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TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS BEFORE
THE CANADIAN RADIO‑TELEVISION AND
TRANSCRIPTION DES AUDIENCES DEVANT
LE CONSEIL DE LA RADIODIFFUSION
ET DES TÉLÉCOMMUNICATIONS CANADIENNES
SUBJECT / SUJET:
Unresolved issues related to the accessibility of
telecommunications and broadcasting services to
persons with disabilities /
Questions en suspens concernant l'accessibilité des
services de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion pour
les personnes handicapées
HELD AT: TENUE À:
Conference Centre Centre de conférences
Outaouais Room Salle Outaouais
140 Promenade du Portage 140, Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec Gatineau (Québec)
November 18, 2008 Le 18 novembre 2008
In order to meet the requirements of the Official Languages
Act, transcripts of proceedings before the Commission will be
bilingual as to their covers, the listing of the CRTC members
and staff attending the public hearings, and the Table of
However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded
verbatim transcript and, as such, is taped and transcribed in
either of the official languages, depending on the language
spoken by the participant at the public hearing.
Afin de rencontrer les exigences de la Loi sur les langues
officielles, les procès‑verbaux pour le Conseil seront
bilingues en ce qui a trait à la page couverture, la liste des
membres et du personnel du CRTC participant à l'audience
publique ainsi que la table des matières.
Toutefois, la publication susmentionnée est un compte rendu
textuel des délibérations et, en tant que tel, est enregistrée
et transcrite dans l'une ou l'autre des deux langues
officielles, compte tenu de la langue utilisée par le
participant à l'audience publique.
Canadian Radio‑television and
Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des
Transcript / Transcription
Unresolved issues related to the accessibility of
telecommunications and broadcasting services to
persons with disabilities /
Questions en suspens concernant l'accessibilité des
services de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion pour
les personnes handicapées
BEFORE / DEVANT:
Leonard Katz Chairperson / Président
Elizabeth Duncan Commissioner / Conseillère
Timothy Denton Commissioner / Conseiller
Suzanne Lamarre Commissioner / Conseillère
Candice Molnar Commissioner / Conseillère
Stephen Simpson Commissioner / Conseiller
ALSO PRESENT / AUSSI PRÉSENTS:
Sylvie Bouffard Secretary / Secretaire
Kathleen Taylor Hearing Manager /
Gérante de l'audience
Martine Vallée Director, Social Policy /
Sheila Perron Hearing Officer /
Lori Pope Legal Counsel /
Véronique Lehoux Conseillères juridiques
HELD AT: TENUE À:
Conference Centre Centre de conférences
Outaouais Room Salle Outaouais
140 Promenade du Portage 140, Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec Gatineau (Québec)
November 18, 2008 Le 18 novembre 2008
- iv -
TABLE DES MATIÈRES / TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE / PARA
PRESENTATION BY / PRÉSENTATION PAR:
Neil Squire Society 319 / 1734
Chris and Jeff Stark 387 / 2107
Canadian Association of the Deaf 424 / 2351
Henry Vlug 435 / 2406
TELUS Communications 483 / 2717
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians 586 / 3368
Gatineau, Quebec / Gatineau (Québec)
‑‑‑ Upon resuming on Tuesday, November 18, 2008
at 0903 / L'audience reprend le mardi 18 novembre
2008 à 0903
1722 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the second day of this hearing.
1723 I will pass it on to the Secretary for any preliminary remarks and introductions.
1724 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
1725 Bonjour à tous. Good morning everyone.
1726 For the benefit of those who were not in the room yesterday, I would like to go over a few housekeeping matters.
1727 I would like to remind everyone that when you are in the hearing room, we ask that you completely turn off, and not leave on vibration mode, your cell phones and BlackBerrys, as they cause interference on the internal communications systems used by our translators and interpreters.
1728 Please note that ASL and LSQ sign language interpretation services will be made available throughout the hearing, if needed. Please advise the Hearing Secretary if you require such services.
1729 Furthermore, French and English captioning of the hearing is available on the screens to my left, as well as on the CRTC's web home page.
1730 If you require assistance during the consultation, our staff members, in and outside the hearing room, or in the public examination room, will be pleased to help you.
1731 For ease of reference, I will name the panel members, from left to right: Elizabeth Duncan, Timothy Denton, Suzanne Lamarre, Leonard Katz, Candice Molnar, and Stephan Simpson.
1732 I would now call on our first participant, the Neil Squire Society.
1733 Please introduce yourselves for the record. You will then have 15 minutes for your presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
1734 MR. BIRCH: Thank you very much.
1735 Good morning. My name is Gary Birch, and I am the Executive Director of the Neil Squire Society.
1736 Along with me today is Harry Lew, Manager of Research and Development for the Neil Squire Society.
1737 I would like to begin by thanking the Commission for inviting me to speak today, and for the recognition of the critical issues related to persons with disabilities by initiating these hearings.
1738 I see that this is a good start, which I hope will represent the first step in an important process that will achieve equality of access to telecommunications services for all Canadians.
1739 The Neil Squire Society is a Canadian not‑for‑profit organization whose mission is to enable people with significant physical disabilities to achieve great independence through the development, adaptation and use of innovative services and technology for the home and workplace.
1740 Our primary target group is those with mobility and agility impairments.
1741 Since its inception in 1984, the Society has opened doors to independence for over 20,000 Canadians with physical disabilities.
1742 The Neil Squire Society is unique, as it is one of the few not‑for‑profit, community‑based organizations that maintains an active research and development group.
1743 The Society's greater mandate is to use technology to help these individuals fully participate in the activities of society, such as living independently, going to school, and holding meaningful employment.
1744 Due to its unique combination of technical capacity and close affiliation and interaction with the disability community, the Neil Squire Society works actively with industry to inform them of the issues that affect persons with disabilities with regards to emerging technologies.
1745 One of our key areas of focus is to carry out initiatives that will help to make new and existing technologies in the area of information and communication technologies accessible, and improve their usability and accessibility.
1746 Ideally, we would like to make them accessible from the earliest stages of development, to eliminate the accessibility gap.
1747 We are pleased that the CRTC is having these hearings, as the CRTC is the most appropriate body, with the mandate, responsibility and potential mechanisms to take real action to address the issues that I and others will raise during these proceedings.
1748 Canada is lagging way behind many other jurisdictions around the world in terms of addressing the issues of access to telecommunications, particularly emerging technologies for persons with disabilities.
1749 For example, this is demonstrated in the fact that our related industries are the slowest to adopt next‑generation services, such as video relay and speech‑to‑speech services, and in the lack of regulations in Canada that are supported by other jurisdictions, such as the requirement for hearing aid compatibility on cell phones.
1750 The key issues that I would like to emphasize this morning are as follows:
1751 Accessibility of wireless hand‑held platforms:
1752 The nature of the relationship between Canadian consumers and the telecom service providers has changed dramatically. Less than 10 years ago, telecom service providers were focused on developing long‑term relationships with consumers by delivering a single, stable, voice product to consumers. Today the telecom service providers are driven more so by innovation and are focused on attracting customers to next‑generation services that will drive additional revenue.
1753 The result is that an intimate relationship has been created between the telecom service providers and the handset manufacturers.
1754 The telecom service providers cannot deliver new services without having the next‑generation features in the handsets. Similarly, the handsets cannot access those services without the appropriate infrastructure being supported by the telecom service providers.
1755 So when we talk about accessibility to services provided by the telecom service providers, we cannot ignore the relationship between the telecom service providers and the handset manufacturers, and the role they play in getting handset manufacturers to create handsets appropriate for the needs of their customers.
1756 Accessibility of wireless hand‑held platforms ‑‑ cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, et cetera ‑‑ to persons with disabilities, and, in particular, in the case of persons with mobility impairment, means providing accessible input, control and mechanical functions, as well as accessible output, display and control functions, such that all of the services that are provided by the telecom service providers, all of the wireless networks, are usable by persons with disabilities.
1757 To achieve this end would involve a requirement on the telecom service providers to implement strict procurement requirements, which would create a significant pressure on handset manufacturers to require them to produce their technology in accessible formats.
1758 We envision, as a minimum, that this should result in a commitment regulated by the CRTC for telecom service providers to carry at least two or more accessible devices across all services provided, basic and advanced.
1759 Accessibility of the services provided by the telecom service providers is completely tied in with accessibility of the handsets. The two cannot be separated.
1760 Persons with disabilities will not have equal access to telecommunications in Canada unless both the services and the platforms that they are provided on are accessible.
1761 The CRTC, therefore, must revisit the mechanisms available to them, to ensure that these procurement requirements are put into place.
1762 The telecom service providers have indicated to us that they are too small a market to make any difference. This is not true. Handset manufacturers are getting pressured by telecom service providers from many other major jurisdictions around the world, and Canada's telecom service providers should be aggressively adding their voice to this end.
1763 Also, although not always typical, there are examples where small market telecom service providers have had an important impact on handset manufacturers to produce platforms that meet special needs.
1764 As an example of a step in the right direction, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, has rules requiring telecom service providers to make their products and services accessible to persons with disabilities if this access is readily achievable.
1765 Where access is not readily achievable, Section 255 requires manufacturers and service providers to make their devices and services compatible with peripheral devices and special customer equipment that are commonly used by people with disabilities, if such compatibility is readily achievable.
1766 In fact, we have demonstrated ourselves at the Neil Squire Society that such solutions, on various commercially available platforms, are often technically readily achievable, but because of current business practices these solutions are not usually considered by the telecom service providers and the handset manufacturers.
1767 The point is, the problem is not often technical, it is the business practices involved.
1768 The important role of regulation:
1769 Despite the social responsibility of industry, the desire to help persons with disabilities does not translate into corporate policy or business decisions.
1770 There is a role for regulation, and most of the major strides in disability rights and inclusion in the last decade have come about due to regulations.
1771 It is important not to overlook the catalyst effect that regulation has on industry to deliver on their social contract.
1772 Other jurisdictions and global not‑for‑profit organizations that specialize in this area have recognized that regulation is the most effective means to address these issues.
1773 For more details, see the answers submitted by the Neil Squire Society to the CRTC on September 5th, 2008.
1774 We have often heard the argument from various industry stakeholders that market forces will address the issues of accessibility. Over the past several years we have been working with industry, and although there has been some interest to work with us on solutions for persons with disabilities, it has become very clear to me that these market forces and social responsibilities play a very small role in their decision to get involved with these initiatives.
1775 The clear motivating force is regulation from other jurisdictions around the world that requires issues of accessibility to be addressed. It is time for Canada to become one of those jurisdictions that recognizes this need and implements regulation, and no longer runs the risk of becoming the dumping ground of inaccessible technologies.
1776 Emergency services:
1777 In the recent past there have been many examples of emergency situations, both large‑scale and small‑scale, where the use of various wireless telecom devices and services has been instrumental in the saving of lives.
1778 In fact, many emergency service protocols are now integrating these types of devices and services into the core of their procedures. For detailed examples, please, again, see the answers to questions submitted to the CRTC by the Neil Squire Society on September 5th, 2008.
1779 If these devices and services are not accessible, then persons with disabilities will be excluded from this extremely valuable form of receiving assistance in an emergency situation, often the very individuals who are most at risk.
1780 Therefore, this becomes the most compelling reason of all for the CRTC to take action to boldly implement various mechanisms, including regulation, as it has a clear responsibility to ensure that persons with disabilities have proper access to these devices in emergency situations.
1782 These new and emerging wireless telecom technologies and services that utilize the cellular networks and provide various business‑related services are also being adopted and integrated into the mainstream at a very rapid pace.
1783 Therefore, because these technologies and services are generally not accessible, this is becoming a serious issue for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce. Not only is this a barrier to persons with disabilities who are trying to enter the workforce, it is also a major threat to those who are already in the workforce and are not able to access this new technology as it becomes part of the standing operating procedures entrenched in business.
1784 Given that economic and social inclusion through employment is critical to many persons with disabilities, this is yet another important reason why it is essential that the CRTC take appropriate action.
1785 Ongoing consultation, market research and usability testing:
1786 The telecom service providers and the handset manufacturers cannot deliver appropriate accessible technology on their own. We need to ensure that mechanisms are put in place, such that there is ongoing consultation with consumer groups representing persons with disabilities, related market research to identify gaps and usability, and accessibility testing that involves actual consumers with disabilities of the new and emerging technologies and services.
1787 The information resulting from these processes would be required to be fed back to the telecom service providers and the handset manufacturers, to continually improve the accessibility and usability of these emerging services and technologies.
1788 Currently there is no process in place to consult the disability community before new services, hardware and features are deployed by industry.
1789 We envision that this could be accomplished by a multi‑level engagement process, involving consumers with disabilities and the related consumer groups, as discussed above, along with key industry, government and other regulatory bodies, to change the nature of the technology to make it inherently accessible through the setting of standards, regulation and education.
1790 New and emerging technologies have the potential to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. However, too often they become additional barriers and a form of exclusion because of their inaccessibility.
1791 It is important to be designing solutions for the next generation of services and devices, as well as the current ones which may be obsolete in a few months. To accomplish this will take a coordinated effort by all stakeholders.
1792 The development of these multi‑level consultation processes becomes the next step that must be undertaken in a fashion that will involve the meaningful interaction of all stakeholders, which will result in effective mechanisms and appropriate regulations that should be a win‑win for all parties.
1794 Sufficient funding of community‑based groups working with persons with disabilities to work with the telecom service providers and the handset manufacturers is absolutely critical to enabling this community to be fully engaged in a range of processes designed to eliminate the accessibility gap.
1795 This would include a need for research to better understand the needs of persons with disabilities across the spectrum of disability, for the creation of standards, and the development of adaptive technology solutions, including research and experimentation. It would also include the processes that I discussed earlier in regards to consultation.
1796 The funding required needs to be substantial to close the accessibility gap. It needs to be permanent to meet this persistent need and to address problems effectively over the long term.
1797 There is no current source of funding for this type of work. It is envisioned that funding could come from three potential sources ‑‑ government, industry, and the users in general.
1798 The first two sources are often looked towards for support and, indeed, mechanisms with these organizations should be pursued.
1799 However, the third potential source should be examined very closely.
1800 As Canadians, we have a strong social history of supporting the most marginalized, whether abroad or in our own communities. This is a unique social value and a responsibility that is embraced by all Canadians.
1801 A user‑supported initiative could involve a mechanism whereby those who benefit from the use of these new and emerging telecom technologies and services would contribute to a fund, likely through a levy type of system, that would be designated to ensure that these technologies and services are designed to be inclusive for all consumers.
1802 Given the extremely large pool of users, the financial burden on any one user would be very small, almost unnoticeable. There are examples of this already in the form of the levy that some Canadian carriers charge each of their subscribers to support relay services.
1803 In closing, I would like to thank you for this opportunity once again, and I look forward to our question and answer period.
1804 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Birch.
1805 We will start the questioning with Commissioner Simpson.
1806 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning. Thank you very much for your presentation, and thank you for helping us get a priority sense for the issues that you feel are important to Canadians with disabilities.
1807 I would like to start my questioning with respect to your first point, concerning the accessibility of wireless hand‑held platforms.
1808 Being from Vancouver, I am very familiar with your organization and its work. To that extent, it has been my observation that you have a very strong sense of what is capable technologically, in terms of what is available in the marketplace. So your observations I take very close to heart.
1809 The issue of the gap that exists right now in wireless hand‑held platforms, what would you say is the principal reason that issues of universal standards and goals toward closing that gap through the use of standards exists today, given the relatively high concentration of manufacturers?
1810 There are, ostensibly, half a dozen worldwide manufacturers of hand‑held platforms, and yet universal standards don't seem to be a priority with this group.
1811 What is the principal driver that is missing in terms of universal standardization?
1812 MR. BIRCH: That is a great question. I will take a stab at it, and Harry may have some input on it, as well.
1813 I believe that part of it is because technologies are changing so fast. That is at the root of a lot of the issues that I brought up today. It is the speed at which new technologies and services are being deployed.
1814 I think it is a highly competitive environment. I believe that that is one of the reasons it has been hard to agree on certain standards because they all want to have their proprietary ways of input/output‑type scenarios with their devices.
1815 It is that very lack of standardization that actually makes dealing with these devices so difficult. We have many examples where we develop a solution, an interface that will allow, say, a high‑level quadriplegic to use a device. We just get it prototyped and working and then that device is off the market and their new device uses a new operating system or a different way of interacting with it so that our solution and all the work we put into it is for naught.
1816 So that's why it's so important, we need to change that paradigm and actually work with industry and help them design these devices such that we can make them accessible with a little effort.
1817 So your question on standards, I think that's the main reason, is that the technology is moving so quickly and there is a lot of competition between the manufacturers and they are not eager to standardize on these points.
1818 MR. LEW: There is a lack of coordination between a lot of the national standard bodies. So if you look at between North America, which is obviously the U.S., Canada and Europe and then Asia themselves, they all have their own standards, not necessarily ‑‑ they obviously don't all have standards in terms of accessibility. In some cases they are guidelines as opposed to standards.
1819 But coordinating them and getting them to cooperate is something that Europe is starting to try to do to create sort of an international type of standard, but there are these jurisdictional things between nations that national standard bodies prefer to create their own standards and that hasn't changed in a significant way where there's an international standards body that is coordinating everything around accessibility.
1820 We haven't seen that type of agency and there is not a ‑‑ I don't think there is one international organization that represents disability issues right now. They are still basically based in a specific country per se. Right?
1821 So when they are bringing forward standards ‑‑ so if you are talking about United States, they tend to be more progressive mainly because there are significant lobby groups in the disability issues that are well coordinated and well‑funded to push those issues at that level, where if you look at Europe they are a little bit behind in terms of what's happening than the United States.
1822 If you look at Canada themselves, they tend to lag 10 years behind just standards in general that are involved in the telecommunications industry. So it's just not disability issues, but it's emergency, enhanced emergency 9‑1‑1 facilities, those kinds of things, the newer types of technology.
1823 I think what you are seeing is just a lag and a certain amount of national barriers, for lack of a word, for lack of harmonization between standards.
1824 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: One of the challenges in a country looking at regulation to try and impose standards as opposed to other means of cooperation is to try and determine to the satisfaction of all concerned that there are very specific hardships, barriers, discriminatory barriers that are created by a lack of universal access.
1825 Is there any particular information that you can point us to that gives us a sense for whether you feel that there is a palpable level of discrimination?
1826 We know there are technological and physical barriers associated with the inability to access certain types of devices, but do you have a position on the issue of discrimination with respect to hardships that are coming as a result of the inability to use platforms now?
1827 MR. BIRCH: I'm not sure I fully understand your question. Are you looking for statistics or examples?
1828 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, sure. I think the question that we are putting to all groups is to try and elevate the understanding beyond the cost issues and into issues that move more into not just quality of life issues but the real determination that that there are measurable implications to the barriers.
1829 MR. BIRCH: Okay. I don't think statistics exist to back this up, but I have some examples I will try to give you quickly. I will keep my examples to people with mobility disabilities.
1830 A lot of colleagues here today at these hearings will be talking about other forms of disability that also run into the very serious forms of discrimination. But yes, in my mind we run up against it every day.
1831 There is all ‑‑ there are folks with high‑level disabilities who cannot use the devices that the rest of their coworkers use in the workplace. We have ‑‑ as an example, we have an MP right now in the House of Commons that cannot use his wireless device. He needs to have his assistant use it for him.
1832 You know, people ‑‑ I, with my cell phone, I can use some of the basic functions, but to use some of the more advanced functions I can't with my fingers so I'm not able to ‑‑ I'm not allowed to use some of those services that my able‑bodied counterparts are.
1833 I'm trying to think of other ‑‑ but there are many instances where people are not able, where their able‑bodied counterparts would simply use the device to go shopping or to access their bank accounts or to call up their friends or whatever, those all become either very difficult to do or impossible to do because of the lack of accessibility.
1834 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Let's try and narrow this down for me a bit to the area of employability as a way to try and put some dialogue to the record with respect to that issue.
