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Brief to CRTC

Friday, September 1, 2006

Office of the president: #304 - 192 Jarvis Street Toronto, ON M5B 2J9
Tel: 416-941-1547


A Brief Submitted By:

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour l'ÉgalitÉ des Personnes Aveugles du Canada- AEBC

Secretary General
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0N2

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing CRTC 2006-5, Review of certain aspects of the regulatory framework for over-the-air television

1. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour
l'ÉgalitÉ des Personnes Aveugles du Canada
- AEBC - (formerly the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality) is pleased to comment on Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing CRTC 2006-5, Review of certain aspects of the regulatory framework for over-the-air television, issued June 12, 2006.

2. The AEBC is a national, not for profit, consumer led organization of Canadians who are primarily blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted. Our work focuses on public awareness and advocacy on a wide range of blindness-related issues, designed to enhance our opportunities to participate fully in all aspects of regular Canadian society. This work includes seeking full access to programming from the broadcasting industry, as well as developing mechanisms for gaining access to equipment and other processes that are under the jurisdiction of regulatory bodies, including the CRTC.

3. The AEBC asserts that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act were enacted to give bodies such as the CRTC full authority to regulate aspects that come under their respective authority and jurisdiction. With this in mind, the AEBC believes the CRTC must apply its regulatory authority in a vigorous and proactive manner to all aspects under its jurisdiction, rather than leaving such activities to the marketplace.


"Universal design" has been defined as:
"The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without adaptation or specialized design." For further details on aspects of Universal Design, see Appendix A which forms a part of this Brief.

5 The AEBC believes that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Human Rights Act mandate, and good business sense demands that principles of universal design govern all deliberations of the CRTC. This means supporting and issuing rulings that will support and enhance access to regular programming and products to the greatest extent possible that are available to all Canadians, and that discourage the development of separate delivery mechanisms or products that require special adaptation.

6. On June 11, 1999, the CRTC issued Building on Success - A Policy Framework for Canadian Television, Public Notice CRTC 1999-97 (the 1999 Policy), which provided in part:

"Support an economically successful broadcasting industry; require regulation only where the goals of the Broadcasting Act (the Act) cannot be met by other means; and ensure that regulations are clear, efficient and easy to administer."

To date, the marketplace has been slow at best to respond to the needs of Canadians with any disability, including those who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted. While the AEBC believes firmly that all regulations should be clear and straightforward, the AEBC also believes firmly that the CRTC must exercise its regulatory authority in a more vigorous and proactive role to mandate full access to programming and usability of products under its jurisdiction. Many products can and should be made far more usable. When universal design principles are utilized at the design stage, building in access is generally easy and cost effective, and technical solutions are well within the industry's capacity to role out.

7. Section 17 of this Public Notice points out that new platforms for television that may have a significant impact on viewers are currently being developed. These include such hand held devices as the video iPod and sophisticated cell phone receivers, as well as the Sling Box, which allows access to local television programming from anywhere in the world. It is these prospective changes - in technology and in viewer demands and behaviours - that may impact conventional television the most. These new distribution platforms will impact all viewers, including Canadians who have a disability.

The introduction of any new platform affords an opportunity to build in accessibility from the ground up, rather than having to redesign or retrofit it after it is on the market. The AEBC asserts the CRTC has a responsibility to take an active and forward-thinking role in ensuring all new platforms and/or products are designed with universal design in mind, so they will be usable by the widest number of Canadians.

8. Sections 53-57 discuss the issue of closed captioning. The Commission set out its approach to closed captioning in Introduction to decisions renewing the licences of privately-owned English-language television stations, Public Notice CRTC 1995-48

The Commission wishes to explore ways to improve the accessibility of television programming for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The AEBC commends the CRTC's efforts to expand closed captioning, and appreciates the work to date in mandating the current level of descriptive narration. The AEBC would like to know why the question of its expansion and other matters of equal concern to the blind community were not included in the Commission's request for comments at this time.

9. The AEBC calls upon the CRTC to undertake a comprehensive investigation into programming and products currently available, and to issue guidelines to make all of these more usable by persons who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted. This investigation should include, but not be limited to such topics as the need to increase the availability of described programs on all commercial and specialty television channels; use of the SAP, ensuring access as new delivery platforms are introduced, and increasing the availability of fully accessible and usable products in such areas as cell phones, digital boxes and television sets.

10. It is imperative that consumer organizations "of" persons who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted fully participate in the work of the CRTC. This opportunity must include the opportunity to participate actively in the kind of comprehensive review noted in #9 above.

11. Conclusion:

In this submission, the AEBC has focused its comments on the public policy issues surrounding the need for the CRTC to take strong, proactive steps to carry out its regulatory authority; the need to expand the level of described television programming, the need to involve organizations "of" persons who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted to a greater extent in the CRTC's important work, and to discuss the principles of universal design, which we believe must be a part of all CRTC deliberations and policy decisions.

Appendix A: The Principles of Universal Design

Version 2.0 - 4/1/97
NC State University

Compiled by advocates of universal design, listed in alphabetical order: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story & Gregg Vanderheiden

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without adaptation or specialized design.

The authors, a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, collaborated to establish the following Principles of Universal Design to guide a wide range of design disciplines including environments, products and communications. These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

The Principles of Universal Design are presented in the following format: name of the principle, intended to be a concise and easily remembered statement of the key concept embodied in the principle; definition of the principle, a brief description of the principle's primary directive for design; and guidelines, a list of the key elements that should be present in a design which adheres to the principle. (Note: all guidelines may not be relevant to all designs.)

Principle 1: Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

1a. Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not. 1b. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users. 1c. Make provisions for privacy, security, and safety equally available to all users. 1d. Make the design appealing to all users.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

2a. Provide choice in methods of use.
2b. Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.
2c. Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.
2d. Provide adaptability to the user's pace.

Principle 3: Simple & Intuitive Use

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

3a. Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
3b. be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
3c. accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
3d. Arrange information consistent with its importance.
3e. Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

4a. Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
4b. Maximize "legibility" of essential information.
4c. Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
4d. Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

5a. Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
5b. Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
5c. Provide fail safe features. 5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

6a. Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
6b. Use reasonable operating forces.
6c. Minimize repetitive actions.
6d. Minimize sustained physical effort.

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

7a. Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
7b. Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
7c. Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.
7d. Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.

Please note that these Principles of Universal Design address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. These Principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.

Copyright 1997 NC State University, The Center for Universal Design

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