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To the CRTC Re: Application by Mrs. Marie Stark and Mr. Chris Stark

Date: 
Friday, August 1, 2003

Mr. Charles Dalfen
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Conseil de la Radiodiffusion et des Télécommunications Canadiennes
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N2

Dear Mr. Dalfen:

RE: Application by Mrs. Marie Stark and Mr. Chris Stark to review and vary review of Regulatory Framework, Telecom Decision CRTC 94-19, 16 September 1994 (Decision 94-19)

  1. The NFB:AE requests the CRTC to exercise the authority provided to it in the Telecommunications Act and initiate a process for regulating the development and deployment of residential, office and mobile telephone equipment into the Canadian marketplace so that it will be fully accessible to and usable by all Canadians, including those who are blind or partially-sighted.
  2. The National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (NFB:AE) is a national non-profit organization OF blind, deaf-blind and partially-sighted Canadians, founded in 1992, who have joined together to increase the level of public understanding of issues and concerns affecting our lives and to work collectively to increase our opportunities to participate equally in, and benefit from, all aspects of Canadian society. This must include full access to information and products regularly available to the public throughout Canada.
  3. Today, more and more equipment and devices used by the general public are driven by menus that are not accessible to or usable by persons who cannot see them.
  4. The NFB:AE believes the development and introduction into the Canadian marketplace of telephone and other equipment and devices that lack the features of universal design that will enable all Canadians to use them causes needless hardship, and constitutes discrimination on the prohibited ground of disability;
  5. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has refused to assert jurisdiction due to the powers provided to the CRTC under the Telecommunications Act;
  6. The TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT, STATUTES OF CANADA CHAPTER 38, states in part:
    "2. Interpretation, ["telecommunications'' " télécommunication "]
    "telecommunications'' means the emission, transmission or reception of intelligence by any wire, cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, or by any similar technical system
    ["telecommunications service''
    " service ... "]
    "telecommunications service'' means a service provided by means of telecommunications facilities and includes the provision in whole or in part of telecommunications facilities and any related equipment, whether by sale, lease or otherwise;

    The NFB:AE believes the Act provides the Commission with adequate jurisdiction to commence a regulatory process designed to ensure that all such equipment used in Canada is fully accessible;

  7. The Telecommunications Act also states:
    [Objectives]
    7. It is hereby affirmed that
    (b) to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada;

    The NFB:AE believes the word "accessible" in this section must be read to cover the inclusion of universal design/accessibility features to make equipment :"accessible" to all users and potential users;

  8. The Telecommunications Act further states:
    7 (h) to respond to the economic and social requirements of users of telecommunications services;"

    The NFB:AE believes the development of telephone equipment that is usable by all Canadians is fully in the public interest;

  9. The Act further states:
    7. (f) to foster increased reliance on market forces for the provision of telecommunications services and to ensure that regulation, where required, is efficient and effective;

    The NFB:AE hereby asserts the marketplace has failed to self regulate itself, has failed to offer Canadians who cannot see the full access and use of mobile and other telephone equipment that is readily available to the general public, and that it is now timely for the CRTC to commence a regulatory process;

  10. While the NFB:AE commends the actions of Chris and Marie Stark, we believe that it is reasonable to expect the removal of barriers to the use of equipment regularly available to the public, and that expecting individual citizens to initiate proceedings before the CRTC or other competent bodies is neither reasonable nor within the public interest;
  11. In conclusion, the NFB:AE believes the CRTC must develop a process for regulating the development and introduction of telephone equipment into the Canadian marketplace to ensure it will be accessible to and usable by all Canadians.

Sincerely,
 

John Rae
President

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