1835 So as I understand from your presentation and from the work that your group has been doing, one of the main identifiers that you have rested a lot of your Society's work on has been the ability to reintroduce people into the workplace as a result of access to and the development of new technology.
1836 MR. BIRCH: Yes, that has been a key part of our work, yeah.
1837 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Is that a driver that brings about a renewed interest or a new interest to the TSPs and the manufacturers?
1838 I'm now starting to move into the area of work groups. I know that you have been working, for example, was Nokia.
1839 MR. BIRCH: Yes.
1840 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: As you go through the mechanisms to bring about opportunities for funding and projects that work collaboratively with telecommunications companies and manufacturers, what is the most effective proposition that you bring to the table that causes them to want to participate on your projects?
1841 MR. BIRCH: Yes, I can answer that.
1842 Just before I do, I would like to go back to sort of the beginning of your question and it goes back to your first question about discrimination.
1843 In the workplace now it is becoming ‑‑ these are trends that we are seeing, but people are required to do e‑mail while they are away from the office. I can't do my e‑mail effectively at all. I couldn't even get on yesterday and then when I do get on, it's very, very ‑‑ it's almost not worth me even trying.
1844 Those are the kinds of trends we are seeing and it is becoming the expected business practice in a lot of cases. So just to finish that example off.
1845 The reason industry seems to want to work with us ‑‑ and we met with them. We tried to give them business cases about, you know, if you make your device more usable and more accessible, then that's good for everybody. We tried to make business cases in terms of the aging demographics and there's going to be needs for devices that, you know, are usable by people with low vision and loss of dexterity, et cetera.
1846 Those types of arguments, although they seem interested to a certain extent, don't really seem to be the decision‑maker. The decision‑maker is that they are facing markets and jurisdictions that have requirements to make their devices accessible and that seems to be, in my experience, the reason why they actually come to the table, sit down and actually contract us to help them.
1847 MR. LEW: Just to add to Gary's comments, the reason that the manufacturers are interested in working with us is mainly because we are an organization with an internal technical capability. So in a lot of cases they will work with disability groups and the disability groups will say well, we don't like this feature, but then when the handset manufacturers themselves turn around and ask them, well, what is it you don't like in technical terms, they are not able to articulate that because in a lot of cases obviously they don't have engineers on staff.
1848 In our case, we are an organization that was built on technology and focused on using technology and emerging technologies to help people with disabilities. So we have the technical capabilities so we can actually translate into the actual technical terms what needs to get done on a specific platform or device to make it accessible.
1849 So that's really the advantage.
1850 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: That's an excellent segue, thank you, to my next question.
1851 Turning around to the groups that you work with in the disability communities, do you have or can you provide for the record some more information concerning ‑‑ you were saying earlier, and this seems to be an endemic situation for us as well in that we are finding it difficult to really get a handle on solid information that gives us insight as to those exact barriers.
1852 We understand to a certain extent the impositions that occur, but it seems that you have a good handle, or at least are working toward technology that is in response to those needs.
1853 Is there anything you can add to what you have just said, Mr. Lew, regarding disability communities and how they communicate their needs presently?
1854 I'm asking very specifically: Do you know or do you have data that you can share with the Commission that gives insight as to the needs of the disability communities with respect to handheld wireless technology?
1855 MR. LEW: We do have studies that we've done for specific carriers, I mean for handset manufacturers, but in a lot of cases those were done under non‑disclosure agreements. So we are not able to put forward in a public forum some of the issues that we saw on a specific design per se.
1856 In general, it really depends on the design so there's not a general set of guidelines per se, I mean for a specific handset. There are obviously best practices that we have sort of seen and which we are suggesting to some of the handset manufacturers.
1857 I don't know if you are looking for those kinds of examples right now or...
1858 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I'm trying to go to the issue of having a better understanding of the need by the communities.
1859 MR. BIRCH: Could I just add, what we are finding with each handset and related services that are provided on those handsets, that the only way to really understand what is working well and what needs to be improved is in these usability testing sessions where we actually have people with disabilities, across the spectrum of disabilities, come in and actually use these devices and through a bit of a methodology and then understand what's working and what's not.
1860 We are finding that that ‑‑ as Gary pointed out, we are gaining some best practices but each one is relatively unique and I think that that ‑‑ you know, when it's talking about the consultation process, I think that has to be built in somehow; that is, new handsets and services are coming out and you really need the input from the actual users about how to make this device usable.
1861 It may be hard to pull off a binder of standards that would guarantee that.
1862 I think best practices, yes, but maybe detailed, maybe not.
1863 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1864 In your presentation you referenced that in the United States the FCC has applied a ruling, section 255, which requires manufacturers and service providers to make devices and services compatible with peripheral devices and specialized customer equipment.
1865 Can you expand on that, please?
1866 MR. BIRCH: Yes, and Harry can bail me out here.
1867 Basically I think what they are saying there is that if you can't make your device as a stand‑alone device easily accessible for a given consumer, that you make it easily ‑‑ that you make it such that adaptive devices like in our case something like a sip‑and‑puff switch or some other form of adaptive technology that a person would normally use to interact with technology can be interfaced to that device.
1868 That's a common kind of scenario, where we are trying to figure out how to use a double or a single input switch to interface with the device.
1869 So am I answering your question? That's what we're trying to ‑‑ the point is they should do that were readily achievable.
1870 I guess my point was that based on our experience there are sometimes some technological hurdles there, but often they are not that great and it's just the business practices that come into place that actually become the biggest hurdle.
1871 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1872 Just one final question on the technology side of things.
1873 With respect to integrated approaches, taking technology and support for the technology from service providers, could you speak for a moment, please, on how vital you feel or not the integration of training and customer support to go hand‑in‑hand with the technology, how valuable that is to the success of a new technology?
1874 MR. LEW: If I understand your question right, you are talking about the general services or the handsets themselves or the technology or just a broader ‑‑
1875 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: General services.
1876 MR. LEW: Okay. I think what we are seeing right now is that as you talk about next generation services ‑‑ and it goes back to your other question asking about the need that you sort of see.
1877 So in the old days when you are talking telephones, you are only talking about voice, right. You are just having to supply voice and the ability to call. Now when you are talking about the new next generation technologies, it's anywhere from e‑mail to SMS to web browsing to streamed video type services to even videoconferencing, in terms of some of the features that are envisioned in future.
1878 So when you talk about those level of complexity of systems, what you are seeing is more of a barrier being created. So to browse the web not only do you have to be able to scroll around the screen to navigate let's say a website, but you are also having to enter text in order to make that actually interact with that.
1879 So the level of accessibility increases exponentially.
1880 Not only are you ‑‑ so in the old days obviously dialling, one of the solutions is using voice recognition technology to actually make a phone call. Well, there isn't the power or the capability on a handset to do speech to text to actually, let's say, dictate a voicemail message or go on the Internet or do something very advanced in terms of ‑‑ I mean, some of the smart phones you can actually obviously use Excel or Word documents or read and review and actually edit documents themselves. So some of the handsets are almost getting to the point where they almost are like mini PCs that you are carrying themselves.
1881 So when you are looking at that level of complexity in terms of the applications that are being delivered to the consumer, the level of complexity of the solution also rises, too.
1882 Now, to go back to your other question about training, obviously training and education is a really important component. I mean, a good example is that we were trying to get handsets for a specific study we were doing and we were trying to approach carriers to see which handsets were actually available in Canada that supported certain assisted technology.
1883 What we did find is that when we approached the carriers is that even though they had accessible technology listed on their website or a person referred to who we should talk to, when we actually talked to a local person at a store that would actually sell you the handsets, they didn't know anything about it. They couldn't refer me to a specific 1‑800 number or website where I could find more information about that.
1884 So there is a lack of understanding within the carriers in terms of the education of their own internal staff of how to deal with the request from the accessibility perspective.
1885 In our case it wasn't specifically around mobility impairment. It was actually about another impairment, in this case vision. So we were trying to get a telephone system that would support essentially a text‑to‑speech system which we were trying to do for a study and we did have ‑‑ we were referred to specific handsets through our contacts at Nokia, but then trying to find what handset was actually available in Canada from a carrier and then trying to find out information on how that was supported and whether it was subscriber‑based or whether you had to just go buy the handset yourself was a difficult issue for us.
1886 So it's important for the consumers when they contact the carriers to actually get accurate information in terms of what is available so they understand their choices. But it is also important within the carrier structures themselves that they educate their staff so they know where to refer to those kinds of inquiries.
1887 So that we are finding is still lacking in the current environment.
1888 I'm not sure if that answers your question or not.
1889 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yes, it does, thank you.
1890 Pursuing this a little further, just to round out some other information that I'm after, with respect to websites in particular, to service provider websites, is there anything else that you have not mentioned that comes to mind with respect to information and services that could be improved upon by the service providers?
1891 MR. LEW: Are you talking just outside of the websites or in addition to websites?
1892 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I'm thinking specifically about the websites at this point as a conveyance device for information.
1893 MR. LEW: Yes. What we have found is that obviously there are accessibility standards around websites primarily focused on the vision impairment. So if you look at the W3C standards, they have mainly been approved by the people from the vision impairment side as opposed to the other disability organizations, and that has been the primary focus of those sets of standards.
1894 If you look at some of the carrier websites across Canada, not all of them meet those W3C standards. In some cases I know ‑‑ we know of one carrier where they have created a parallel website for people with disabilities and another one for consumers themselves.
1895 So rather than adhere to the standards themselves, they have decided to just split it off.
1896 Part of it is because of just the technology. I mean, obviously their main site is very consumer driven and they are selling to that very young demographic, which obviously is very multimedia‑based. But if you look at a lot of the multimedia technology on their websites, it is less suitable for someone with a vision impairment, let's say, because they can't see what's happening in terms of a fancy video or a glitzy display that comes from the website themselves.
1897 Outside of the websites themselves, I mean there are still the support centres. So if you are going through an automated support centre, a lot of people with mobility impairment need more time to interact with the system and in some cases they actually will time out before they are able to access it.
1898 So if you are into an automatic call centre, if you don't push a button within a certain amount of time because you are using an alternative method to generate the push button, let's say, on your regular home telephone, you actually won't be able to get through to an actual support service from that side of it.
1899 So that's a good example where your disability is dictating how you are interacting with the system and whether your system isn't accommodating you from that perspective.
1900 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1901 The last question in this line. Outside of the website with respect to other communication formats that service providers have in their contact with their customers, are there any other formats or recommendations or ideas that your organization has that could improve upon or cause service providers to look at other formats ‑‑ I am thinking in the area of billing information, terms of service agreements and so on ‑‑ that can be improved upon.
1902 MR. LEW: I think people with disabilities face sort of the same challenges that regular consumers face in terms of billing. I mean it is still difficult to understand what you are paying for.
1903 One of the number one complaints, I think, we hear as consumers is that if I sign up for a contract, I don't get full disclosure of what I am actually paying for in terms of how many minutes. I mean a classic case is when ‑‑ I mean even the industry has a difficult time conveying that information to the consumer.
1904 I mean a classic case is I was at an industry conference in the United States and they were talking about billing for data minutes, right, and they basically said, well, the consumers don't understand how much they are being billed and the structure of data minutes, because I mean if you are paying by the minute, let's say you browse a website, you don't know what bill you are racking up, right. So at the end of the day, you may get a bill for $5 or you might get a bill for $500 depending on what it is.
1905 So from that marketing perspective, the industry actually went to unlimited minutes for a fixed fee because that was easier for the consumer to understand.
1906 So when you are talking about billing in other areas, I think the same challenges are there. I mean obviously for some people getting bills in alternative formats for the vision impairment, and I am guessing that they can speak to that. I mean it is the same as when you get a banking bill. You can get a Braille‑type format for the people that need it from that perspective.
1907 But in terms of the mobility impairment side of it, their challenges from that perspective in terms of actual billing are a little less because if they can get it in electronic format and on the web, obviously, as long as you are able to get an accessible computer, you are able to access that billing format.
1908 So there's ‑‑
‑‑‑ Discussion off the record
1909 MR. LEW: Yes.
1910 MR. BIRCH: I was just going to say ‑‑ Harry touched on it but I think for mobility impairment, it is keeping the language simple in a lot of cases so people understand what they are getting and what they are not getting.
1911 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1912 In the area of emergency services, you had indicated that ‑‑ you know, your identification of the obvious importance of easy and available access to those services.
1913 Could you expand ‑‑ you have been quite emphatic about your position that the CRTC should be taking appropriate action, immediate appropriate action. Could you expand on that issue and perhaps put a priority to some of the points you have?
1914 MR. BIRCH: Well, this is another one of those emerging trends that I see as incredibly important because as I started to do more and more research into this area, as I tried to indicate in my presentation, you will find that handheld wireless devices are becoming a main part of emergency plans for many institutions and I tried to give some examples in my submission to the answers to the Commission.
1915 And because of that it just seems ‑‑ I hope I am giving you the answer but it just seems that underlines ‑‑ I guess it is perhaps the best example of where a person with a disability must have access because that can be, you know, literally a life and death situation. So they need to be able to access their handsets and the related services and if they cannot do that, then they are going to be at a distinct disadvantage and at risk if they are not able to do so.
1916 So I think I am so emphatic about it because I see that as the most kind of life‑threatening kind of situation that is emerging. But ‑‑ yes.
1917 MR. LEW: I can add a little bit to that. I mean I think you are going to see this example sort of referred to a lot. Obviously, there was the Virginia Tech incident where there was, obviously, a shooting at Virginia Tech in the United States. In reaction to that, obviously, the House of Representatives have implemented some ‑‑ a Bill basically asking that the campuses are able to respond and get information out to students within 30 minutes.
1918 If you actually look at the incident itself, it is kind of interesting because there is, obviously, a 911 conference happening in Ottawa right now, at least from the Canadian members of that.
1919 What they found was that the cellular infrastructure actually was overwhelmed when that incident happened and the result was that a lot of the students ended up doing star 911 and trying to send an SMS message to emergency services. There is no support for SMS on emergency services. So those messages went to nowhere. So there was an expectation. Basically the students thought that service was available in an emergency situation and that wasn't a reality.
1920 Even now, I mean the early planning for the emergency services in North America, they are only now starting to look at supporting the next generation services like SMS and video relay.
1921 I know that I was talking to someone on the plane that was attending the conference. He said that in a lot of cases a lot of the operators had forgotten about the TTY system. So when they actually get an emergency call, if they don't actually hear a voice at the end of the line, they actually will hang up even though it may be a deaf person calling in on a TTY system.
1922 So that technology, even though it is getting older, that is the only way a hearing impaired person can actually make an emergency call through a TTY system, because the more conventional type of communications, which is SMS or email, is not supported by emergency services.
1923 So that is a case where the emergency services are not accessible to a specific disability group and there is no accommodation for that.
1924 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I just have two more questions.
1925 The first is on the formation of ongoing work groups. You distinguished that what is required is a multi‑level work group environment and I am wondering if you can give me an idea of what the perfect work group environment looks like.
1926 MR. BIRCH: I wish I could give you the perfect one. I think this will be a matter that needs to have some discussion between the stakeholders.
1927 But roughly, I envision that there probably is a role for an overview consultation process where there are some discussions about what are the key issues. But then I see very quickly getting down to smaller working groups that are actually trying to understand the specific issues involved with specific services and specific devices and that is where I am also suggesting that that be a very interactive process with actual consumers with disabilities and that that be followed up with actual resources to put solutions in place and that those solutions actually end up being available to people with disabilities.
1928 So it is along those lines. I believe that is what is really needed and the capacity of the not‑for‑profit organizations that are active in these areas and have the expertise around the disabilities. We simply don't have the capacity.
1929 I think Cathy Moore from the CNIB was making a similar point yesterday, that it is very difficult for us to keep up these processes because we are literally doing them off the side of our desks. So it is a really huge problem. If we don't have some capacity to stay involved, that expertise is not going to be in the loop and it is critical.
1930 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1931 The final question is to do with funding and my question is directed toward the notions of the purpose of the funding.
1932 You are indicating that more research is required to understand the user requirements; is that correct?
1933 MR. BIRCH: In some cases, yes. So in a place where there is no best practices or standards ‑‑ and that is going to happen because the pace of technology is changing so quickly ‑‑ there needs to be a forum where the handset manufacturers and the service providers can sit down and actually watch people interact with these devices and that is the best way to understand what needs to be done. You can't do that sitting around a table talking.
1934 I am sorry, am I answering your ‑‑
1935 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: That is a good start. You are indicating that this type of funding would be necessary to support ongoing research though; is that correct?
1936 MR. BIRCH: Yes, I am going to be careful with that. At least my thinking there is not so much just ongoing research for the sake of research but once you identify that these are the issues, then there needs to be some resources to then ideally work with the industry engineers and the technical capacity that does exist within the not‑for‑profit, which is fairly thin, but then you sit down and actually make those solutions happen, make them real.
1937 So, you know, once you have identified them, that is great, but then you actually have to solve them technically and then there is the whole business process and finding some mechanism where those solutions are then available to people and that has to be done in a way that keeps up with the pace of technology.
1938 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Now, the big question: Do you have or has it been discussed within the community as to what magnitude is required in terms of funding?
1939 MR. BIRCH: That is a very fair question and I don't have an answer, I am sorry. We have not had the resources or time to cost that out and I even hate to guess at it.
1940 But we are working in such a poverty kind of mentality right now that some funds of any kind would help and I think to do it right, it would be ‑‑ I think the numbers initially would sound big but if you divided that across all the population of users in Canada, it would be ‑‑ I am hoping a few cents per person would actually provide a fund that would enable all this to happen.
1941 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: That is per person across the board?
1942 MR. BIRCH: Yes.
1943 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay.
1944 MR. BIRCH: Like I say, we haven't done the homework to analyze that, the exact numbers well, but it is a conceptual thing at this point.
1945 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you. I think that concludes my ‑‑ sorry.
1946 MR. LEW: I think there is ‑‑ I mean I think there is a precedent for it. If you look at the way the relay systems are currently funded, I mean I believe that in Bell Canada's case there is like a 13‑cent levy per subscriber that goes towards funding the relay services, the existing relay services for the deaf.
1947 So we are not suggesting that ‑‑ anything new in terms of the funding mechanism in terms of dealing with this specific issue. What we are ‑‑ I guess we are at an early enough stage that we are suggesting the idea but we don't know the magnitude. Part of it is depending on how quickly new technology emerges. So I mean there is obviously a lot of different trends emerging.
1948 So I mean if you were to look at, let's say, banking and ‑‑ cellphone banking is a new emerging technology, right. So how do you understand the barriers of that and how much effort needs to go into understanding that for each one of the disability groups and how often does a new technology like that come along?
1949 If you look at it, banking and telecommunications are two of the most highly regulated industries. You know, how do you merge those two together and then dealing with issues around accessibility around those?
1950 So I mean it is difficult to say how deep those issues are without at least doing some initial studies and there really isn't a mechanism to necessarily do an initial study right now, no formal mechanism that makes industry and the disability organizations come to the table.
1951 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I think what I hear you saying is that it is an issue not just of ‑‑ I think this is what you said, that it is not just an issue of research applied to understanding technology and the betterment of technology for accessibility but all of the other related issues as that technology gets applied.
1952 MR. LEW: Yes. I mean at the end of the day we understand that technology is going to emerge very quickly and we know that from the telecommunications industry. In a lot of cases, even they don't know what services are going to catch on with the public.
1953 In some of the industry conferences that we have been to they have been quite frank in terms of like we didn't think that ringtones was going to take off, right. So ringtones is a billion dollar business for them but if you think about it, when they originally announced it and put it out there, they thought it was just like a small revenue value‑added service, right, but just because of the people's desire to personalize a phone, and that is more of a cultural shift, it has become a big money‑maker for them from that perspective, right.
1954 So when we are talking about next‑generation services, whether it is streamed video to your handsets or even banking, it is hard to say what is going to take off and we know that those emerging trends have to be prioritized in terms of what is happening, right.
