Operating Instructions
It is strongly recommended that service providers be required to make available multiple format descriptions in the form of information sheets for all processes needed to use the service, such as how to access descriptive narration, the PVR feature, how to book pay-per-view movies, how to book pay-per-view sports independently and without sight.
It is recommended that when service providers claim that manufacturers can’t make usable and adaptive versions available, the CRTC require the service provider to testify with the manufacturer before the Commission, before this excuse is accepted, and this testimony include when the equipment will become usable and acceptable.
Finally we would like to submit a 2016 exchange Relating to the licence renewell of major broadcasting in Canada that illustrates the broadcasting industry’s approach to persons who can not see. No usable service for those who can not see without regulatory requirements. The Broadcasting Industry needs to be compelled to serve all Canadians equally and equitably.
Submission to the License renewals of major broadcasters by the CRTC from Chris and Marie Stark
As citizens who are blind we make this attempt to participate in a complex and difficult process.
This submission assumes that the CRTC has familiarity with past efforts to include people who are BLIND in the benefits of Canadian licensed broadcasting services and the associated terminology
Given the CRTC process complexity that favor broadcasters and their associations with their well funded CRTC lobbying activities we are limiting ourselves to a few recommendations in hopes some may be considered for conditions of license requirements.
It is to be noted that the applicants are only proposing to provide inclusive service for persons who are BLIND to the level already required by the CRTC and nothing more. The applicants are launching new ways of involving the audience that intentionally exclude persons who are BLIND as a result of their design.
All license renewals require that by the end of their license period all web sites, digital content and mobile applications be fully usable by persons who are BLIND and also include descriptive narration of material that was originally broadcasted with DV.
As a condition of license all television program promotions have descriptive video and descriptive narration...
As a condition of license all television commercial advertisements be required to have descriptive video and descriptive narration as a condition of being eligible for broadcast...
All license renewals require that by the end of their license period all news, sports, weather public affairs and similar programing in prime time be required to have descriptive narration.
As a condition of license all television live events be required to have descriptive video particularly coverage such as: Canada Day, Election Debates, breaking news, Olympic coverage etc.
If the CRTC does not require accessibility for people who are blind it will not happen!
We do commend Rogers for the outlined positive steps described below. We feel that much more can and should be done to improve the services for people who are blind.
Re: Request for information please
Dear Mr. Stark:
Thank you for your email. I am happy to provide you with this information on behalf of the Rogers Group. In our licence renewal applications for City television stations, VICELAND, OLN, G4, FX, FXX, Sportsnet, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 360, and Sportsnet World, for the new licence term beginning September 1, 2017, Rogers is proposing to provide at least four (4) hours of described video programming per broadcast week, of which two hours must be broadcast in described video for the first time on the service. The minimum four (4) hours of described video programming broadcast during each broadcast week will be drawn from the following program categories, set out in item 6 of Schedule I to the Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987: 2(b) Long-form documentary; 7 Drama and comedy; 9 Variety; 11(a) General entertainment and human interest; and 11(b) Reality television, and/or may be programming targeting children. Also, by September 1, 2019, we are proposing to provide described video for all programming that is broadcast during primetime (i.e. 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.) on these stations and services that is drawn from the program categories listed previously.
In our licence renewal applications for our OMNI ethnic television stations, we are proposing to provide at least four (4) hours of described video programming per broadcast week for the new licence term of September 1, 2017. However, we have also applied for a broadcasting licence to operate a new ethnic discretionary service called OMNI Regional with mandatory distribution as part of the basic service package and a mandated wholesale fee. If approved, we have proposed to provide described video for at least four hours per broadcast week, of which two hours must be broadcast in described video for the first time on the service, should the CRTC grant our application for OMNI Regional. This commitment is only possible if we are giving a subscription revenue stream as OMNI's current business model (advertising only) cannot support an original hours requirement given the service is not financially viable.
In addition, we have committed to ensuring that we air the DV'd version of programming we acquire when it is rebroadcast on our stations and services.
We can confirm that all of the commitments we have proposed for our English-language stations and services are in line with the CRTC’s accessibility policies.
I hope this answers your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information.
VP, Regulatory, Media
Wednesday, June 22 at 1:13 PMWednesday, June 22, 2016, 01:13 PM EDT
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