Telecom Order CRTC 98-1186

Telecom Order

Ottawa, 26 November 1998
Telecom Order CRTC 98-1186
On 23 October 1998, BC TEL filed an application for approval of tariff revisions to General Tariff Item 32, to extend the Additional Line promotion to 30 April 1999.
File No.: 8638-C12-19/98
1.On 5 August 1998, interested persons were invited to submit comments on the requirement in paragraph 22 a) of Telecom Order CRTC 98-626, 26 June 1998 (Order 98-626), and paragraph 101 (l) of Local Pay Telephone Competition, Telecom Decision CRTC 98-8, 30 June 1998 (Decision 98-8). In particular, interested persons were invited to comment on the following matters:
a) Do keypads which, while not having keys that are larger and spaced further apart than a standard set, have either a raised dimple or "pip" on the number 5 key, or have indented numbers and letters on all keys, nevertheless offer equitable access to persons with visual impairments?
b) Should paragraph 22 a) of Order 98-626 be revised by removing the reference to "larger buttons on the keypad spread further apart than standard sets", such that only a more tactile keypad would be mandated?
2.The Commission received comments from Paytel Canada, Inc. (Paytel), Fundy Cable Ltd./Ltée (Fundy), Protel Inc. (Protel), DKN Entreprise/Enterprises (DKN), Independent Payphone Management (IPM), Canada Payphone Corporation (CPC), Stentor Resource Centre Inc. (Stentor), the British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre, on behalf of the BC Old Age Pensioners' Organization, Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of BC, federated anti-poverty groups of BC, Senior Citizens' Association of BC, West End Seniors' Network, End Legislated Poverty, BC Coalition for Information Access, and Tenants Rights Action Coalition (BCOAPO et al.), Chris and Marie Stark (the Starks), The Payphone Connection, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (the Coalition), and Goldiphones. The Commission also received reply comments from Stentor, Paytel, CPC and the Starks.
3.Paytel, Fundy, Protel, DKN, IPM, CPC and Stentor submitted that Order 98-626 should be modified for several reasons, including the following:
a) the only pay telephone that currently meets the requirements set out in Order 98-626 is the Millennium set, manufactured by Northern Telecom Limited;
b) other pay telephone manufacturers are based in the United States and their pay telephones comply with American regulatory requirements, including a raised dimple on the number 5 key and standard keypad. Competitive Pay Telephone Service Providers (CPTSPs) intend to use these pay telephones for the Canadian market, noting that most Millennium pay telephones do not have a dimple on the number 5 key. The raised dimple on the number 5 key would provide equitable access to persons with visual disabilities;
c) organisations that study the issue of accessibility by visually impaired persons, such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), favour a raised dimple on the number 5 key on a standard keypad; and
d) the subjectiveness of paragraph 22 a) could lead to the development of keypads with varying sizes, which would be even more confusing for the visually impaired.
4.BCOAPO et al., the Starks and the Coalition submitted that Order 98-626 should not be modified.
5.BCOAPO et al., after consulting with the CNIB, stated that the dimple on the number 5 key was the single most important feature for visually impaired persons. BCOAPO et al. also noted that the CNIB considers that larger and contrasted numbers and letters on keypads might also be of assistance. The CNIB also advised BCOAPO et al. that indented numbers on the keypad offer virtually no assistance to the visually impaired because they are extremely difficult to read, while larger buttons spread further apart might be confusing to some visually impaired people who are used to standard keypads. BCOAPO et al. also indicated that the United States Federal Communications Commission is in the process of developing guidelines to ensure that pay telephones have standardized universal design, so as to be usable by the broadest possible audience.
6.However, BCOAPO et al. submitted that organisations for the physically disabled favour larger keypads spaced further apart because they would be of great assistance for persons with limited dexterity. BCOAPO et al. also maintained that parties who support modifying Order 98-626 have not proved that the pay telephones they intend to use would continue to accommodate persons with physical disabilities to the same extent as pay telephones which comply with all of the safeguards in Order 98-626.
7.The Starks also maintained that parties who want to modify Order 98-626 should have to substantiate, with supporting studies and tests, that other types of pay telephones meet the needs of persons with disabilities. In the Starks' view, Order 98-626 should be modified to require that CPTSPs demonstrate their willingness and capacity to provide pay telephones that accommodate visually impaired persons and persons with other types of impairment before they provide pay telephone service.
8.The Coalition, for its part, stated that it supports the comments provided by BCOAPO et al. and the Starks. It also requested that the Commission extend its proceeding in order to solicit further input from the disabled community.