1955 So whether you have to study every trend that comes up or whether just the ones that sort of come up as a high priority are going to determine the cost of what needs to get deployed.
1956 One other thing I would sort of add in terms of our previous discussion in terms of technology, within the handset manufacturers themselves, accessibility is really seen as a regulatory issue. So if we were to look at some of the handset manufacturers, their accessibility group is actually under the regulatory umbrella.
1957 As a result, those groups are limited in terms of being able to fund research in terms of accessibility. They actually have to go around to product design groups and twist arms and essentially get them to invest in an accessibility feature and that is sometimes a hard business case to make when they are trying to design the next generation of handsets to actually add a hook that ‑‑ or add a feature that would make it more accessible for a person.
1958 So even within their own organization within the handset manufacturers, having more visibility and having regulation is something they can point to to say, look, we have got to do this from a regulatory perspective as opposed to a business case or a good corporate citizen perspective. So I mean they have their own challenges within their groups themselves in terms of having visibility around accessibility.
1959 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you. That concludes my questioning.
1960 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Simpson.
1961 I think some of us on the panel also have a few questions. I have one and I will start.
1962 First of all, thank you very much for coming. I think your information you provided us is very appropriate and, in fact, I want to leverage on it as well.
1963 You folks are technologically savvy. You are looked upon by industry, as you say here, as a resource and you meet with industry. I think you also mentioned you meet with some of the handset manufacturers and some of the other folks as well.
1964 We heard yesterday some of the groups that represent people with disabilities saying that they don't have that expertise at all and you sort of appear to me as being right in the middle of this, right in the hub basically.
1965 You said in your submission earlier, dated July 24th, that during the deferral account you have met with this community coalition group of a number of various representatives of people with disabilities as well.
1966 To what extent are you working with those people on an active basis to answer ‑‑ to help them with some of the questions that they have where some of their members are looking for either technological interfaces or products that might help them as well?
1967 MR. BIRCH: We have some examples of some initiatives where we are working with other community‑based groups that work with persons with disabilities. We typically do that on a project‑driven basis.
1968 We are currently carrying out a project trying to understand the accessibility challenges around mobile payment and that is involving organizations ‑‑ other community‑based organizations that represent other types of disabilities.
1969 We do come together now and then, together as groups, to talk about the issues. We try to give some support where needed around the technological issues there.
1970 There are other members in the community, that are either directly involved with consumer groups or helping to advise those consumer groups, that have their own technical capacity to talk about these issues.
1971 And so we tend to, at those meetings, try to get the folks that have the best technical understanding to try to sort of give the sort of basics of what is going on from a technological point of view and also what are the emerging trends and what are kind of both the threats and the opportunities coming down the line.
1972 But we are only allowed to do those now and then when funds are available.
1973 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I understand the funding issue and I understand that one of the things you are doing is more futuristic, emerging technologies, as you say, as well.
1974 I guess what I am wondering is if this Commission is looking for a focal point that could be this hub to engage all the parties, funding aside, would your group be one of those groups we should be looking at as perhaps becoming that integrator, if I can call it that, as well?
1975 MR. BIRCH: Yes. Okay, I understand your question better. Yes, indeed, obviously, I would like to work with my community partners but I believe we can be one of the key spearhead groups in that area because we have bridged, you know, working daily with persons with disabilities and have the technological capability.
1976 So if I am understanding your question correctly, we would be delighted for an opportunity where we could take a lead role in helping to ensure the accessibility of technologies for persons with disabilities.
1977 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, those are all my questions.
1978 Commissioner Molnar?
1979 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
1980 I had one question related to devices. You are very technology savvy, you are working on standards and so on.
1981 Do you know of devices that are available in jurisdictions outside of Canada that would enable accessibility, either, as an example, different mobile handsets or ancillary devices that are available outside of Canada that aren't available here or aren't supported here?
1982 MR. BIRCH: Because of Harry's work around the world with industry, I think I will defer that to you.
1983 MR. LEW: Okay. That is a difficult question for me to answer on a global scale, mainly because what we are seeing, if you actually look at some of the devices, devices that may be available in one country may not be available here just from a general consumer sense in terms of it being not popular or not being picked up by a specific carrier.
1984 Really, the way the industry works is that handset manufacturers manufacture a line of products and then the carriers get to choose from essentially a menu what products they want to support.
1985 So a classic case, let's say, from a consumer perspective, is, obviously, the Apple iPhone was available in the States but it didn't come to Canada till Rogers picked it up and Rogers is the exclusive dealer of the iPhone.
1986 And the iPhone actually is a classic example of an inaccessible platform, to be honest with you. I mean they currently are ‑‑ there is currently a complaint against them from the vision impairment community, from the blind community in the United States. Because it is all icon‑based, there is no registration for the buttons because it is a smooth screen, so I can't even tell what is on the screen and how to interact with it from that perspective. So that is a classic case.
1987 But in terms of if you are asking me about a specific technology that is available in another jurisdiction that isn't available here, we haven't seen it from a general sense, from the perspective of it being a technology issue. It is more whether the carrier has picked up that particular line.
1988 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I am sorry, that is actually my question.
1989 MR. LEW: Ah! Okay. Fair enough.
1990 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. You know, I am aware that they carry lines and my question is: Are you aware of some devices that would facilitate access for the group of your constituents that is not made available and supported here in Canada?
1991 MR. LEW: Not currently and the issue for that is there are very few solutions currently for people with mobility impairments. I mean I can count maybe three solutions, and again, they are just very basic solutions in terms of dialling the phone.
1992 There is one solution that is a little bit more advanced in terms of being able to, let's say, access some of the features of the PDA, and again, that product is now basically obsolete in the new generation of phones because the technology has advanced so far ahead of where the manufacturer is able to ‑‑ or a manufacturer of the assistive technologies has been able to keep up.
1993 I mean we face the same challenges. We created a solution for a Windows‑based platform environment and the challenges that we ran into were not necessarily technological, but just the business structure in which it worked. So we actually needed security certificates from the designer of the operating system, which is Microsoft, we also needed a security certificate from the actual handset manufacturer, and then we needed a security certificate from the carrier if it we are going to deploy it in the United States.
1994 So we actually had three levels that we had to get permission from to actually deploy that technology and we stalled at the handset manufacturer because they couldn't direct us to anyone within their organization that had the mandate to deal with accessibility specifically.
1995 Through their regular mechanism, we would have to come up with a business case, and if we weren't generating millions of dollars in revenue for them, they didn't have a mechanism to even address our business concerns.
1996 So it wasn't a technology issue in that case, it was a business‑case issue, in terms of: unless you had a business case that was going to generate millions of dollars of revenue, we don't have the mechanism to deal with you.
1997 And we never did get to the carriers, and that's another level that was going to be difficult to deal with from that side of it.
1998 But, in general, if we were to look at outside of mobility impairment, the classic case is ‑‑ we talked about this ‑‑ the phone that I was trying to get for that study that actually had vision impairment.
1999 The phone suggested by Nokia was, I believe, an N86 or 8030. We couldn't find that from a single carrier in Canada because it's not available from them, but it was the phone that was suggested by Nokia, in terms of being able to support text to speech and the most popular in the United States.
2000 Just because of the consumer demand side of it, or the perceived consumer demands from the carrier, no one was carrying it in Canada so we actually had to buy it from the States and bring it into Canada.
2001 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
2002 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Lamarre.
2003 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Merci, monsieur le président.
2004 I have two points of clarification in regards to issues you have brought in your presentation.
2005 On page 4 of the written notes of your presentation, I will quote it, it says:
"The TSPs have indicated to us that they are too small of a market to make any difference." (As read)
2006 You state that:
"This is not true. Handset manufacturers are getting pressure from TSPs from many other jurisdictions around the world and Canadian TSPs should be aggressively adding their voice to dissent." (As read)
2007 Last sentence, and that's what I'm getting at:
"Also, although not typical, there are examples where small‑market TSPs have had an important impact on handset manufacturers to produce platforms that meet special needs." (As read)
2008 Would you have an example of such in a typical small market?
2009 MR. LEW: Okay, I will answer that question.
2010 So the classic case is Jitterbug, in the United States. They are a small reseller of minutes from a large carrier. So they actually originally had a line of phones ‑‑ well, Samsung originally manufactured a line of phones that was suitable for seniors. So, I mean, it's a very simple phone, it has ‑‑ a small phone.
2011 There's one orientation where it's a single button, right, and you can use that button to, essentially, call an operator and make an operator‑assisted call, and then it's got the standard handset inside.
2012 That phone actually disappeared from the Samsung line and for a number of years Jitterbug ‑‑ they weren't able to get a suitable phone. So recently, last year, they actually convinced Samsung to make a small number of phones. So their subscriber base is just a few hundred thousand people ‑‑ not millions of people, just a few hundred thousand people.
2013 Actually, if you are in the United States, you probably will see their commercial. Jitterbug was featured in the Wall Street Journal and they were running an ad campaign, because, obviously, this new phone just came on the market earlier this year for them. So there's a big advertising push.
2014 But that's an example where a small carrier or a small reseller was able to actually get them to actually create a special line of phone for them. Again, it's atypical, but it was a case where it did happen.
2015 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
2016 And in your introduction you mentioned that your society has helped over 20,000 Canadians with physical disabilities.
2017 Are those mostly anglophone Canadians or are you active also in the French parts of Canada?
2018 MR. BIRCH: They are primarily English‑speaking. We are active in the Maritimes and in New Brunswick and the Moncton area. We have delivered some of our programming there in French and it is our desire to do more, but that has been more a resource‑based issue than anything else.
2019 We would be delighted to be able to expand our services to French‑speaking individuals as well.
2020 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: And are you aware of any similar organization as yours in either Quebec or in the Maritimes?
2021 MR. BIRCH: Not in the Maritimes, and, as far as I know not in Quebec, not in the exact form that we are in, no.
2022 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you.
2023 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Denton.
2024 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I have two questions for you.
2025 You noted that Canada tends to lag about 10 years behind in several areas, including emergency response.
2026 Could you expand on that please and give us some details?
2027 MR. LEW: I can talk a little bit about that.
2028 So if we were to look at the enhanced E9119 services, in the United States they are already doing planning for the next generation of services that essentially are looking at supporting video relay, SMS, email as the next generation.
2029 As far as I know, the equipment at the core of most of the carriers, if they have bought any equipment in the last five years, that will be supported.
2030 But in terms of the actual thinking of adopting those services, and, again, this was talking to people that deal with E911, there is just some trials in the United States that are about to launch now in a few cities looking at those advanced services. And if you were to look at the trends in which those new services get adopted in Canada, they tend to lag quite a bit behind, mainly because Canada, one, it's conservative; and two, I think they look at it as a cost issue because of the retraining of all...
‑‑‑ Technical difficulties / Difficultés techniques
2031 COMMISSIONER DENTON: It's part of the service.
2032 MR. LEW: Okay, fair enough.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
2033 MR. LEW: ...because of the retraining of the staff.
2034 So I mean, some of the issues against SMS right now, currently, is that there's a perception that they would have to actually retrain all their operators. Because, I mean, if you look at the way teens SMS now, they have all these abbreviations. Well, a lot of the operators on the 911 services, they tend to be of a different generation. So, I mean, they look at it as a really high training cost for them to do that.
2035 So I don't have a specific example, if that's what you are looking for, mainly because if you look at 911 services right now, they are currently voice‑based, right, and obviously there's less technology from that perspective voice base.
2036 I mean, I guess the big initiative right how that's happening in terms of the E911 is that they are trying to develop a system that actually is able to assign an IP address that knows what building you are in, per se, right?
2037 Well, that is requiring a major change, basically, because they need to change the IP addresses and assign an IP address to every building. And part of that perspective is actually they have to change all the IP addresses over at once, not nationally, but internationally. So that's their real constraint.
2038 But in terms of the planning, in terms of Canada, I have been told that they are not even looking at that and they are looking way down the road from that, where the United States are trying to address that now in some sort of manner.
2039 I mean, obviously, it takes international coordination, but just the ‑‑ I guess the level of capacity to deal with that issue in Canada isn't quite there yet. I mean, even though they are involved in the standards process, they see it very conservatively and see it happening after it's been rolled out in the United States.
2040 I'm not sure if I'm answering your question fully.
2041 COMMISSIONER DENTON: You are answering my question perfectly.
2042 MR. LEW: Okay.
2043 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
2044 MR. LEW: Thank you.
2045 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So essentially it's a generational issue of adaptation to IP‑based technologies and it's a lack of foresight that this stuff is inevitable. Would that summarize it?
2046 MR. LEW: Yes, I think so, from that perspective.
2047 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay. One more question, please.
2048 You said you had some studies of best practices, that, though you had conducted some studies that were for specific industries and that were therefore confidential, you might be able to indicate to us what might best practices consist of in this area of design.
2049 Are these available? Can they be made available?
2050 MR. LEW: As it applies to specific devices, no, because those are covered by confidentiality agreements.
2051 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I understand that.
2052 MR. LEW: I think, from a general perspective, we are working on trying to create those best practices as more of an education for industry ‑‑
2053 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes.
2054 MR. LEW: ‑‑ so those will be available.
2055 COMMISSIONER DENTON: And to whom and when?
2056 MR. LEW: To the general industry. And, again, it will depend on the application because, I mean, obviously, we are not set up to deal with all versions of technology ‑‑
2057 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Right.
2058 MR. LEW: ‑‑ we are very narrowly based, in terms of what we have been asked to deal with or which we are trying to sponsor internally, from that perspective.
2059 MR. BIRCH: The other key factor, in terms of preparing those in a concise document, because we are certainly learning the lessons around best practices, but it's a capacity issue on our part, too, we don't have the capacity to actually sit down and publish those best practices.
2060 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciated your presentation.
2061 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very, very much.
2062 This concludes this panel and we will take a short ‑‑ oh, sorry, legal has got a question.
2063 MS POPE: Yes.
2064 THE CHAIRPERSON: I apologize.
2065 MS POPE: Hi, Lori Pope speaking.
2066 In your testimony, in your initial presentation, you made a comment about:
"Solutions may be technically achievable, but because of business practice they may not be considered by TSPs and manufacturers." (As read)
2067 I wonder if you could give us any particular examples of that.
2068 MR. BIRCH: Yes. We have tried to touch on that a couple of times. It goes back to what I was saying, that, you know, you can sit down and talk about the business case around there's more and more persons with disabilities.
2069 There's lots of examples of where you have introduced what you thought was an accessibility feature and that turns out to be a feature that makes the phone or other types of technology a lot more usable by everyone, but those argument rarely get you anywhere.
2070 MS POPE: Actually, what I'm looking for ‑‑
2071 MR. BIRCH: Oh, sorry.
2072 MS POPE: ‑‑ sorry, are examples of the solutions, so, you know, maybe a proposal ‑‑
2073 MR. BIRCH: Oh.
2074 MS POPE: ‑‑ that you made, you know, if this happened, this would address this problem.
2075 MR. BIRCH: Harry, yes, because of that example you gave.
2076 MR. LEW: Yes, I can refer back to the other example.
2077 I mean, a case where we created, essentially, an accessibility solution, again for high‑level person mobility impairment for a Windows‑based product, in that case we created the solution up to a certain level, but to actually deploy that solution on a commercial network we needed security certificates from not only Microsoft but the handset manufacturer and the carrier in order to actually run on their network.
2078 And the reason that is is because security is becoming a major concern from handset manufacturers because there's more and more technology that gets hosted on the handset, anywhere from your email information to, potentially, your banking information in the future.
2079 MS POPE: Sure. And I think, actually, not to cut you off but, you know, we are a bit tight for time ‑‑
2080 MR. LEW: Yes.
2081 MS POPE: ‑‑ I think you made your submissions on the barriers of, you know, actually getting it through the market process, or whatever. We are pretty clear. I'm more interested to know if you can ‑‑ and maybe it's just too technical for us ‑‑ but if you can speak to the actual solutions that could have been in the marketplace had the negotiations worked out the way you had hoped, but these solutions are not in the marketplace right now.
2082 MR. LEW: Yes. So the particular solution I'm talking about was a way for a person with a high‑level mobility impairment to essentially use a PDA, so that they could actually generate a cursor on a PDA that was similar to what you would see on a desktop.
2083 Because currently the PDAs are all touch‑screen‑based, so if you can't actually a touch screen, so if you can't use your hands, you can't interact with that device. Or it's track‑ball‑based, well, there's no alternative track‑ball mechanism right now and there's no alternative method for you to do input in the system.
2084 So what this system did was actually create a cursor on an actual device so that you could interact with the on‑screen keyboard and you could use a mouse, or a mouse emulation‑type device to actually interact with that.
2085 So that was a particular device that's kind of stalled right now.
2086 MR. BIRCH: Which worked.
2087 MR. LEW: Yes, it is a technology that works. So it wasn't a technology perspective, it's just that we couldn't navigate through the business structure to make it happen.
2088 MS POPE: Right.
2089 And I believe you mentioned that you had purchased the Nokia phone you were referring to and brought it into Canada.
2090 MR. LEW: Yes, it was an unlocked phone, so we could actually insert the SIM card from a local carrier.
2091 MS POPE: And so were there any issues encountered in trying to use it on a carrier's network?
2092 MR. LEW: No, because once you insert the SIM card it would have been compatible. But as long as it's an unlocked phone.
2093 Keep in mind that unlocked phones are, again, atypical. There are some distributors that will sell to you, but that's not the typical case. So when you buy a phone in Canada from a carrier, it's specific to that network.
2094 It's not as easy to transfer on mainly because they are trying to recover their costs from the handsets. They are subsidizing the handset that you buy. So if you get a $99 phone, that phone actually may be $300. So that's why they are trying to lock you up for three years: to recover the costs of the handset from the lease.
2095 So if I buy an unlocked phone, per se, that may be $500 because you are actually paying the full cost of the handset, itself. So that's a case where we actually bought an unlocked phone in the U.S. and actually had it shipped to us, and then are able to run it on the network by using their card.
2096 MS POPE: Great. Thank you very much.
2097 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is counsel finished?
2098 MS POPE: Yes, thank you. Sorry.
2099 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
2100 We will take a 10‑minute break and resume in 10 minutes.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1028 / Suspension à 1028
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1047 / Reprise à 1047
2101 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please.
2102 We will resume with the next party.
2103 Madam Secretary.
2104 THE SECRETARY: This is Silvie Bouffard speaking, the hearing secretary.
2105 We will now call on Mr. Chris Stark to start his presentation.
2106 Mr. Stark, please introduce your colleagues, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
2107 MR. C. STARK: Good morning. Thank you very much.
2108 To my left is my good wife, Marie; and my number one and only son, Jeff, is at the far left.
2109 We hope to have a few remarks from me, and then a PowerPoint from Jeff.
2110 I have submitted some 30 recommendations as summary, which you should have in your briefing book.
2111 We had real‑time presentations. I could have given you a humdinger at three this morning. That's an indication of how important this subject is to us.
2112 We are here as individuals. We want to thank you for the chance to appear.
2113 And I want to especially thank the Commission staff for their many courtesies, support and help in getting us to be able to be before you. I think they deserve a recognition or an achievement award when this project is over from the Commission because without their help I wouldn't be here.
2114 We don't have vast amounts of lawyers and vast amounts of staff to do it, and as I get older, my hands start shaking, and that is why some of the presentation material that I originally submitted is a bit rough.
2115 I can't think of one initiative that industry has taken that has not helped blind people only because the CRTC ordered it. There are no other ‑‑ no other ‑‑ examples that I can think of where licensees, on their own motion, have taken action to make our service better. It has all been dependent on you folks. That is why regulation, a strict regarding of what is happening out there, is important.
2116 If you were to implement the stakeholder consultation recommendations, this proceeding would far exceed my expectations.
2117 In 1996 we went through a similar exercise with the Cable Television Association. I submitted the report that was produced at that time, and a long lost friend, Harris Boyd, just came over to say hello, and he can tell you what was in that report, because he wrote it with people with disabilities.
