TV access for people who are blind or partially sighted : Described video and audio description

Audio description and described video make TV programs accessible for people who are blind or partially sighted:

Why are audio description and described video important?

Television programming is a primary source of news, entertainment, and sports, and reflects the wide range of ideas and perspectives that characterize Canadian society. It is important for people who are blind or partially sighted to be able to access programming in as complete a form as possible, so that all Canadians can participate in this "everyday" medium.

The CRTC, described video, and audio description

Recognizing the importance of described video and audio description, in 2001 the CRTC began to require minimum levels of described programing by certain broadcasters.

It addressed the issue again in 2009, with a policy specifying that:

More recently, the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV initiative has resulted in a decision to further increase the availability of described video.

The impact of Let’s Talk TV on described video

One outcome of the Let’s Talk TV initiative was a decision to enhance the objectives of the CRTC’s Accessibility Policy by ramping up the amount of described video provided by broadcasters, with tiered requirements geared to the broadcaster’s size and resources.

As a result of this decision, as of September 2019, certain broadcasters are required to provide described video for all suitable programming broadcast between 7 PM and 11 PM (prime time) seven days a week, while all other non-exempt broadcasters will be required to provide four hours of programming with described video per week.

Consult the described video summaries for information on the type of content containing described video, and the number of hours of programming with described video available.

Programming that is not well suited for described video, including newscasts and sports, will continue to be exempt from these requirements.

Also as part of the Let’s Talk TV decision, broadcasting distributors are required to make accessible hardware and remote controls available to subscribers, provided these are available and are compatible with distribution systems. This requirement is reflected in the broadcasting distribution undertaking (BDU) regulations.

Ongoing activities – Described Video on Video-on-Demand platforms

On 10 August 2022, Commission staff sent a letter to Video-on-Demand (VOD) licensees seeking information regarding the provision of described video (DV) on both traditional platforms and non-linear VOD platforms on its portfolio.

In this letter, Commission staff requested information concerning the amount of DV that the licensee currently offers in both English and French-language programming as well as any obstacles that it may face when providing DV.

The responses from licensees can be found here.

Ongoing activities – Industry Working Group

An industry working group made up of broadcasters and distributors will continue to work with the CRTC to make described video more reliable and accessible, and to develop and refine best practice guides for described video.

Other TV services for people who are blind or partially sighted

Reading services other than described video and audio description are available to people who are blind or partially sighted. These include AMI-tv/AMI-télé, AMI audio (English), and Canal M (French).

Most distributors are required to carry these services, which are usually provided as digital audio channels. Ask your distributor how to access these services.

AMI-tv and AMI-télé

AMI-tv, and its French-language equivalent AMI télé, provide 24-hour digital service for a variety of described programming, such as movies, series, specials, current affairs, and original programs that can be enjoyed by everyone. All shows feature Open Described Video and Closed Captioning, and no special equipment or extra steps are required to access this programming.

All distributors with more than 2,000 subscribers must provide AMI-tv and AMI-télé in their package of basic services.

AMI-audio (English)

AMI-audio (formerly Voiceprint) is the world’s largest broadcast reading service. It makes local, national, and international news and information accessible. Current articles from leading newspapers and magazines are read and recorded every day, and are broadcast on TV and online. AMI-audio also broadcasts original programs and described audio presentations of movies and TV shows. AMI-audio is a service of Accessible Media Inc. (formerly the National Broadcast Reading Service or NBRS).

Canal M (French)

Canal M (formerly La Magnétothèque) is a 24-hour-a-day newspaper reading service for people who are blind, have a or partially sighted, or those with a print disability. It also offers original programming.

Making a complaint

All broadcasting complaints, including the ones relating to described video and audio description, must be made in writing. For more information, see How to make a broadcasting complaint.

Related information

For more information about described video and audio description, see:

AMI-audio and Canal M

Described video

Distribution of video description by Class 2, Class 3 and exempt cable distribution undertakings (BDUs) and by multipoint distribution system BDUs (Public Notice CRTC 2006-6)

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