9.The Commission is of the view that paragraph 22 a) of Order 98-626 is unclear. While Order 98-626 requires that pay telephones be equipped with larger keys spaced further apart than standard sets, it does not define the term "standard sets". This makes it difficult for manufacturers, pay telephone providers and consumers, including persons with disabilities, to interpret paragraph 22 a) with certainty. In the Commission's view, the ambiguity of paragraph 22 a) could lead to the deployment of keypads that may not necessarily best serve the needs of persons with disabilities.
10.The Commission considers that the submissions regarding keypad size raise concerns and difficulties in trying to balance the equally important, but at times conflicting needs of persons with differing disabilities. The Commission notes the statements that suggest that while larger buttons on the keypad spaced further apart may assist persons with impaired physical dexterity, such a feature may hamper access for some persons with visual impairments who may be used to standard keypads and thus be confused by the larger keypads spaced further apart. These statements also suggest that modified keypads may not provide comparable assistance to that of a raised dimple, for example. In addition, the subjectiveness of paragraph 22 a) could lead to the use of keypads with varying sizes which may also be confusing to persons with visual impairments. In the Commission's view, the record demonstrates the need to further examine what the appropriate characteristics of pay telephone keypads should be, with a view to establishing appropriate standards.
11.The Commission considers that in the current circumstances, paragraph 22 a) gives rise to considerable uncertainty, to the potential detriment of persons with disabilities as well as to incumbent and competitive providers of pay telephones. The Commission is of the view that to maintain such an ambiguous rule is not in the public interest. Accordingly, the Commission considers that paragraph 22 a) should be deleted from Order 98-626, and that further requirements regarding keypads should not be imposed until such time as suitable standards have been developed.
12.In this regard, the Commission considers it appropriate to request the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to examine what technical and ergonomic characteristics should be integral to pay telephones, particularly with regard to keypads, to best address the needs of persons with disabilities. In the Commission's view, the CSA has the required expertise and is well equipped to develop standards that meet the various needs of persons with disabilities. The Commission notes that the CSA takes into account the input of a wide range of stakeholders, such as industry players and consumers, including persons with disabilities. The CSA also has the ability to monitor and consider developments in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, in selecting a standard, or set of standards.
13.Accordingly, the Commission has today written to the CSA requesting that it develop a standard or set of standards regarding the characteristics that should be integral to pay telephones, particularly with regard to keypads, to best address the needs of persons with disabilities.
14.The Commission notes that persons with disabilities will benefit from the other pay telephone features mandated in Order 98-626. With respect to the keypads themselves, until such time as an appropriate standard or set of standards is in place, the Commission will expect the industry players to make every effort to provide pay telephones with more tactile keypads that take into account the various needs of persons with disabilities.
15.The Commission notes that once a standard or set of standards is in place, providers of pay telephones will be compelled to meet it as a condition of providing service.
16.The Commission is also concerned that Order 98-626 and Decision 98-8, as they now apply, could deter deployment of pay telephones using alternate technologies, such as wireless. For example, the Commission notes that there are currently pay telephones in airplanes, trains, boats and limousines. Wireless pay telephones may also be installed in very remote work sites not served by wireline facilities. The Commission notes that in certain cases, it may not be physically or economically feasible to require that all of the functionalities set out in paragraph 22 of Order 98-626 be provided.
17.The Commission notes that Order 98-626 requires that pay telephone providers install pay telephones that provide all of the functionalities set out in Order 98-626 unless they can demonstrate that compliance with all of the requirements would constitute undue hardship. The Commission notes that it is also open to parties to seek exemption from the requirements of Order 98-626 for pay telephones in circumstances other than undue hardship, where non-compliance with some or all of these requirements would not be in violation of subsection 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act.
18.The Commission further notes that IPM has requested that CPC's registration as a CPTSP be suspended until the Commission has issued a determination on whether paragraph 22 a) should be modified. In view of the present determination, the Commission considers that IPM's request is now moot and therefore denies IPM's request to suspend CPC's registration.
19.The Commission notes that it received comments from Stentor, outlining its member companies' interpretation of what might reasonably and practically be expected to constitute "undue hardship" as it relates to the provision of public pay telephones. The Commission also received an application by Northwestel Inc. requesting that paragraph 22 of Order 98-626 not apply to it. The Commission considers that these requests fall outside the scope of the current proceeding and will accordingly be dealt with separately.
20.In view of the above, the Commission orders that paragraph 22 a) be deleted from Order 98-626.
Secretary General
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