2118 One of the promises was that we would have people work together, people with disabilities and industry, to solve the problems that existed and were coming forward ‑‑ one of the many unmet promises made to the Commission, not kept, in our view, by industry.
2119 Another recent example is that you allowed descriptive narration to go to digital cable. At the time it was claimed that Rogers and others were taking steps to make it easier for blind people to access digital narration.
2120 I have yet to be able to find out what those steps are. In fact, I have not found anybody, other than myself ‑‑ I discovered from a person who was kind enough to tell me about it that you can get a free box to listen to descriptive narration.
2121 Nobody else knows about.
2122 You talk about technology and forbearance and all of this stuff. Let me tell you what forbearance means to me.
2123 Here is the pager that summons me to crucial medical treatment at the London Health Sciences Centre. I can't see who is calling. I can't tell what the power left in the battery is. I can't turn the call off. The only thing that helps me is that it will rattle, and then I can go and call and try to figure out what is going on.
2124 This exclusion in the marketplace threatens my very ability to survive. It has to end, please.
2125 You talk about cell phones. Here is the one I have. The buttons are so big that two of them are covered by one finger. You see, it is not designed for us. When you try to turn it on, you don't know whether it has come on or not.
2126 It does have voice dialling. I can say "dial", but you can't get it to work in a noisy environment. It times out. It doesn't give you enough time.
2127 Then we have the remote on the new digital box. You don't know when you are pointing at the digital box. You don't know when a number has been entered.
2128 That's all right from 1 to 10, but when it gets to 210, you get all screwed up, and you don't know where you are on the box.
2129 Those are on‑screen programming issues ‑‑ low‑tech, no‑tech, very small cost items to resolve.
2130 I have one more device that I want to show you. This is something that has come out in recent times. There is no screen.
2131 I don't know if you had to pay for the screen on your phone, but they charged me for it, even though I can't use it.
2132 That's the point. We pay for a lot of services that we can't access, and we can't use, and we don't know what is happening half of the time.
2133 It confuses us. It makes us feel incapable, when, in fact, it's the service and the technology.
2134 This machine has different shaped keys. It has the feature that I wanted to demonstrate for you, which any machine could have, and that feature is...
‑‑‑ Audio presentation / présentation audio
2135 MR. C. STARK: I guess I didn't hold it down long enough.
‑‑‑ Audio presentation / présentation audio
2136 MR. C. STARK: That way I can learn the key panel anytime I want. Those are my visual labels. If I could get something like that on a TV remote, or on a phone, so that I could figure out where the hold button was, the hands‑free button, the link button ‑‑ all of these things are technology that we have today.
2137 My final point, before turning it over to Jeff, is that we often get advertisements and things about better deals and rates from all of the legacy carriers, but you can't get them in alternative formats, and when you ask about alternative formats you are told, "You can have only one alternative format."
2138 My wife reads Braille, I read text, and somebody else may ‑‑ we are planning for living together when sighted people can read the same bill.
2139 It's not my fault that I don't know Braille.
2140 Finally, it is up to you. You can make a big difference in our quality of life if you can step up to the plate and hit a home run, and make sure that industry realizes that meeting our customer service needs is a cost of doing business.
2141 We are already paying for the services. We are already paying for them, but we can't use them.
2142 Jeff, sir, if you would like to take off now and use the rest of the time with your PowerPoint...
2143 MR. J. STARK: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me, as well, here.
2144 I would like to talk about accessibility as a technical requirement. As a starting piece for this discussion, the most common argument that I often hear on this subject ‑‑ and I think that many people hear it ‑‑ is the fact that the market isn't ready, the technology isn't ready.
2145 We heard that from the cell phone carriers many, many times.
2146 In front of me on the table ‑‑ and anybody can come up and have a look ‑‑ are about a dozen cell phones and BlackBerry‑like devices, using four different cell phone operating systems, from multiple manufacturers, all of which could be operated by someone with a variety of disabilities, not the least of which would be someone who is blind or has low vision.
2147 These devices are commercially available. They are in the marketplace, but because there is no requirement by the carriers to provide these devices, they are not available in Canada.
2148 As Neil Squire said previously, you have to go to the States to get them.
2149 Your general consumer has a cell phone that is subsidized by the carrier, as in a sub‑$500 cell phone.
2150 In the States, all of these devices, if you sign up for a carrier's offering, are also available at a sub‑$500 cost. But if you buy it unlocked or as an independent person, you are looking at about $1,000 out of your pocket.
2151 So everybody else gets a $39 cheapie phone that works for them, and persons with disabilities are left by the wayside.
2152 I am not going to talk about the legislative aspect of things. I notice that ARCH and many other people who are far more eloquent on this topic than I are on the agenda, so I will leave it to them to, effectively, do that.
2153 But I do want to talk about the fact that technical standards exist. They are out there. Other organizations and other legislation are applying them.
2154 We often look at these requirements as being things that are separate, as in special things for special people.
2155 A number of years ago we would send persons with disabilities off to institutions, because we thought we needed special things for special people. Why do people want access to basic services in the real world, such as access to buildings, restaurants and other services?
2156 We have moved away from that. We now have curb cuts and accessibility standards for buildings.
2157 We had the same problem with the school systems. Kids were sent off to institutions and other areas, as opposed to offered educational opportunities. We have moved away from that.
2158 In the information management, information technology and telecommunications sectors we are dealing with the same challenge. We think that specialized, compartmentalized services are really helping persons with disabilities, but in the larger scope of things, the application of standards and requirements in procurement, contracting, development and acquisitions will benefit not just persons with disabilities, but the general public. This applies to devices, to software, to systems and information.
2159 The standards are geared toward providing device independence ‑‑ that a variety of technologies, required by a variety of persons with disabilities, can access these services, can know about offerings and other pieces on the web, out in the systems, out in publications.
2160 The other side of things is that, by applying these standards, today's accommodations become tomorrow's services. The curb cuts and electronic door openers that we required years and years ago, we now consider them to be just a part of building systems, a part of the design of things.
2161 By applying the same type of standards, standards that reflect the needs of persons with disabilities, we can move toward a service that meets everybody's needs, instead of a service that really meets nobody's needs.
2162 More specifically, we talk about web content and information that is becoming more and more pushed to the web. Our day‑to‑day lives are all based around the web. Our work is all based around the web. The carriers and service providers provide material on the web ‑‑ everything from television programming schedules to deals to promotional activities to devices, and so on. If we don't look at accessibility as both a technical requirement and a usability requirement, persons with disabilities will be excluded from those services.
2163 Accessibility needs to be applied at the beginning of activities and throughout a project. Without that weaving into mainstream activities and projects, the needs of persons with disabilities will be left behind.
2164 If we do not define and document the rationale and the requirements in everything we do, then we are just hoping for the goodwill of others, which doesn't get us very far.
2165 We have a number of good examples, both in Canada and abroad, including, as a starting point for accessibility in information services and information technology areas, the Government of Canada toolkit, the accessible procurement toolkit, which has requirements that could easily be injected into every contract and every procurement activity that is done, both globally and by carriers.
2166 This has also been adopted by a number of other governments abroad. I have been told that the European Union has even adopted these standards ‑‑ or has adopted this toolkit, which points to standards that can be cut‑and‑pasted into mainstream activities.
2167 The last thing I want to say is, the more severe the disability ‑‑ we have statistical information that points to the fact that the more severe the disability, the more limits to participation in the general public.
2168 That is pretty much what I wanted to talk about.
2169 MR. C. STARK: I don't know whether we have any time left for our presentation, but if you would rather ask questions, I can speak for hours on obstacles to our use as customers.
2170 The deferral accounts, moneys that were supposed to benefit disabilities, from what I can see, the carriers are still fighting over that bone, and I have experienced no benefit from it.
2171 I don't know, Marie, if you want to add anything.
2172 MS STARK: Not really. I will answer the questions as they come.
2173 For me, the most important step is to start implementing from the beginning of projects. As Jeff was mentioning, you have to be inclusive in all aspects of a project, from the beginning throughout. It is always seen as being a retrofit right now, or as doing something additional. That is one of the reasons why we are always falling behind. We always seem to be catching up. It seems to be a never‑ending battle going upstream, instead of downstream. You are fighting against the waves.
2174 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your presentation this morning. We do have a couple of questions for you, and I will ask Commissioner Duncan to lead the questions, but I do want to say that I have been with the Commission for five or six years, and I was actually in a staff position as well, and I did follow the issues that the Starks have been bringing up to the Commission for many years. We are glad to actually see you here, as well.
2175 I will pass it on to Commissioner Duncan.
2176 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Good morning, Mr. Stark, Jeff Stark, and Marie. My name is Elizabeth Duncan, and I am the Atlantic Region Commissioner. As the Chairman said, I am going to lead the questions.
2177 I will direct my questions to Mr. Chris Stark, and you can redirect them as you feel appropriate.
2178 First of all, I want to say that your presentation is very thorough, so I think you have answered a lot of the questions I had. I still have a few others, but the staff, I want to assure you, will take into consideration everything that you submitted. As I said, it is a very thorough presentation, and I think, in the oral phase here, we only heard a portion of it, but we will study it all. I want you to know that for sure.
2179 I want to start with described video. I am wondering if you have a view on what types of programs are best suited ‑‑
2180 Let me say that the Commission has first considered that described video is best suited to programs with significant visual elements that are key to the storyline, such as drama, documentaries and children's programming.
2181 Some parties are of the view that described video could be expanded to include other genres of programming, and I am wondering what additional genres you feel would lend themselves to described video.
2182 MR. C. STARK: Audio description and descriptive video, I think, are at the heart of your question.
2183 It really depends on the nature of the audio description.
2184 I know that Marie gets awfully upset listening to or watching a Senators' game. The announcers are off telling stories about last night's visit to the bar, and the play is going on ‑‑ "Oh, they scored."
2185 Well, she doesn't know anything.
2186 Then, when there are things like a reporter from, say, Washington giving a report, there is usually stuff on the bottom about who he is talking to and who he hasn't spoken to.
2187 Another area that is critical for us is on‑screen programming/audio output. To me, that is something that carriers can do fairly cheaply.
2188 I think that a basic answer to your question is everything, but you have to move in increments. If you have adventure and kids' programming, particularly kids' programming ‑‑
2189 I don't see any descriptive narration on CPAC at all. You could have a speech before the Canadian Club, and the guy on the secondary audio could say: The Prime Minister is wearing a blue pinstriped suit today, with a red tie.
2190 Well, everybody else knows that, but I don't.
2191 Or, they are sitting in a semi‑circle.
2192 It is no different from the courtesy that you folks have extended us today by identifying yourselves before you speak. I can't even see ‑‑ I know you are out there somewhere.
2193 I am not sure if that is answering your question or pounding my soapbox, but the issue is that descriptive narration has some role in sports, maybe not every little thing ‑‑
2194 MS STARK: Maybe not as much as in some other areas.
2195 MR. C. STARK: But certainly some.
2196 I still haven't been able to get the Weather Network's descriptive narration, and I have now gone to digital. There are four key strokes to check a channel ‑‑ four key strokes, with four choices that I can't read. There is a limit to my memory.
2197 Most people can remember four or five things, and tomorrow they remember them differently.
2198 So having a hot key to flip back and forth would increase my ability to use that service.
2199 Do you want me to go on, or have I ‑‑
2200 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: No, I think that's fine, Mr. Stark. I do appreciate the fact that you acknowledge that we have to move in increments, and I note your point about CPAC. Hopefully they will hear your point. I think they have been recognized in some of the material I have read as doing a good job on closed captioning, I gather, so hopefully they will hear your point on described video.
2201 With respect to The Weather Network, I have a question. I thought that I had read where you could get a descriptive narration on the SAP channel for Newsworld.
2202 Am I wrong in that?
2203 MR. C. STARK: On the SAP channel for Newsworld it's my understanding and experience that that's voiceprint. There are a couple of half hours, I think. There used to be a day. But, you know, when you are at 7:00 at night and you need to know whether a storm is coming, I still haven't been able to access it.
2204 I spoke to the folks at The Weather Network who are making a submission and they were saying that not all carriers pass through their descriptive narration on their channel.
2205 So I'm not really qualified to say any more than that. I haven't been able to find it and it's probably a good example of lack of information because we don't know how to do it.
2206 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: If I can, I will just also acknowledge, then, that what I gather from your remarks is that you see that there is benefit in ‑‑ although you recognize it might be nice to have things 100 per cent described, you do recognize there is a place for both the audio description and the described video.
2207 I do note that you feel that there should be maybe more controls or more checks on the audio descriptions so broadcasters maybe get feedback so they know, because I have also been annoyed watching hockey games and hearing needless chatter when I would rather hear the game described even though I'm looking at it.
2208 So, you know, I sympathize with that.
2209 So maybe we do need some feedback to broadcasters. I'm sure that they would like to deliver what their listeners want, so I think those are all very helpful comments.
2210 MR. C. STARK: Most of the 30‑odd recommendations you have before you hopefully in the summary docket in your briefing book are what I would call low‑cost/no‑cost solutions; things like, you know, having somebody tell you when you call up this is how you sort this problem out.
2211 Not as happened to me a little while ago. Well, how many lights are on your modem? I don't know. I can't see lights. Oh, just why can't you see the lights online? Oh, just a moment, and I'm off to the deaf relay service.
2212 That's valuable for people who can't hear, but I can hear. It doesn't do anything for me.
2213 So training is a vital part of all of that and knowing their front‑line staff and people with disabilities knowing what is offered and what is available.
2214 This phone is a Rogers phone and we told somebody about it and they called up and they said oh, well we never had a phone for the blind. This is three months ago and I know it's still available. Its advantage is they bundle the talking program and they bundle the phone together.
2215 But it is a generation two. It doesn't always work on all the services. So as a result, when you use it you have to sign a two or three‑year contract, pay triple what a person who doesn't have the need for the Talks Program and 80 per cent of blind people I would say live at poverty level or below. We are the lucky ones.
2216 So back to your descriptive narration, the increments are recognized but they have to be predictable and then there have to be some standards.
2217 Like if I could some day see the national news read by a gentleman in braille, or a sports report from a gentleman using a sign language interpreter, or a lady who is in a wheelchair covering an event, you know, those are the kinds of roles industry can play.
2218 And my wife says I'm babbling.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
2219 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Well, she did that very discreetly because I didn't notice.
2220 Let me just continue, then, with some of the questions that I have here for you, but your comments are very helpful.
2221 If we were to decide that the level of described video should be increased, do you think that it would be better to specify a number of hours or a percentage of the overall programming?
2222 Which do you think would be a more appropriate way to state it?
2223 MR. C. STARK: A percentage because then you would have different ‑‑ either way will work, but because you would have a variety of programming. As long as that percentage went rate across the board.
2224 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay.
2225 MR. C. STARK: Jeff, did you want to say ‑‑
2226 MR. J. STARK: I was just going to say a more diverse offering.
2227 MR. C. STARK: Yes, a more diverse offering. If there was anything to be emphasized, it would be health and kids programming.
2228 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: We did have a little chat about the genres, so I take your point that it's obviously more meaningful to you to have access to a wider variety of programming.
2229 That kind of leads into my next question, which is about the accessible channel which is expected to launch shortly. I'm assuming that you are familiar with it.
2230 I just am wondering what you consider to be the role of The Accessible Channel and, as we go forward do you think it's a substitute for a requirement for the over the air broadcasters or do you think it should be in addition to that?
2231 MR. C. STARK: It is certainly in my view ‑‑ and l'll let Marie and Jeff comment because they will have something to say about it ‑‑ not a substitute. I don't want to watch the accessible ‑‑ I don't want to watch Grey's Anatomy on The Accessible Channel at 3:00 in the morning. I want to watch Grey's Anatomy with my friends on a regular channel at 9:00 at night.
2232 So what the accessible ‑‑ you know, if you want to take the 11 cents per subscriber per month, there may be better ways of using that money. It may benefit some people. If it does, that's great. In general, I don't listen to it because it doesn't interest me. I don't want to hear described 1930s movies and stuff like that and The Shadow. I can get that a number of places. I want contemporary material.
2233 So I don't see it as a substitute. If it has any value added, take a look at the number of blind people using it against the total number of blind people and decide whether it's worth it.
2234 Marie, do you want to make a comment?
2235 MR. J. STARK: I think we all want to live somewhere, in the house, but we don't all want to live in the ghetto. And I think that is to me what building a separate service apart from the mainstream offering could lead to.
2236 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you very much for your comments there.
2237 I'm sure it will be of use to certain audiences, especially until you get equipment or technology that is easier for you to use and navigate. So I'm sure it is going to be appreciated in that respect.
2238 I think the intention, although I can't really ‑‑ I shouldn't probably go there. But I understand the programming will be in line with what is being offered, although I take your point: everything can't be seen at 9 o'clock at night, so it is not all going to be played at the time you might want to see it.
2239 But anyway, I thank you for your comments and I understand them.
2240 I think it goes without saying that you would agree that a working group would be beneficial. A working group with the industry to prioritize and to give the industry a better understanding of what your requirements are would be beneficial.
2241 And obviously ‑‑ I shouldn't say obviously.
2242 Do you think there is a necessity for that to be a requirement, a regulated requirement?
2243 MR. C. STARK: Well, if you want my short answer, it's three letters: yes.
2244 The reason for that is my experience in the regulatory environment is that if they don't have to report on it and its accomplishments, then it will gradually lapse and be not very effective.
2245 I would like to see programming committees that would look at everything from employment to equipment accessibility to, in the case of my poor old CPAC ‑‑ I didn't plan to pick on them today, but...
2246 I don't remember ‑‑ and I looked yesterday ‑‑ that they have ever carried a program of activities for 20 per cent of Canada's population, people with disabilities, whether it's December 3rd, accessibility day, or maybe they are carrying these hearings. But I was able to find it on the website with the help of your staff and enjoyed some good listening yesterday.
2247 So the issue then is that it is no simple answer, but the more people you can get involved the better.
2248 Let me give you a precise example.
2249 In 1994 there wasn't an accessible bank machine in the country. We and a few others went after the Royal Bank ‑‑ God bless its soul. It still has my money, whatever is left of it after the stock crash ‑‑
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
2250 MR. C. STARK: And they then set up a focus group in Toronto, brought in the manufacturers, tried out different designs, decided on one and they rolled it out.
2251 The first one was here in Ottawa at Bank and Queen in 1996, I think. And we had hoped that by that technology knowhow that it would have resulted in every bank machine in the country being accessible. It hasn't.
2252 What it has resulted in is that technology going south and there are over 100,000 accessible bank machines in the United States.
2253 So, you know, the technology exists if nobody is willing to use it and the costs are ‑‑ you know, once you roll it out, the costs are insignificant.
2254 MS STARK: There are standards as well, don't forget.
2255 MR. C. STARK: There are CSA standards for phones, accessible kiosks, which are another aspect of all of this whole business.
2256 I think that ‑‑ you know, for example, the Commission ordered as one of our ravings of the past that pay phones have a pip on the five for orientation. That has gone right through the industry.
2257 My Panasonic new television has a pip on the five. But does my converter from my set‑top box? No.
2258 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you, Mr. Stark. I will continue on with the questions, because you are making a lot of good points. As I say, we will take them all into consideration.
2259 I wanted to talk to you about Electronic Programming Guides.
2260 I understand that it may be possible to have a unique audio tone on an Electronic Programming Guide to indicate the availability of a described video program.
2261 I'm just wondering if you think that is realistic and practical. Do you think that is something that would work?
2262 MR. C. STARK: Well, you would have to try it, but off the top of my head it would be better than what we have now, which is nothing.
2263 What I would like is to be able to go to Channel 7 say, CJOH, and get a beep that let's me know that there is a descriptive narration program in progress and then to hit one key and go listen to it.
2264 I don't use the menu at the moment. I am a long proponent and much of what you heard on this little machine here was a synthetic voice. It seems to me there is no reason why the on‑screen programming can't be hooked up for either keyboard navigation or navigation through a third ‑‑ a peripheral so that you can scroll through the programs available and with the beep then tell me that one has descriptive narration.
2265 Right now the whole system is unusable for me.
2266 Would you agree with that, Jeff?
2267 MR. J. STARK: I would say that there's sort of the three problems, right. There is the lack of the on‑screen programming, the television guides and all the wealth of information provided people about what shows are on and that's almost necessary these days with, what, 400 channels to choose from, as far as knowing what's on it what's available.
2268 There is also, as he said, the issue of making the narration known ‑‑ or letting people know that the descriptive narration is available and making it easy for people to turn that on, leave it on or switch to it when necessary.
2269 And right now, because the whole system doesn't provide any text to speech output, there is no opportunity for that.
2270 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I think that I have trouble myself visualizing how the tone and even the audio guide would work, but I think that only underscores that there is obviously a need and there is a need for collaboration and input from the community.
2271 So we will take again that into consideration.
2272 I'm just going to move ahead to ‑‑ let's see what else I have here.
2273 With regard to new media, we were just wondering if you had an opinion on the most appropriate type of professional broadcast content that should be described online.
2274 We heard yesterday from the CAB ‑‑ I don't know if you're listening at that point ‑‑ that it isn't a simple matter to take the programming that is described on the linear television and put that on the Internet.
2275 So I don't know how practical it is.
2276 Do you have an opinion on what would be the most appropriate professional broadcast content you would like to see? Like would it be drama, for example, or children's programming? Would you prioritize it that way?
2277 MR. J. STARK: So you are talking about IPTV? Is that where ‑‑
2278 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: It's not IPTV.
2279 MR. J. STARK: Or are you talking about videos on the web or ‑‑
2280 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: It's the videos, like for example ‑‑
2281 MR. J. STARK: ‑‑ content on the web.
2282 There are standards out there for all of those, both on the web and in general. So if we apply those standards, there would be lots of opportunity.
2283 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: What we are talking about here, if I can just clarify, is in an instance where CTV has a program that has described video on it but then when they put it on their website it doesn't have the described video portion with it.
2284 So if ‑‑ because there is obviously a cost. They have given us that evidence yesterday. There is a cost to doing it.
2285 If they were to prioritize, what priority, which programming would you prioritize as number one, for example: children's, drama?
2286 MR. C. STARK: Well, personally I would priorize the more popular ones. You know, if it has good ratings, you obviously want it.
2287 If it's children, you would do good to have that. If it's programming to help people live longer, that kind of stuff. And current affairs as well.
2288 But I don't see why it should cost more because the Internet is so much more flexible. So you get on this program, let's say it's The House or CTV Live with Mike Duffy. Well, if you want to download that from the Internet, you go and you click on okay, I want that in English, I want that maybe in French, I want that maybe in descriptive narration. So you make your choice.
2289 It's no different than the Canadian, God help us, Revenue Canada website where I can go in and click on their pamphlets for downloading and get it in plain text, HTML, PDF or a PRN file for braille.
2290 So my point is I would have to see why it costs so much to make something that already exists for the on the air programming expensive on the net.
2291 So if I understood that, then I might give you more of a useful answer. But to me that don't make sense because if you already have produced it ‑‑
2292 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Well, we will have an opportunity to follow up with the broadcasters and get further explanation of why it would be more expensive. I'm just ‑‑
2293 MS STARK: Can I add something?
2294 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Yes, certainly.
2295 MS STARK: A thought that always comes to mind every time I hear about this, what do you call it, captioning for the deaf is brought to you by, it has become a source of revenue and all the captioning, I would think, for all the broadcasters or whoever is making money out of that, because obviously if they are getting sponsors right and left. Well maybe eventually the same thing could happen to descriptive narration.
2296 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you for that.
2297 MS STARK: Anyway, that's the thought that comes to mind. When I hear that I tell myself, my God, you know, maybe once the service becomes more known throughout the industry that this service is needed and is being used, maybe they will be able to get ‑‑ that will become a source of funding.
2298 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: We did ask that question yesterday, so that is on the ‑‑ we are considering that; that that might be a possibility.
2299 I don't want to miss anything here and I have my pages a bit out of order here, so just bear with me a second if you would.
2300 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I'm just wondering how you would prioritize the different measures that have been identified for persons with disability.
2301 You know, if we only could do a few things at a time, what would be your highest priority?
2302 MR. C. STARK: Well, the first thing is to be able to access the service.
2303 MS STARK: Regulation.
2304 MR. C. STARK: You forbeared in the telephone, you forbeared in the marketplace for cell phones, you forbeared in a number of aspects of the cable and satellite business. And if that forbearance could be limited by a requirement to demonstrate how everybody can use the service through universal design, then that would probably be the top priority.
2305 Industry can come up with the solutions if they know they have to; and if they don't, well, it may impinge on their licence or whatever.
2306 But right now the marketplace is a free‑for‑all, and we are not able to cope with that.
2307 Could you repeat your question again, please?
2308 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Yes, sure.
2309 We have had a number of suggestions from different groups as to what measures could be taken to improve accessibility. So I was just asking you to maybe identify the ones that you would rank as being the first priority, the top priorities, maybe the first three.
2310 MR. C. STARK: Well, that would be number one, to make them accountable.
2311 Number two would be to develop some mechanism for people who are blind, and maybe for others, to access some of the control and management information.
2312 I have a program for the Internet which is much easier to use than Internet Explorer, and much safer. So that is the second point, is to be able to manage your information in a way that makes sense to us: not columns, not charts, not graphics, not pop up windows.
2313 That reminds me, and then I will give you number three.
2314 Marie got a note yesterday from Rogers: Merry Christmas. Rogers has a Christmas gift for you. Click on this before ‑‑ go before December 14. So she goes and the screen doesn't read anything to her.
2315 So I guess that was a bit of improper advertising, because it should have said if you are sighted, Rogers has a free Christmas gift for you.
2316 That is the effect on our psyche of feeling excluded, ghettoized and marginalized.
2317 The third area I think that would be very important would be to have website accessibility, to have on‑screen program access, to have the list of services available, like everything from free directory assistance.
2318 There are blind people out there that don't know that we can get directory assistance and then as a result of ASIC's application, hit one and get it free dial.
2319 It is especially true with the cell phone operators. They are not equipped to handle that in any way.
2320 So the issue is once we are told it doesn't exist, then nine times out of ten you believe that, even if it isn't true.
2321 So information is number three.
2322 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you very much. I think that a lot of that would probably be accomplished by working groups, or could be at any rate. That is something to consider.
2323 One last question for me, because we are running out of time and I think probably some of the other Panel members have questions.
2324 Yesterday with regard to accessibility of information, the CNIB recommended that customer service manuals should be navigable, that they should be available on CD or via website.
2325 I'm just wondering your reaction to that, if that would serve your purpose?
2326 MR. C. STARK: I'm going to ask Jeff in a second to comment, but I want to give you another story. I sound like an old curmudgeon on the wharf giving stories, but anyway.
2327 When I got this phone I said what about an accessible manual and they said oh, call Nokia and they will make it available right quick. We have an arrangement with them.
2328 Well, I'm still waiting. And after calling four or five times and calling back Rogers, I gave up.
2329 So it's not just an accessible manual in a navigable format, which probably would be Daisy, it is an accessible manual to begin with. And all manuals should be accessible in the format of your choice: braille, audio, plain text, HTML, PDF, whatever.
2330 Jeff, do you want to finish that one?
2331 MR. J. STARK: No, I think that was very effectively done.
2332 The only thing I would add to it is the fact that if the information is provided in an accessible form online, which is usually just HTML provided so that it meets the Web content accessibility guidelines 1.0, then a lot less requests for multiple format would be required as well.
2333 So if these things get applied universally, all types of areas could be benefited by them.
2334 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. Well, thank you very much, all of you. I appreciate your comments.
2335 Mr. Chairman, that finishes my questioning. Thank you.
2336 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
2337 Once again, I'm Len Katz, the Chairperson of this proceeding. I want to thank the Starks very much. I don't think there are any other questions. I polled the other Commissioners on the Panel here.
2338 I do want to take the opportunity to thank all three, Chris, Marie and Jeff Stark, for appearing before us today and I will look forward to meeting with you at a future opportunity.
2339 Thank you very much.
2340 MR. C. STARK: Okay. Thank you and please hit a home run.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
2341 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Madam Secretary, can we just take a five‑minute intermission to allow the next party to come up?
2342 THE SECRETARY: All right.
2343 I just want to note for the record before the break that the list of Mr. Stark's recommendations distributed to the Panel Members will be registered as STARK Exhibit No. 1 and the Jeff Stark PowerPoint presentation will be registered as STARK Exhibit No. 2.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1141 / Suspension à 1141
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1151 / Reprise à 1151
2344 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just before we begin, a quick announcement. It is now 10 minutes before 12:00. My name is Leonard Katz. I am the Chairman of the proceeding.
2345 I have a hard stop at 12:45, but if we are not finished with this panel we are going to resume after lunch with the same panel.
2346 It is not my intent to force any issues here at all, but if we don't complete before lunch we will reconvene after lunch with the same group.
2347 With that said, Madam Secretary...?
2348 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
2349 I will now call on the Canadian Association of the Deaf for their presentation. Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your presentation.
2350 Thank you.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
2351 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Hi, my name is Jim Roots. I am the Executive Director at the Canadian Association of the Deaf.
2352 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Hello, my name is Henry Vlug and I am here in two capacities.
2353 To begin with, I am a lawyer for the Canadian Association of the Deaf, but I am also here in a personal capacity. I am Henry Vlug, representing myself.
2354 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): I would like to ask for your indulgence if my presentation goes a little bit longer than the 15 minutes, because we are relying on the sign language interpreters.
2355 We are listed here as the Canadian Association of the Deaf but we are also representing two other organizations, the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf and Sign Relay Canada.
2356 We are pleased that the CRTC has called this proceeding to focus on issues of accessibility, but we would like to say that this can't be a one‑time event. One public hearing doesn't resolve all the issues of accessibility. The Commission needs to use this public hearing to establish a permanent mechanism for ongoing consultations regarding accessibility.
2357 When we talk about consultation, we mean both the CRTC and industry players. The Commission itself has no consultation with disability consumer groups. You depend entirely upon our participation in your proceedings and that is not good enough.
2358 In telecommunications American companies are much more interested in consulting with Canadian consumers than Canadian companies are.
2359 In the past six months the Canadian Association of the Deaf has been contacted two times by Canadian companies. At the same time, we have been contacted nearly 100 times by American companies.
2360 The broadcasters are a bit better at consultation. The CAB, Canadian Association of Broadcasters, has good relations with us, as well as the CBC, but there are a lot of expectations that we will rubberstamp any recommendations that they make.
2361 Decisions are made without seeking our input, but we have seen that captioning isn't the greatest and we have made formal complaints. They will go out of their way to meet with us to discuss different solutions, but the answers are that they can't fix our complaints because they have made decisions regarding the captioning prior to our participation.
2362 Real consultation includes us in research and development and during that phase. We should be part of the decision‑making process and we should be part of the company as staff.
2363 In last year's CRTC proceedings about the deferral accounts we warned you repeatedly that the regional VRS cannot succeed in Canada; that only a national VRS could be successful. At the time the Commission decided that the deferral accounts money could only be used for regional or provincial services, not for national services.
2364 The result is that it has given us another long delay in bringing VRS to Canada.
2365 Bell Canada agrees with us so they have postponed pursuing the VRS system here in Canada.
2366 It appears that the Commission itself recognizes too late that they have made a mistake and now we are looking into ideas on how we can set up a national program. That just emphasizes that you should have listened to us in the first place.
2367 We want to take a minute and talk about two different issues around the VRS.
2368 In the United States they have had the service for many years. They have already done the experimentation and their research and they have come up with solutions to most of the problems. We need to learn from their experience. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to move on with the VRS system.
2369 The technical specifications that we want to discuss is the call setup and signalling protocol.
2370 Currently there are two standards, the H323 or 323 and SIP. Nearly all of the new devices coming to the market are SIP‑based. Most of these have backward compatibility to the H323. Canada doesn't have the legacy of H323 so it is wiser to standardize now with the SIP technology.
2371 The second technical specification that we want to discuss is the dialling number.
2372 Without a well‑defined dialling mechanism each vendor would introduce its own pseudo‑name or a number for calls between the vendor's own domain of users, for example, callers from one of its customers to another of its customers. However, when one vendor's customer calls a person who uses a different vendor, they would have to use the lowest common denominator, which is the IP address.
2373 This is the awkward and time‑consuming process and can lead to poor video transmission.
2374 Recently the FCC established a standard. It is a 10‑digit number that the VRS users input, but we need to learn from their experience.
2375 As we know, the major reason why we don't have a VRS in Canada is around the question of how to pay for it. Again, we are saying to look at the American model. Their model is fantastic and we should bring it here in Canada.
2376 All the American phone companies, wireless providers and related businesses contribute monies to the Telecom Relay Services Fund, the TRS. Practically anyone can set up a Video Relay Service and then send an invoice for monthly costs to the TRS fund for reimbursement.
2377 The rate of reimbursement is based on the formula called the TRS rate.
2378 The advantage is obvious. There is open competition to provide the Video Relay Service in the marketplace and the marketplace will choose the best companies, more or less.
2379 We have to remind you that the Commission ‑‑ sorry, that the Canadian federal government made it clear that it wants us to foster competition and market driven services. Last February we set up a process for spending the deferral account monies, and the monies aren't earmarked for a Video Relay Service.
2380 Some private phone companies have already partnered with American companies with the assumption that the CRTC will approve a Canadian Video Relay Service.
2381 We are generations behind. Other countries are providing a service and telephone companies are offering very few solutions to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, for example, with a message relay service. But consumers are endlessly complaining that the service quality isn't good, that it isn't very efficient.
2382 If you adopt the TRS fund model, it will allow these companies to provide services with much greater efficiency and equality. It would be a huge mistake to restrict the provision of VRS to only the existing telephone companies.
2383 The Accessibility Fund is separate from the Video Relay Service Fund, so we are talking about two separate funds. The Accessibility Fund is already in place and we are in support of a national accessibility fund and it should be under the control of disability consumer groups.
2384 Many companies are involved in this process anticipating that the CRTC will be focusing on the Video Relay Service in the next year and that the Accessibility Fund will be available. But we are asking not to go that route because we already have a good model in the United States. It would be good to follow it here in Canada, otherwise we will be wasting another year.
2385 We have an expert report from Ed Bosson, who is the father of the Video Relay Service, and he lists specific references for the rules by which the American TRS fund operates. It is laid out in simple terms and can be copied here for use in Canada.
2386 There is still time left during the present proceedings to deal with the Video Relay Service.
2387 I would also like to talk about emergency 911 services.
2388 For the last 20, 30 years we have been talking about improving services for the deaf and hard of hearing. It is very frustrating that there isn't one central organization responsible for emergency services.
2389 The CRTC establishes the regulations but limits its own authority in this issue. Most of the municipalities hold the responsibility and we don't have the resources to deal with hundreds of municipalities across Canada.
2390 We would like to suggest that some of the funds from the accessibility monies be used to conduct international research to see what is available and also what is possible. We know that there has already been a lot of research and development outside of Canada for 911 emergency services, but Henry is a volunteer and I can only devote so much of my energies on that issue.
2391 We need the funds in order to hire experts to be able to do that research so we can come up with good solutions.
2392 With CBC hockey night that plays on Saturday nights the captioning is hit or miss, but Don Cherry's captioning is horrendous. We know that Don Cherry is a motormouth and that he speaks very quickly and the captioning or the captionists can't keep up with his rate of speech.
2393 On Sunday mornings CBC, on their website, they do a replay of what he said the previous night, but it's broadcast without captioning. My question is: Why don't they use that website and use the time lag to improve the captioning so it's available the following day?
2394 I would also like to talk about the size of TV screens.
2395 About 15 years ago it was determined that if a screen was less than 13 inches that it didn't require a decoder inside of the unit. Any units larger than 13 inches required a decoder. But Canada didn't really establish its own regulations around that, and today you can't find a decoder inside a unit smaller than 13 inches here in Canada.
2396 It means that cell phones with the screens that can broadcast video transmissions don't have captioning. The monitors at the airport don't require the decoder, or even on airplanes.
2397 The ruling or the decision was based on old information. We assumed that deaf persons wouldn't be able to read small captioning, but we were never asked and we need to have that accessibility in the same way that everyone else does.
2398 You can read captioning on a smaller device. It is available there when you watch Newsworld. So the captioning should be available on smaller units than 13 inches.
2399 The Commission lacks awareness around disability right and issues because there isn't a disability unit within the Commission itself. I have heard before that the CRTC has many disabled employees, but they are not in a unit that focuses on disability issues and who has the authority to make decisions or recommendations.
2400 We need to establish a disability unit within the CRTC. We need to approach the government and say we need this disability unit so they can focus on different issues that affect us and to appoint a disabled person on the board of commissioners.
2401 We feel that you need to start taking action and move forward with different issues. What we suggest that you start with is establishing the Canadian video relay service fund, and secondly, to establish the national accessibility fund. We need to be able to use some of those funds from the accessibility fund to be used for the 911 emergency service.
2402 We would like to have a policy change to extend the captioning to all televisions and new media regardless of the screen size. We would like to see a disability unit within the Commission with substantial authority, resources, and for all the employees within that unit to have some kind of disability.
2403 We would like to send a letter to the Canadian government recommending at least one person with a profound disability be appointed to the CRTC as a commissioner as soon as possible and to direct all industry participants to develop plans for ongoing consultations that include hiring persons with disabilities and make sure that it is not just a rubber‑stamping opportunity and not to call a second process next year to make decisions on the video relay service. We would like to see it happen now, before April 1st. Thank you.
2404 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I think, Madam Chairman, we were going to have Mr. Vlug as well?
2405 THE SECRETARY: Yes. Mr. Vlug, we would invite you to begin your presentation and we will follow with the panel questions for both.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
2406 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I am fine with that.
2407 My comments now will be personal and not in relation to CAD, but there definitely is some overlap.
2408 I have been working for myself and for the Canadian Association of the Deaf for more than 40 years now and it has been quite frustrating. When I saw the blind individuals give their presentation, the Starks, earlier talking about descriptive video and your questions, I felt like it brought me back in time.
2409 It is the same old crap. Excuse me, I am sorry. You don't seem to have learned any lessons from our information that we provided years ago. You have asked which channels we would like to have audio description and what priorities you would like to give us, but it is the same questions you asked us which channels should be closed captioned.
2410 And the questions about incremental increases, those are the same questions that we have answered years ago and our answer is it should be a hundred percent descriptive video. Blind people should not have to pick and choose what shows and they should not have a segregated channel.
2411 And those answers apply to the deaf community as well. I am sympathetic towards the groups, the blind people, and they have to go through the same things that we went through when we instituted or asked for closed‑captioning services.
2412 And the same excuses have come from the industry as well: it is far too expensive; it is technically impossible. We have heard those excuses in the past and it is simply not true.
2413 Financial hardship is another issue and people from the broadcasting associations crying, saying that there is a turn of events, difficult economic times coming up, but those are the same excuses we heard 20 years ago. If you do your math, the cost would be less than one percent of the whole budget to provide the full access that we require.
2414 And now I see that you are questioning the industry and the lawyers and counsel are questioning industry about what is undue hardship. Undue hardship is the right measurement to use for that, and less than one percent of the total cost of their budget is not undue hardship.
2415 You have seen my personal submissions that I have submitted within the proceedings, and you can tell ‑‑ I don't know how to say it but I am extremely frustrated with the complaint procedure in regards to closed captioning. It is totally useless and still is.
2416 There have been one or two exceptions where we have had some success. You saw the person from Rogers here yesterday. Susan Wheeler, I believe, was her name.
2417 Once, a few months ago, I finally got a response and saw some changes to accommodate or to improve the closed captioning.
2418 But we didn't see any action before that. All we would receive was apologies and they didn't seem to take closed captioning seriously or their response would be: I am sorry, it is just a human error, technical difficulties, you will just have to live with it.
2419 And hearing that again and again and again, it is ‑‑ you know, it is like the little boy taking care of the sheep and crying wolf. Once in a while there will be technical difficulties, once in a while there will be human error, not most of the time.
2420 And usually the technical difficulties can be fixed, and as far as human error is concerned, they can do something about it.
2421 But they don't act. And why don't they act? It is because of you.
2422 In the past, you would have regulated standards for closed captioning, and there had to be a 90 percent without error rate and you would enforce that. But every time in the past, there would be the excuse: Sorry, we made a mistake but we have still surpassed our 90 percent non‑error rate, our capacity.
2423 So if they are over 90 percent, then there is no action. So you allow for that 10 percent margin of errors but that is too large. We need 100 percent captioning.
2424 I still today look at channels and I can't understand why there isn't any captioning if you say there is to be 90 percent captioning, but there are many channels that don't provide captioning.
2425 So now we finally have this new rule, 100 percent captioning but there is an exception to that. We understand that there may be human errors and technical difficulties that may not allow them to have 100 percent captioning, so that is there open. So every time we complain, they will say: Oh! It was human error; technical difficulty.
2426 And so then your staff is stuck because you have this proviso saying they are allowed to have ‑‑ there is an exception and you are allowed to have human error and technical difficulties, and so then we can't follow through.
2427 I suggest that you get serious about it, set up standards like the Americans, that they propose, the FCC. The FCC hasn't been passed but their paper ‑‑ and it is mentioned also in my documents and our positions that we have submitted ‑‑ I suggest you look at their regulations. They have some great descriptions and their information is exactly the same as what we do here in Canada.
2428 Their solution comes from a wonderful group of experts which includes deaf individuals and DI's and NAD and other deaf organizations that have come together and proposed solutions and they proposed this FCC.
2429 And then, once again, why reinvent the wheel, just as Jim Roots said. We shouldn't invent our own Canadian solution. There is already a model that we can copy.
2430 I ask you to please set up standards and make the Canadian broadcasters accountable and that they take these regulations seriously. They say here in Canada, we are better than any other country in the world. I would argue, I haven't seen their graph, their report but I have my doubts. Even if it is true, if it is indeed true, it is because I have been working for the last 40 years forcing them to. Without me, we would be further behind.
2431 I have been coming to CRTC hearings many times, getting you to enforce these rules, and when I am frustrated and when you refuse to do it, I have to go to other organizations like the Canadian Association of the Deaf and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to work on our behalf.
2432 I noticed in the other room, in the examination room, you do have a copy of the case, the Canadian Human Rights case, Vlug against CBC, and that was 10 years ago now. At that time, the Canadian Human Rights Commission examined our complaints and wouldn't take their excuses any longer.
2433 And at that time CBC had been cut back or experienced cutbacks from the Canadian government and they cried undue hardship, that they didn't have the funds, just like CAB was doing yesterday, that they didn't have the funds to provide appropriate accommodations. And the Canadian Human Rights Commission gave them a chance to prove undue hardship and they didn't even come close.
2434 And I would argue the same with CAB. If you further investigate what their budget is, they cannot come close to undue hardship for captioning or for video description.
2435 I am asking you to please pay attention to the Human Rights Commission. Don't give the broadcasters licence to discriminate. That is what you have been doing and it has to stop.
2436 I will stop now and would be happy to answer questions.
2437 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
2438 I will turn the mic over to Commissioner Lamarre but I remind everyone that we will take a break for lunch at 12:45 and we will reconvene, most likely with this same panel, at 2:15.
2439 Commissioner Lamarre.
2440 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
2441 Thank you, Mr. Vlug, Mr. Roots, for being here with us today and thank you for providing us with the written format of your presentation for those of us who do not speak sign language.
2442 I must say I have read with great interest all of your submissions, including the expert report that you filed in support of your submissions, and you have made yourself quite clear, what your expectations are and the reasons for them, completing this with your presentation this morning.
2443 Despite that, I still have some questions basically to probe on certain specific issues that you have raised and complete our record on others.
2444 So I will address these in three separate sections. First, I will start to address a few questions regarding telecommunications services; second, even though you have not made specific reference to it this morning in your presentation, I would like to get your opinion about some issues regarding customer services; and finally, we will talk about closed captioning.
2445 I do also take your point that, Mr. Vlug, you are legal counsel for the Canadian Association of the Deaf and you are also here on your personal behalf. So I will be relying on either yourself or Mr. Roots to let me know when an opinion by either one of you is made and is not shared by the both of you.
2446 Mr. Vlug, you have two hats, so please let me know if the two hats do not fit together, which one you are actually wearing when you are answering.
2447 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Will do. I will try my best anyway.
2448 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Specifically on the VRS availability, I hear you entirely that you are strong advocates of a national service.
2449 Now, this being said, could you expand on your opinion on the availability of such a service, the video relay service, as it regards both scheduling of the availability and also availability in both official languages of Canada in different parts of Canada?
2450 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Jim Roots. Currently, we do not have VRS in Canada. TELUS is supposed to be testing their regional VRS in British Columbia and Alberta but they have not shared anything with us, the deaf community. So I can't share with you what they plan to provide or what they will provide. That is their way of consulting. They haven't consulted.
2451 MR. VLUG (interpreted): In the States, it is available 24/7, 365 days of the year.
2452 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): It depends on the funding. If you enforce it and you have a pool of funding, then it is unlimited. It just depends on how much is in the pool of funds.
2453 SRC, sign Relay Canada, has made a short proposal last year and they would provide ‑‑ their proposal was to provide a slow start‑up; for example, 8:00 to 6:00, five days a week in American Sign Language only for the first two or three months, and then slowly expand to LSQ, and the delay for LSQ is that there isn't as many LSQ interpreters available.
2454 So we need to train them to be ready to take on that role.
2455 Our long‑term goal is to provide relay services 24/7, 365 days a week (sic) in both official languages, in ASL and LSQ.
2456 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I would like to add, it depends on what your decision is but if you make the right decision there will be three or four or five VRS companies who will run to Canada and provide the service immediately tomorrow and they would be able to provide that service 24/7, 365 days of the year. And they do have experience with providing second language interpreting as well.
2457 You can speak with Kelby Brick who is here. He is going to give a presentation later. He is from one of the American companies and they provide Spanish interpreting as well. And they have similar problems; they don't have enough fluent interpreters in Spanish and sign language. But you can ask him the details of that.
2458 It will not be easy and it will cause some disruption within the deaf community, just as it is happening now in the States. The deaf community in the States is disgruntled because the community interpreters are being taken and used for video relay. Therefore, there's not enough interpreters out there to go to the doctor's appointments or for students to take university courses or whatever the case may be for the community.
2459 My personal opinion is that will be a short‑term pain for a long‑term gain. We are already suffering from that now here in Canada, without having relay services here.
2460 Sorenson, an American company, already has four centres in Canada, perhaps five now ‑‑ you can ask Sorenson when they give their presentation later ‑‑ and they are currently hiring our Canadian interpreters from our communities in those centres. So those areas or regions where those centres lie are already experiencing resource problems or issues with interpreters.
2461 To answer your question more simply, we should have video relay services 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year in both languages.
2462 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: You mentioned in your presentation that some Canadian companies have already partnered with U.S. companies in anticipation of implementing in the future a video relay service.
2463 Are you at liberty of telling us who are these companies?
2464 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Well, it says "confidential." I know of two myself.
2465 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
2466 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): I know two for sure. I don't know if the others are really interested but it is confidential.
2467 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
2468 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Officially, there is nothing yet. None of the telephone companies have said that they are partnering with anyone.
2469 We have heard through the grapevine from interpreters or friends that have given us information. What we have heard is Sorenson and TELUS have an agreement but it is not official.
2470 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: One of the issues that keeps creeping up either in submissions by parties or even in the presentations is the difficulty for the disabled community to find out which devices are available for their purposes and, more specifically, mobile devices, wireless phones.
2471 Some service providers have suggested that there are other resources for persons with disabilities to get that information, such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind catalogue that provides information that is suitable to their needs.
2472 Now, I would like your opinion on this. Do you think that it would be more effective to get such information on devices availability from service providers or from third independent parties?
2473 MR. VLUG (interpreted): For the deaf community that isn't a large issue. We have a pretty good knowledge of what's available and we are usually alerted to it quite quickly.
2474 In Ontario, for example, we have the Canadian Hearing Society, and they have a catalogue with all kinds of technical equipment that is available and most of that's not available out in the larger community.
2475 And comparably, out west, we have the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and they have a similar catalogue for their market.
2476 So if I need a TTY or some kind of technical equipment that's where I would go to purchase it. It wouldn't be worth going to a phone company to get a TTY. I would go to the deaf centre.
2477 We do have a problem with wireless service providers. My BlackBerry, for example, it's similar to what you have heard from other organizations: they don't have a package that is geared towards our community. They have some plans that accommodate us, but then they hide some other things in the contract and it's very difficult to find it.
2478 I have a business plan, because I am a business guy, so I know what to look for in a contract, and so they don't realize that there is this plan available in the business section that would accommodate everyone.
2479 Jim is just saying, If I could add, please?
2480 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Every week the CAD receives four to six requests from the general public asking, "Where do I find a special phone? My mom is losing my hearing and I don't know how to get her a telephone? Where do I find a TTY? Where do I get a captioning device?". Every week we get four to six requests from the larger community.
2481 And they are individuals that weren't born deaf or hard of hearing. They have become deaf or hard of hearing later in life and they don't have access to the deaf community and they don't know where to buy the equipment.
2482 And they may not be aware of CHS. They may surf the web and they may find CAD, so they ask us. But we don't sell technical equipment and we often refer them to the Canadian Hearing Society or other organizations, like WID, out west.
2483 I recall Chris Stark was talking about trying to buy a new wireless BlackBerry, for example, and didn't need the video component to it. And then they increased his cost because he was asking for less services.
2484 And I have had a similar experience. Two years ago I was trying to buy a new BlackBerry myself and Rogers offered $250 to buy the technical devices, and then $30 per month for the service plan. I said, "Fine," but I said, "I don't need the voice messaging system, I don't use the telephone, and I don't need a ringtone, so take that off, and I don't need any of the music and I don't need the voicemail either."
2485 So I thought the cost would decrease. Instead, it increased substantially. They told me it was going to cost $450 for the technical device and $60 per month for the service plan. I said, "Forget it," and walked out and went to another Rogers store and said, "I would like to buy a new device. I want the $30 service plan without the voice phone," and they said, "Sure".
2486 They knew about this plan that would accommodate me. We were done in a few minutes and I got the original price of $200 a month and a $30 service plan. But this other store that I had gone into had no idea.
2487 So it's not standardized within the industry.
2488 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thanks, Chair.
2489 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
2490 We are now going to adjourn for lunch and reconvene at 2:15.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1242 / Suspension à 1242
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1414 / Reprise à 1414
2491 THE SECRETARY: Please be seated. Veuillez prendre vos places, s'il vous plaît.
2492 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please. We are going to resume.
2493 Can I ask the secretary if there's any outstanding issues?
2494 THE SECRETARY: Yes, legal has some issues to discuss.
2495 MS LEHOUX: Thank you.
2496 At the end of yesterday, we indicated that we would be posing a question to all TV broadcasters that are participating in this hearing regarding the financial impact of increasing described video.
2497 The question is the following: The RAAQ has proposed that all English and French over‑the‑air broadcasters be required by the end of their licence term to provide 28 hours per week of described video, starting with 14 hours per week in year one of the licence term.
2498 For each broadcast licensee participating in this hearing please comment on the financial impact of this proposal at the corporate group level. Specifically, please identify the estimated cost in years one and seven that this proposal would represent. Where applicable, please provide details on the relevant production, post‑production and distribution costs. Please also comment on the impact of these costs on your overall operations.
2499 You are asked to answer that question by November 28th.
2500 This question will be sent by email to all participating television broadcasters in both official languages shortly. Copies of the question are available in the examination room for consultation.
2501 Thank you.
2502 LA SECRÉTAIRE : Nous avons préparé un sommaire des engagements du 17 novembre de Quebecor et de l'ACR, qui est déposé au dossier public et sera publié sur le site du Conseil à compter du 19 novembre. Je note pour les fins du record que ce document est la pièce CRTC No. 1.
2503 We will now proceed with the rest of Mr. Vlug's and the CAB's questioning.
2504 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Merci, Madame la Sécretaire.
2505 Well, back from lunch, I still have a few questions to cover the telecom services issue, so I will pick up not quite where...well, where we left off, even though it's a question that does not relate to the previous one.
2506 In the submissions filed both by the Canadian Association for the Deaf and Mr. Vlug, you have both referred at length about VRS issues. I would like to have your opinion on the effectiveness of another type of telecommunication service, and that is IP relay service.
2507 What advantage or disadvantage do you see as to how this technology could serve deaf or hard‑of‑hearing people?
2508 MR. VLUG (interpreted): So you are asking me to comment on things that I really haven't experienced myself at this point. Canada doesn't have even video relay service yet, so I don't have an opinion on that.
2509 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: That's a fair answer.
2510 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I'm sure that industry people that are here, what they tell me is that relay services in the States, the time of minutes used on one service is going down and the amount of minutes used on an IP relay service are increasing. But video relay services continue to grow. And, of course, in Canada, I imagine that we would have the same kind of experience. We have a similar environment.
2511 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Mr. Roots, would you like to add something?
2512 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): No, I think that Henry's comments stand.
2513 The text relay service, the message relay service that we have continues and I just want to add the point that I don't see any change to the text relay service that exists because a lot of hard‑of‑hearing people still continue to use that system, people that don't use sign language.
2514 And a lot of people are not comfortable using an IP relay system and using the computer for communication, and so there's a group of people that may not use the IP relay. But deaf people have taken to video relay services quite quickly.
2515 MR. VLUG (interpreted): And Henry just is adding, we also can't assume that all deaf people ‑‑ well, not all deaf people sign, so not all people will be immediately using a VRS system. We are talking to a lot of people and a lot of people refuse to use a video phone.
2516 So it depends on who you are talking to and their comfort level with different technology.
2517 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you.
2518 Now, on the customer service issue, in relation to service providers' websites, what information and services from these sites would be useful to increase accessibility for persons who are hard of hearing or deaf?
2519 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Now I have pretty much stopping going to any of the companies' websites to get the information that I require. There's nothing useful on their websites for my purposes.
2520 They could improve a lot on their website. One thing they could do is have someone signing and have that accessible in both LSQ and ASL, but I don't believe that they are interested in doing that.
2521 We have other ways to get information and I don't depend on the individual companies' websites. I feel that every time we do ask the questions, they don't have the answers for us anyways. Once in a while you are lucky to hit upon a person who knows something about what I'm asking, but most of the time it's a waste of time.
2522 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Mr. Roots, nothing to add?
2523 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): No, nothing to add. Thank you.
2524 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you.
2525 On the issue of consultation between the industry and disabled persons or groups representing them, certain industry parties submitted that an industry‑wide consultation process with a working group for each telecom and broadcasting would be a suitable way of creating an effective and meaningful process.
2526 Would you please comment on the benefits of such a process, including what you think it might achieve or what would be its challenges?
2527 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Traditionally, provincial phone companies have set up an advisory committee for the message relay services that exist at the present time, which is using the TTY as a method of communication, and that advisory committee might meet once, perhaps twice a year.
2528 When the consumer representatives show up, the industry people come and let them know of all the decisions that they have made throughout the year. So they are there to present their decisions and they expect us to rubber stamp what they have come up with at that point.
2529 We felt that the process is not effective. It's a false consultation. And most of the technical experts or experts in disability groups have resigned or left those advisory committees because it's not a useful way to spend their time.
2530 Also, depending on the representative chosen, sometimes those people do not actually represent the community. Bell, at one time, was shocked when we told them that the person they had chosen to be on their advisory committee had actually been kicked out of our organization five years prior and they were completely unaware.
2531 So the quality of people that are involved in those advisory groups perhaps is tenuous, so there are issues with the quality of the advisory group and the attendance there.
2532 TELUS' advisory committee has completely come to a standstill.
2533 SaskTel brags that it has a wonderful relationship with the deaf community, and strong ties, but when I ask deaf people in Saskatchewan if they have been involved, they say no. If I ask them if they have heard anything from the advisory committee, they say that they haven't heard anything.
2534 There are other examples of similar‑type stories. It doesn't seem to be worth it to participate on these advisory committees.
2535 We feel that the current model should be scrapped. The best way to have effective ongoing consultation would be to have just that, ongoing consultation, not rubber‑stamping once or twice a year.
2536 We want people involved in the research and development in that phase, at the very beginning of their research and development. That way they can affect the decisions before they are actually implemented. They can provide feedback and technical expertise on certain research and development projects.
2537 For example, Bell went ahead and invented new technology with the keypad TTY at pay phones, and the technology is actually quite horrible. The deaf community wouldn't accept that old technology 30 years ago, and Bell decided to bring it back without consultation.
2538 If a deaf person had been involved in the research and development phase, they would have said, "Look, this is something that the deaf community has not accepted in the past. We should be investigating a different type of technology."
2540 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I just wanted to add to that.
2541 By the way, did you know that there are four pay phones just outside the door of this room, and two of them have a QWERTY keypad? I challenge you to go ahead and try making a call using those keypads.
2542 The ones outside are actually a big improvement over the ones that TELUS and Bell have set up with the numbered keypads only. The ones out there are alphabetical.
2543 But I challenge you to go out and make a phone call on one of those phones. I bet you won't be successful.
2544 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): It was said in the report that this would satisfy our needs, and it doesn't.
2545 But what I find very interesting in the consultation process ‑‑ we want involvement, true and meaningful involvement.
2546 If you look at the States, what is happening with the relay service there, and why it has been so successful, more successful than anything that has been started in Canada, is because deaf people have been involved right from the get‑go. Here there has been nothing.
2547 Just to add to what Henry stated, Bell bringing back this old technology ‑‑ communication services for the deaf in the United States, they developed a new video pay phone that is being distributed now. There is a TTY built in, and there is a telephone that hearing people can use, as well.
2548 Video technology is expensive, but it has been developed, and it answers every person's needs within one system.
2549 So you compare what the States have gone ahead and done. They have moved ahead light‑years, whereas Canada, by instituting the old technology, has actually moved backwards. It's like the movie "Back to the Future".
2550 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: If I hear you right, you are saying that the main challenges of establishing such consultation are to create factual partnerships between the industry and stakeholders, and to find the right people to participate on each side.
2551 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I am not sure that is quite our position. Our position is that consultation on its own isn't very useful. We need to be involved, so they need to hire us. We need to be working alongside them, and incorporating all that that means.
2552 You need deaf people sitting in this hearing as employees of the CRTC.
2553 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you for that precision.
2554 Now, a subject that is dear to you, Mr. Vlug, I am sure, is the closed captioning issue. The first question I have is in regards to quality control at the level of the broadcaster.
2555 It has been proposed that broadcast licensees be required to develop an internal quality control policy for closed captioning.
2556 In your opinion, what should an internal quality control policy include to be truly effective?
2557 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Firstly, I don't believe that it should be internal. It should be outside monitoring. I don't trust the broadcasting companies.
2558 There has been a lot of misrepresentation and lies about what they have done, so I don't trust them.
2559 We need an outside person to be able to monitor the quality.
2560 They don't measure their own quality, really. I believe they were telling you yesterday that we use a voice recognition system, and the quality is less than the real‑time captioners, and that kind of thing, but how do they know? They have no measurements, so how do they know about the levels of quality?
2561 They say that there is no good way to actually measure it. They assume that voice recognition software is not as good as real‑time captioning.
2562 When you look at the American FCC proposal for the regulations from the deaf groups, they have a lot of details. They give you percentages and goals to meet. I am sure you will be asking other groups about the percentages and the requirements ‑‑ what error rate they accept, and all of those details.
2563 At CAD, we would like to adopt what they have as proposed regulations for the FCC.
2564 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: You are leading me to my next question. The RQST has proposed that an error rate be established in order to measure captioning accuracy, and we will be hearing them on this issue on Friday.
2565 It may be difficult for you to answer this question, since RQST has not presented yet, but, nonetheless, I am going to ask it.
2566 In your opinion, how should errors be defined and identified?
2567 MR. VLUG (interpreted): It's not really that difficult. If there is a spelling mistake, it's an error. If there is a grammar mistake, it's an error. If the timing is off, it's an error.
2568 I don't believe that it's hard to do.
2569 But, again, that is all described within the regulations ‑‑ the proposed regulations for the FCC.
2570 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: You are saying that the proposed regulations for the FCC already have some of those specifications.
2571 MR. VLUG (interpreted): From what I recall, yes.
2572 I can't add much more to that, really.
2573 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Assuming that we do get to the point where we establish how errors are being defined and identified, and an appropriate error rate has been established, in your opinion, should error rates be different depending on the method or type of captioning used by the broadcasters?
2574 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Pre‑recorded captioning, if it's all done in a canned program that is ready to be presented, then the error rate should be zero, or .001 percent, in a pre‑captioned program.
2575 There is no excuse for errors within that kind of programming.
2576 For real‑time captioning, we understand that we need to accept some error rate, but it should not be to the extent that it is now. There are a great deal of errors at this point.
2577 And we do watch TV often, and we do see some real‑time captionists that catch it almost perfectly, and then the next day, or the next hour, it's so bad that you can't even continue to watch the program and you change channels.
2578 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you for making the distinction between live captioning and pre‑recorded captioning. I get your point that the difficulty is more important with live, and that with pre‑recorded captioning we expect a higher quality.
2579 My question was really to get your feeling about how broadcasters use the technologies. Broadcasters do not use the same technologies, so should we make a distinction as far as the quality control is concerned, depending on the type of technology that a broadcaster is using?
2580 MR. VLUG (interpreted): No.
2581 Voice recognition and all that kind of different software ‑‑ no.
2582 It should be good before it is sent out. We shouldn't have to suffer through their errors.
2583 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): If I could add, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters has said that the voice recognition programs ‑‑ that their accuracy rate is actually very good. It is possible to get up to 98 percent accuracy.
2584 Our response is, watch the programs that you use this software for. Even a 2 percent error rate is still too high. It has a huge effect on the captioning. There are a lot of errors.
2585 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I know that we did this in a past hearing, but we challenge you to watch a program with captioning with the sound turned off.
2586 I think that some of you did take on that challenge.
2587 Just to warn you again, it would not be the same.
2588 Sometime, maybe, what you could do is watch a repeat of a program, so you kind of have an idea of what they are saying, and then turn off the sound, and you will see how stilted it is.
2589 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): I am curious, I know that some of you did watch television ‑‑ I think the challenge was actually to turn off the television sound for ‑‑ somebody was going to do that for a week.
2590 I wonder, is there a report? Did anyone write up a report of their experience?
2591 Did any of you try to watch television with captioning and no sound?
2592 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: I can't speak for my colleagues, but I do watch television with captioning on a regular basis.
2593 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): But with the sound on or off?
2594 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Sometimes with the sound on, and sometimes with the sound off.
2595 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Is your experience different depending on whether the sound is on or the sound is off?
2596 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Yes, it is.
2597 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): We don't have the option of turning the sound on.
2598 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: I realize that you don't.
2599 The Canadian Association of Broadcasters, as you are probably aware, will be tabling reports of its working group on closed captioning, and it is expected that it will propose the establishment of a new standard that, hopefully, will become universal.
2600 If and once such a standard is agreed upon, would adherence to the standard by broadcasters be best achieved, in your opinion, by a Condition of Licence or by voluntary measures?
2601 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): If I could clarify something first, my understanding is that the Canadian Association of Broadcasters is not developing standards, it is developing guidelines, and there is a big difference.
2602 Guidelines would require voluntary compliance, and with standards you could have requirements that they must meet.
2604 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Both Jim and I are on that working group. We are participating in the meetings by telephone, video‑phone, by e‑mail.
2605 Just to let you know, it is hard work. They won't move. They have their position, and we are trying to get them to move forward a little bit. They refuse to.
2606 They actually want to move backwards and lower what is in the present guidelines.
2607 So it's a very tough job on the working committee that we are involved with now, and we covered a little bit of that in our presentations.
2608 We do not expect any improvement as a result of that working group.
2609 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: We will see when we have it, and you will have the opportunity to comment on it, once it has been put on the record.
2610 I take the point that you have made through your presentations, and through your submissions, that there needs to be control of the quality of the closed captioning.
2611 How do you see the CRTC enforcing certain quality levels? What enforcement tools do you see, or do you want us to rely on?
2612 MR. VLUG (interpreted): You could use a variety of tools. Again, that is covered within the proposed regulations to the FCC.
2613 There is the possibility of fining the companies; taking away their licence, if it's bad enough; suspension; making them come and report to you.
2614 There is a variety of mechanisms.
2615 You don't have to give them a seven‑year licence, you could give them a one‑year licence, or a six‑year licence.
2616 There are several tools that you have the power to use, and I hope that you use them.
2617 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: From the list of tools that you have identified, there is one that is not available to us, and that is the fining power. We don't have a fining power, neither under the Broadcasting Act nor the Telecom Act.
2618 MR. VLUG (interpreted): There are ways that you can put the broadcasting companies on the spot that will cost them money. They won't be giving you money, but it will be costing them money.
2619 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Mr. Vlug, I am going back to telecom now. Inadvertently, I skipped a question.
2620 I am turning to you, more specifically, to take advantage of the fact that you are legal counsel.
2621 What is coming is actually a hypothetical question.
2622 Assuming that the Commission would determine in a follow‑up proceeding to regulate the sale, lease or maintenance of terminal equipment, could you identify the specific regulatory measures that the Commission should put in place that would be effective?
2623 And, tell me, in your opinion, where the Commission would get its jurisdiction to do so.
2624 MR. VLUG (interpreted): To be honest, I haven't really done a lot of research on your legislation.
2625 I know that you have done things like that in the past.
2626 A flex coil for people who are hard of hearing, I know that you required that for pay phones, and now you are requiring that the pay phones be accessible for TTYs.
2627 So you have, several times in the past, regulated equipment‑related issues, and when it's been regulated, companies have complied and not challenged it.
2628 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Mr. Roots, the Canadian Association of the Deaf, how active is it in the French parts of Canada, as compared to the English parts of Canada?
2629 Do you get as many demands from French Canadians as you do English Canadians, or are you equipped to answer those demands when you get them?
2630 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): We have a system where we run with provincial affiliates, and there are provincial deaf organizations that are affiliated with us as a national organization.
2631 We have the Alberta Association of the Deaf, the Ontario Association of the Deaf, there is the Cultural Society for the Deaf, and there is a provincial organization in Quebec.
2632 We have another category of membership where that organization cannot vote, and the organization is not controlled by deaf people, and that is where our members from Quebec fit in. That is the CQDA.
2633 There are a few deaf organizations in Quebec that are affiliated with them.
2634 We have six people on our Board of Directors. One of those people is francophone, and that is required in our bylaws.
2635 We have officially four languages: ASL, LSQ ‑‑ and those are treated as equal by the Canadian Association of the Deaf ‑‑ and we also have English and French in the written form.
2636 So everything that we provide is in a bilingual format, both French and English.
2637 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: If I understand correctly ‑‑
2638 MR. VLUG (interpreted): If I could add something, during the meetings that we have, our national meetings, we have LSQ interpreters and ASL interpreters, so that everyone has access to the information.
2639 I might sign something in ASL; we have an interpreter who will then interpret that into LSQ, and vice versa.
2640 It is imperative that we provide that during our meetings.
2641 We can't really afford it, but we do it anyway.
2642 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): That's right.
2643 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: If I understand it properly, your organization is an umbrella organization for other organizations in Canada that represent deaf and hard‑of‑hearing people.
2644 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Not an umbrella organization per se. We are a national body and each province has their own deaf association, and really the provincial associations all have input into the national body and control the national body.
2645 The board itself is elected with representatives from across Canada and the provincial associations have votes and they set the policy. They decide our priorities, not the board.
2646 So it is not an umbrella organization in the way you would think of it. We look at it as a grassroots organization where we include everyone from the grassroots and it's fed up to the national body.
2647 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you for those precisions.
2648 Those are all my questions, Mr. Chair.
2649 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Lamarre.
2650 Are there any other questions from anybody on the Panel?
2651 Can I ask counsel if they have any questions? They do.
2652 MS POPE: Yes, we do have a few questions. It's Lori Pope speaking.
2653 My first question is what expertise CAD would bring to consideration of VRS and IPRS services that individual customers involved in a trial would not, in your view?
2654 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): CAD is very directly involved in the deaf community itself. We are a grassroots organization and we often call on experts, for example Mr. Vlug. We call on him quite frequently.
2655 And really all the information that you probably have on VRS comes from our organization, or a lot of it, the research that we have done. So we provide a lot of expertise.
2656 I'm not sure if I'm answering your question or if I'm on the right track.
2657 MS POPE: Just that one of the telephone companies, when asked about consultation, said that they would be consulting with service users involved in their trial and felt that that was a very helpful form of consultation.
2658 So I'm wondering whether you feel that CAD as an organization would have something additional to offer in a consultation, apart from the individual experiences of people involved in a trial?
2659 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): Maybe Henry can answer that.
2660 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Yes, I do have something to say about that.
2661 It sounds to me a lot like what SaskTel was doing with your pay phone issue. They met with deaf people, you know, within SaskTel. They convinced these people that it was silly to set up pay phones out in the cold or in different places. So that's not true consultation; it's not discussion. It is singling out deaf people and convincing those people that this is acceptable.
2662 Those people are not aware of the legal requirements or the CRTC's orders and they just go along with whatever this company, SaskTel for example, tells them.
2663 So it depends on who the people are that they select and whether they are aware of their rights. Are they aware of what is available out there?
2664 So we as CAD know what's available. We know what is happening in the United States. We know what is happening in other countries. We have a pretty good idea of what legal obligations are and what we can go to court and fight for and, you know, what we can go and fight for in court that we don't get from CRTC, for example.
2665 So often we don't have the resources to do it, but things we could do, and we know what those options are. I'm not sure that a regular grassroots deaf person would be aware of all those issues.
2666 MS POPE: Thank you.
2667 I just want to clarify something in the exchange that you had with one of the Commissioners regarding IPRS, Internet Protocol Relay Service.
2668 As I understand IPRS as distinct from VRS, IPRS is somewhat like message relay in that it is text based only it would be available through other platforms: your computer, your Blackberry, whatever.
2669 I wondered if you had any particular submissions to make on IPRS, for example.
2670 With VRS you talked about the need for a national system. Do you have any comments to make about IPRS?
2671 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Our proposal is that all the relay services should be controlled in the same way as VRS. The regular system now, I think that should be taken away from ILEC, the phone companies, what we have now. They are doing a lousy job and they refuse to make any improvements. They refuse to have different types of availability.
2672 In the States they have a variety of types, but here we have the basics and that's it.
2673 So I think that should be taken out of their hands and all regulated under the same company. We will listen to presentations from GoAmerica later and Sorenson and groups like that and talk about how they have proceeded.
2674 MS POPE: Great. In terms of service bundles with services that you may be paying for but not able to use, I wonder if either of you have any suggestions for what a service bundle that would contain only services that can be used by people who are deaf would look like.
2675 What services might be included in such a bundle?
2676 MR. VLUG (interpreted): All of them, if everything could be accessible to us, but they are not. The phone companies refuse to make them that way so that's all detailed within my submission. It's very frustrating.
2677 MS POPE: Okay, thank you. So we can refer to your written submissions on that.
2678 You have spoken to your experiences in getting information from websites and customer service representatives.
2679 Do you have any proposals for other sources of information that would be in particular formats?
2680 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): I'm sorry, related to what? Could you clarify?
2681 MS POPE: Information that you would like to have from the telephone companies, if there are certain formats that would be appropriate or if there are certain areas of information that you wanted?
2682 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): In sign language, if there were video clips in ASL and LSQ.
2683 MR. VLUG (interpreted): On the Internet you will see more and more there are companies that actually have video clips and you can click on those and it's in sign language and you can get the information that way.
2684 For Jim and I, we are very fluent in English and we can read and get the information that way, but for many deaf people they are unable to.
2685 Even, for example, CRTC's website, there is a lot of language and a lot of English within the website and the average deaf person would not be able to access it.
2686 MS POPE: Okay, thanks.
2687 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): If I could just add, I have noticed a few provincial governments now actually have sign language on their websites and the United States ‑‑ sorry, interpreter error.
2688 The Government of Nova Scotia has partnered with an organization called Deaf Awareness Advocacy in Nova Scotia. So they have partnered with them and there is new information and they have a plan, a project plan where they will take information, put it into ASL and get it out on the web for deaf people.
2689 And when they are talking about this plan changing and the Nova Scotia government is giving information in print, which a lot of deaf people have no access to, they can go onto the website and go onto the video clip and see somebody signing and then it's clear.
2690 The Ontario government is also ‑‑ when the SARS virus, for example, came out, when that occurred a few years ago, on the government website there was everything in print warning people about how to proceed, and what they did in this situation was they brought in a deaf person who had this taped in sign language with all the information, they put it on their website and the deaf community could access the information on SARS.
2691 It was just basic information that got out to the community.
2692 The federal government, I haven't seen any of that happening at this point.
2693 Henry is just adding a point.
2694 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Just maybe a year ago now the National Association for the Deaf in the United States signed a contract with ‑‑ who was it, Jim?
2695 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): I don't know.
2696 MR. VLUG (interpreted): I believe it was the revenue agency, the tax agency, and they will be working on making a lot of information accessible on their website through sign language.
2697 MS POPE: Thanks. My last question is again back to consultations, if you have any suggestions as to how appropriate representation ‑‑ representatives should or could be selected for consultations, given that there may be many organizations that represent different groups, different levels of government, that sort of thing, if you have had any proposals in that regard?
2698 MR. ROOTS (interpreted): If you work with national disability organizations, I think that is important and they must be consumer driven organizations. That is where you will get people with disabilities that have control, and they are aware of people in their communities that would be technical experts. And if they don't know readily of an expert to recommend, they know who to ask to find an expert to recommend.
2699 For example, if you wanted an expert in deaf communication, you would contact the Canadian Association of the Deaf and if we weren't aware of who would be a good match for your specific consultation process for your needs, I would certainly know who to ask to find someone to be able to refer to you.
2700 Henry is just adding that ‑‑
2701 MR. VLUG (interpreted): When those groups need someone to consult, they want someone there who has the appropriate kind of knowledge.
2702 Again, if the CRTC ‑‑ they should already know who the experts are in the field and if these companies had deaf employees, then they have resident experts and they wouldn't even have to come to us. But that isn't the case anywhere so the only option they have is to approach us asking for experts.
2703 MS POPE: Thank you. I believe Véronique has some questions.
2704 MS LEHOUX: Yes. I have just one very small question. I am Véronique Lehoux, legal counsel, too.
2705 Mr. Vlug, you referred to the closed captioning quality standards put forward to the FCC.
2706 Could you provide those standards? Is this something you have? If you do, can you provide them to the Commission or file them?
2707 MR. VLUG (interpreted): The paper that I'm referring to, it's a link on our first submission. There is a link there in our first submission to both the original proposal for the regulations, and then the second link is for the reply and the comments. And in the comments they have more specifics on the percentages and those kinds of details.
2708 MS LEHOUX: Thank you.
2709 THE CHAIRPERSON: I would like to thank both Mr. Vlug and Mr. Roots for appearing before us today.
2710 We will move right on into the next appearance. I believe it is by TELUS Communications.
2711 Thank you, gentlemen.
2712 MR. VLUG (interpreted): Thank you.
2713 THE SECRETARY: I now call on TELUS Communications Company to come forward to the presentation table.
2714 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, Madam Secretary, do you want to introduce the next party?
2715 THE SECRETARY: Yes. Appearing for TELUS Communications Company is Mr. Woodhead.
2716 Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have then 15 minutes for your presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
2717 MR. WOODHEAD: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
2718 My name is Ted Woodhead and I'm just going to do a preliminary item here, if I may.
2719 To my left is Ann Mainville‑Neeson and to my right is Eric Edora and behind us, assisting us are Isabelle Morneau and Alisha Simpson.
2720 But as a preliminary matter, Commission staff addressed some interrogatories to various carriers last week and I have spoken with Commission counsel and in the interests of time I believe, and probably in the best interests of all participants, we would undertake to provide written responses to those interrogatories for the public record by November 28th, if that is satisfactory with Commission counsel.
2721 THE CHAIRPERSON: They are nodding affirmatively.
2722 MR. WOODHEAD: TELUS appreciates the opportunity to appear before the Commission. As I said, my name is Ted Woodhead. I am Vice‑President, Telecom Policy and Regulatory Affairs for TELUS.
2723 Again, as I said, on my immediate left is Ann Mainville‑Neeson, Director of Broadcast Regulation; and on my right is Eric Edora, Director of Regulatory Affairs.
2724 TELUS is proposing to establish a consultation with our subscriber base for determining priorities for the disposition of the approximately $3 million of our deferral account funds dedicated to the development of advanced communications services for persons with disabilities.
2725 This money should be put to use for proposals that respond to the needs of the disabled community and for the goals of this proceeding. With this proposal we can achieve both meaningful and effective consultation, as well as ensure that useful products and services are available to our subscribers with disabilities following the consultation.
2726 Prior to the introduction of a new product or service specifically designed for persons with certain special needs, there are strong incentives for service providers to consult with the relevant disability groups. These strong incentives exist because industry service providers want the relevant disability groups to provide insight on the functionality and desirability of the planned product or service prior to its introduction.
2727 We welcome the help of representatives of the disability groups to establish priorities. Together with representatives of the disabled community we will find the most sensible means of using these funds to promote accessibility within our regions.
2728 We will report on the results of this consultation, as well as the progress of the implementation of these initiatives. These reports will be provided pursuant to the Commission's current reporting requirements for the disposition of the funds remaining in the deferral account.
2729 The cost of accessibility initiatives must be recoverable and with TELUS' proposal consultation will revolve around finding the best initiatives for funding.
2730 TELUS is proud to be planning an upcoming trial of video relay services in its Alberta and BC ILEC regions. We are the only telecommunications service provider undertaking this trial in advance of the outcome of this proceeding and of any determination regarding the provision of this service.
2731 This trial will provide important information regarding the cost of providing the service and the utility of the service to customers.
2732 Operational costs for video relay services are expected to be higher than those for traditional message relay service. In TELUS' view, prior to any requirement for the national provision of video relay services there must be full consideration given to finding the best method for video relay service providers to recover their operational costs.
2733 The information gathered from our trial will be key to the next phase of implementation.
2734 I will now turn it over to my colleague, Ann, to discuss broadcasting.
2735 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Thank you. My name is Ann Mainville‑Neeson.
2736 TELUS also provides broadcasting services as a new entrant in the broadcast distribution industry through its IPTV service. As a licensed Category 1 broadcasting distribution undertaking, TELUS TV provides many services which make broadcasting more accessible to persons who are visually or hearing impaired.
2737 For example, TELUS TV ensures that all the closed captioning information received from broadcasters is passed through to it subscribers.
2738 In addition, as the operator of a video‑on‑demand programming service, TELUS also ensures that most of the programming it offers on its VOD service is closed captioned.
2739 TELUS TV also provides the pass‑through of video description to it subscribers and will be distributing, as part of its essentials package the soon‑to‑be launched Accessible Channel, which is a national English‑language service offering a 24‑hour 100 per cent open format described video programming providing news, information drama and other programming to visually impaired Canadians.
2740 While we appreciate the comments of the Starks this morning, it is our view that The Accessible Channel would provide a much better access to described video programming than the four hours per week of described programming provided by each broadcaster as part of their regular schedule.
2741 Presumably many people who are visually impaired would also find this service useful.
2742 With respect to the Interactive Programming Guide, while TELUS is not aware of any technology which would make information provided in the Interactive Programming Guide menus more accessible to persons with disabilities, there are many features of our IPG that provide increased accessibility for persons with disabilities, including those persons who are vision impaired.
2743 Through such things as personalized favourites lists, our IPG allows our customers to choose their favourite channels and to limit their surfing or their browsing to only those channels.
2744 Also, TELUS TV's IPG reminder or autotune feature reminds the customer of a show that they previously scheduled to watch and will even automatically change the channel to that program at the prescribed time. Both of these features help to make television, and more particularly our IPG, more accessible to persons with disabilities by allowing the customer to make choices in advance of programming and by narrowing the scrolling and the channel surfing requirement.
2745 I will now turn it over to my colleague, Eric, to discuss further telecommunications initiatives that will provide accessibility to persons with disabilities.
2746 MR. EDORA: Good afternoon. I'm Eric Edora.
2747 Throughout its history TELUS has demonstrated its commitment to the delivery of accessible telecommunications products and services. Of course, TELUS' commitment has been recently assisted through the use of funds specifically allocated from the deferral account for accessibility initiatives.
2748 In addition to the trial for video relay services mentioned earlier, TELUS is planning another trial, this trial for IP relay services in its Alberta and British Columbia ILEC regions. This trial is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2009.
2749 IP relay is generally faster than traditional message relay services and has the additional benefits of IP. As a result, IP relay services can be made available over any Internet accessible device. When used with a laptop, Blackberry or other SMART phone, IP relay is available virtually anywhere the customer takes a mobile device. IP relay represents a tremendous evolution from traditional message relay services.
2750 TELUS has also completed two other initiatives that were specifically approved by the Commission for funding from the deferral account.
2751 First, in order to better promote the availability of our products and services for persons with disabilities, TELUS recently launched a special needs website where information related to our accessible products and services is described and made available for customers to order. The website also includes step‑by‑step instructions describing how to use many of TELUS' special needs services and includes a downloadable application form that TELUS customers can use to request special needs services from TELUS.
2752 This website will be continually updated with the latest TELUS products and services and will be improved over time.
2753 In addition, in 2007 TELUS launched Enhanced Directory Assistance Service. This service is free for registered TELUS customers with disabilities in Alberta and British Columbia. Enhanced Directory Assistance provides customers with access to services such as weather information, movie listings and location directions that allow a customer to find a business location within a local vicinity or neighbourhood.
2754 On the TELUS wireless network the information can be delivered via SMS.
2755 Enhanced Directory Assistance provides significant benefits for customers with disabilities because they have the ability to get information without needing, for example, to read a telephone directory for listings, to use maps to get directions or to flip through a newspaper for movie and weather information.
2756 For persons with limited mobility or impaired vision Enhanced Directory Assistance might make these everyday tasks just a little bit easier.
2757 Prior to these deferral account initiatives TELUS has long offered its customers services such as TELUS relay services, TTY long distance discounts, alternative bill formats and accessible pay phone terminals. In fact, TELUS' predecessor company, BCTel, was the first in Canada to offer message relay service back in 1984.
2758 Our commitment to customers with disabilities remains strong, and with the funds that the company has remaining in the deferral account TELUS looks forward to developing new services and developing new products to meet the needs of customers with disabilities into the future.
2759 MR. WOODHEAD: Mr. Chairman, TELUS thanks the Commission for the opportunity to present at this proceeding, and we are pleased to answer any of the Panel's questions at this time.
2760 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
2761 I will be the one starting off with some questions, Mr. Woodhead. I will direct them to you and allow you to redirect them as you see fit.
2762 I have a series of questions just on a topical nature. It includes the deferral account which you have emphasized in your paper, general consultations, MRS, IPRS, VRS, wireless services. We will talk about described video and closed captioning. We will talk about the website and some general regulatory issues.
2763 So we have pretty well got quite a few things here to talk about.
2764 The deferral account. You have talked about it here and you mention I guess in your second paragraph that there is a disposition of $3 million outstanding.
2765 Can you tell me how much money was initially earmarked for initiatives relating to accessibility coming out of the deferral account proceeding?
2766 MR. EDORA: The 5 per cent allocated to deferral account funds for accessibility proceedings amounted to approximately $8 million.
2767 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You mentioned two services you have already introduced as a result of the deferral account initiative, I guess. One was the enhanced directory assistance and the other was the website.
2768 That accounted for a portion of the money. I'm not sure if publicly I can say what it is, but if you want to tell me what it is, that would be great; if not, then if you could just file how much you have spent to date for those two initiatives, I would appreciate it.
2769 MR. EDORA: We can definitely file that information for you, Mr. Chairman.
2770 The enhanced directory assistance, the implementation of enhanced directory assistance, the money allocated from the deferral account for enhanced directory assistance did not necessarily ‑‑ was not necessarily allocated for implementation costs. There were ongoing costs for enhanced directory assistance and for the special needs website. That was part of our initial approved allocation from the deferral account.
2771 So when we file our costs for the implementation, those may not necessarily line up with the costs that we initially got approved from the Commission for the deferral account funds.
2772 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's why I would like to know what it is so I know what is left.
2773 MR. EDORA: Yes, we can file it.
2774 THE CHAIRPERSON: Great. For those two services that you have introduced, to what extent did you involve the people with disabilities in the consultation of either the enhanced directory assistance and/or the website that you have introduced?
2775 MR. EDORA: These initiatives came out as a result of the deferral account consultations and in those consultations we met at a national level, at a regional level and with individual provincial governments as well.
2776 For the specific implementation of those particular services, those services were discussed at the consultations during the proceeding and they were ‑‑ and as a result they were raised with disability groups as priority initiatives.
2777 We received approval from the Commission in Decision 2008‑1 and then we implemented, so we did not specifically undertake consultation following the Commission's decision in Decision 2008‑1.
2778 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So there was no active consultation as you build your plan to introduce these services?
2779 MR. EDORA: No, there was not.
2780 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Let's go back to the quantum.
2781 So there was about $8 million. You said part of it was earmarked for these two services you have already introduced and you are saying there is $3 million left for advanced communication services, which I assume relates to IPRS and video relay services.
2782 MR. EDORA: No, that's not correct.
2783 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's not correct.
2784 MR. EDORA: The IP relay service and video relay service were also approved by the Commission in Decision 2008‑1 as part of the deferral account initiatives. As a result, the $5 million that we have allocated for the deferral account from already approved initiatives includes both the trial for IP relay and the trial for VRS.
2785 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. That was roughly $3 million and that is the $3 million we're talking about here or you are talking about here?
2786 MR. EDORA: No. The four specific initiatives approved by the Commission in Decision 2008‑1 amounted to approximately $5 million. We had $8 million total and $5 million allocated from Decision 2008‑1 initiatives.
2787 As a result, we have $3 million left for future initiatives and that is the $3 million that Mr. Woodhead referred to in the opening statement.
2788 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. The four projects that were initially approved, what were they?
2789 MR. EDORA: The four projects approved by the Commission in Decision 2008‑1 were the trial for IP relay services, the trial for video relay services, the implementation of the special needs website and the implementation of Enhanced Directory Assistance Services.
2790 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
2791 Coincidentally I guess the trial for video relay services and IP related services amounted to roughly $3 million, based on my information that I have here.
2792 MR. EDORA: Those were the initial cost that were ‑‑ those were the costs as approved by the Commission in Decision 2008‑1, that's correct.
2793 THE CHAIRPERSON: So now we are on the same page.
2794 So what have you done with regard to those initiatives that were approved back in 2007?
2795 MR. EDORA: Those initiatives were approved in Decision 2008‑1, so January 2008. The IP relay trial is scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2009, so early 2009. The video relay service trial is scheduled for launch in January of 2009. We are currently in finalization of negotiations with our vendor for video relay services for that trial.
2796 As a result, we are close to implementation and I have been told that the implementation should take place in the first month of 2009.
2797 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. The reason I asked the question was because in the evidence that you filed you seem to imply it was going to be coming up in October/November, which was around now. So it has been delayed.
2798 MR. EDORA: When we filed our proposals back in 2006, we proposed that if approved by the Commission we would launch video relay services within eight months and I believe also for IP relay services within eight months of the Commission decision.
2799 So yes, that gets us to approximately September/October 2008 and, yes, there has been a small delay.
2800 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. This comes back to the issue of consultation and it is a two‑part question.
2801 One, did you notify the Commission that you would be late in rolling out these trials? And two, did you have consultation with people with disabilities with regard to these trials as you have developed them because they are imminent now basically?
2802 MR. EDORA: In terms of notification to the Commission we, TELUS, of course is adhering to the requirements from Decision 2008‑1 where we report back annually and, as a result, our notification to the Commission was going to take place in March 2009 as to the status of the initiatives.
2803 So no, we have not given specific notification prior to today of the timing of our launch ‑‑ of the specific timing of our launch.
2804 With regard to consultation, for video relay services the consultation, as I mentioned, took place as part of the deferral account proceeding. Once the initiative got approved by the Commission, our implementation team had to run a request for information and a request for proposals for this particular initiative. So most of our service delivery and design, at least as it pertains to the VRS trial, has been with our vendor.
2805 THE CHAIRPERSON: They are with your vendor, but did you at all consult with the people with disabilities groups to see whether their needs were going to be respected and included in the design phase?
2806 MR. EDORA: Our vendor is an experienced provider of video relay services in the United States. As a result, our vendor would have experience in the service and also knowledge of some of the challenges and some of the issues that the disability groups or people with disabilities, people with hearing impairments, have with video relay services.
2807 As a result, we took it with our vendor, with consultations with our vendor to understand what the limitations of the service were, what the prospective usage and what the prospective design of our trial should be.
2808 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you still did not consult with the user group themselves in Canada ‑‑ in Alberta and British Columbia and in Québec?
2809 MR. EDORA: We did not specifically consult with the disability groups in our three ILEC provinces, that is correct.
2810 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
2811 MR. WOODHEAD: Mr. Chairman, if I may, and perhaps this is clear to you, but we obviously consulted during the deferral account process and the results of that consultation indicated that the groups wanted a video relay service. That's why we proposed it. That's why it was approved.
2812 And then we went and sought out a video relay service in the United States where I believe the previous presenters were indicating that the kind of firms that are operating these services down there are what they want.
2813 So to the extent that the answer to your question is did we consult with disability groups in the design of a video relay service, no, we were looking for a vendor of the video relay service in the United States.
2814 THE CHAIRPERSON: This is akin to my 29‑year old son saying he needs wheels and I bring him a bicycle. I mean yes, you are going to go to a vendor who has expertise in this, no doubt about it, but at the same time don't you think that at some point in time, particularly because this is deferral account money that is coming out of the public development of this deferral account, that there would have been an obligation in the early stages to sit down with these people, because there was nothing there to start with, and ask for their input?
2815 MR. WOODHEAD: My point is that we did sit down with them and ask for their input and they said they wanted a video relay service, and we agree and we went and got one.
2816 MR. EDORA: Mr. Chair, the video relay service, as everyone has heard, is available in the United States and is used on a regular basis by customers in the United States. There is really no difference between a Canadian video relay service and an American video relay service.
2817 So, as Mr. Woodhead says, if we have approval to implement video relay service in Canada, we don't ‑‑ other than discussing directly with our vendor in terms of trial design, I'm not entirely certain what additional information we would need to gather about video relay service that we wouldn't ‑‑ for specific consultation with disability groups.
2818 THE CHAIRPERSON: Neither would I, but it would be worthwhile asking them.
2819 Let me ask you a question just on that topic. Is there anything unique about video relay service to serve a multilingual country like Canada?
2820 MR. EDORA: Absolutely, in the sense that my understanding is that there are limited number of LSQ interpreters in Québec and so there are going to be some implementation issues in terms of video relay service in Québec for the French language.
2821 That is why TELUS has proposed to not only undertake this trial, but has asked the Commission to determine some of these issues that arise as a result of the trial of VRS service, to examine that in a separate proceeding, because the truth of the matter is not a lot of people in Canada understand how video relay service is going to operate in terms of its overall usage and in terms of its overall customer demand and some of these, for example, language implementation issues that we think we are going to face.
2822 That's why we think this trial is critical, not only for TELUS and our customers, but also for the broader implementation of the service in Canada.
2823 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you are saying there are unique situations because there are limited people for dealing with the French language.
2824 Why wouldn't you have sat down with the CAD who were just here and just ask them whether they can actually help you in finding the resources and the tools and the development and the trials for this at some point in time?
2825 MR. EDORA: Mr. Chair, let me say that ‑‑ I will address your question in a moment.
2826 But in terms of the consultation, what better consultation is there than the service provider willing to undertake the delivery of the service to a subset of customers that have hearing impairment and delivering that service to those customers in our Alberta and British Columbia ILEC regions?
2827 This is direct consultation with the specific customers who not only want the service but will use the service.
2828 As a result, there are two different ways you can do consultation. You can do consultation and talk about ideas and you can do consultation and actually implement. And that's what we are doing.
2829 So in TELUS' view, this as another form of consultation.
2830 Now, to address your specific question, you are absolutely correct that perhaps some of the advocacy groups would have had specific knowledge about some of the issues that we face in terms of the French language implementation.
2831 However, the issue is that that issue only presented itself after our vendor mentioned it during the course of our negotiations. So in that respect you are absolutely correct. Perhaps we should have gotten some information from the advocacy groups on that specific issue.
2832 THE CHAIRPERSON: I will tell you, I come from the industry that you are in and what I was taught repeatedly is find a need and fill it. That's how you make money in this world, finding a need and filling it. Usually finding a need means talking to customers.
2833 I think you folks would be the first ones to advocate that it is important to be close to your customer and deal with them.
2834 In this case what you are telling me is because there was a set of money set aside from a deferral account and you did consult with them in 2006 in the buildup of it, you now thought you had a rubber cheque or a blank cheque to go ahead and spend the money without even talking to these people.
2835 I just find it strange.
2836 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, that isn't what we are saying. You are right about the first part. We went out and consulted with these groups and one of their priorities was a video relay service solution.
2837 What we are going to do now is to trial with people in those subject groups the service and in fact consult with them about what works for them and what doesn't. That is the direct customer and that is the purpose of the trial, in order that we can understand the demand issues. Does it work? Is it satisfying their needs?
2838 So it's not that we are not trying to consult with our direct customers. In fact, that's what we are asking to do and that's what we're doing.
2839 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think we heard Mr. Vlug just briefly earlier say that it's important to not just address it through a sample of customers but also the national agencies that actually have the experience and the depth and the breadth to understand the implications and the ramifications of some of these things, not just the end‑users as well.
2840 So I guess I ask you the question: Will you undertake to talk with these industry groups before you roll out the service?
2841 MR. WOODHEAD: We can undertake to do that.
2842 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
2843 THE CHAIRPERSON: TELUS is fortunate that in 2010 the Olympics will be coming to British Columbia. To what extent will people with disabilities have access to services in order to be able to partake in the benefits of the two weeks of Olympics that are going on?
2844 Have you thought about that as part of your business plans for the Olympics, number one, and for the IPRS and the VRS, number two?
2845 MR. EDORA: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, can you please restate the question?
2846 We are having trouble understanding.
2847 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sure, I'm sorry.
2848 In 2010 the Olympics are coming to British Columbia. To what extent have you built a plan around providing communication services for those people that have disabilities that will either be attending from remote areas or, alternatively, living in British Columbia but wanting to either watch on whatever medium there is, whether it's a wireless phone or a television?
2849 Have you thought about it at all? Is there anybody who has sort of put together a plan or a consideration as to how we deal with this segment of the marketplace?
2850 MR. WOODHEAD: I wouldn't be aware if anyone has specifically thought about that.
2851 THE CHAIRPERSON: Could you find out and file something if there is something? If not, just let us know that there isn't.
2852 Let's see here, in your response to questions to BDUs, dated July 7, 2008, on page 3 of 4 ‑‑ you don't have to look for it, but you responded to a series of questions with regard to the website.
2853 I would just read it to you. It says:
"TELUS does not consider it necessary to promote the availability of this information on its website because interested parties will generally seek out this information which will be easily found..."
2854 And I emphasize the word "easily found":
"... using navigation menus or the search functions of the website." (As read)
2855 You also have, if I can find it ‑‑ anyway, there is another reference with regard to the word "easy", relatively easily being injected into a couple of your responses as well.
2856 When you say these things, have you actually had somebody who was disabled, whether visually or auditorily, a hearing disability, check to see whether it is that easy to access the website?
2857 MR. WOODHEAD: If we could have a moment, Mr. Chair?
2858 THE CHAIRPERSON: Certainly.
2859 MR. EDORA: In terms of TELUS' website, no, we do not specifically consult with people with these ‑‑ with either visual impairment or hearing impairment to determine whether our website is easy, as you put it, Mr. Chair.
2860 But we try as much as possible to adhere to the W3C standards ‑‑ guidelines, I'm sorry, for website design. My understanding is that our website actually complies to a very high degree with the W3C guidelines.
2861 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is it fully W3C version 2 compatible?
2862 MR. EDORA: No, it is not.
2863 THE CHAIRPERSON: It is not. And yet you used deferral account money to upgrade your website?
2864 MR. EDORA: We used deferral account money to launch a special needs website that has at essential location the information pertaining to accessible products and services at one particular location on our website, yes.
2865 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is that website accessible across Canada?
2866 MR. EDORA: Yes.
2867 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Is your Enhanced Directory System available across Canada?
2868 MR. EDORA: It is available in our ILEC regions.
2869 THE CHAIRPERSON: In your ILEC region in ‑‑
2870 MR. EDORA: In Alberta and British Columbia.
2871 THE CHAIRPERSON: How about in Québec?
2872 MR. EDORA: In Québec I do not think the service is available.
2873 THE CHAIRPERSON: You do not, okay.
2874 If I can find it ‑‑
2875 THE CHAIRPERSON: I can't find it.
2876 As you no doubt have heard from a lot of people, they are concerned that there hasn't been a sufficient amount of consultation between the work that you are doing on their behalf, mind you, and them as well.
2877 I refer you to another interrogatory that you filed to BDUs, also dated 07 August 08, No. 3, page 1 of 1, and the question revolved around consultation: how to go about effective and meaningful ongoing consultation with the industry and the disability groups.
2878 Your response was that:
"It's not necessary for the Commission to require ongoing consultations between industry service providers and disability groups. Ample avenues exist for meaningful and effective consultation between industry service providers and disability groups to take place."
2879 Then there is the other easier.
"It has become much easier for all persons and groups to have a voice." (As read)
2880 Yet what we are hearing is that these groups don't feel their voice is be heard through these what I will call ad hoc consultations, and they are the ones that are sort of reaching out to us and saying do something about it because we are not being heard.
2881 You are saying everything is fine, we are talking to people, they will get what they want and trust us.
2882 Is there not a disconnect? I mean, you have been here for the last two days, Mr. Woodhead. You have heard them.
2883 MR. WOODHEAD: I indeed have heard them. I guess my response would be, you know, anything that can be done to improve the consultation ‑‑ and you have raised a couple of examples here previously ‑‑ we would be supportive of. It's just really the infrastructure around that that I guess at the end of the day we would be looking to you for guidance as to how that might be implemented going forward.
2884 But as I said, the things that we have thus far proposed we felt that trialling with various customer user groups would provide us with some of that feedback. But if you are looking for more robust or a more fulsome process, obviously we would be in your hands on that.
2885 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not sure we are looking for it. I mean, we would much prefer for the parties to get together themselves and work things out. What we are hearing is that it's not happening and we need something a bit more structured.
2886 I look to you folks can say if it can't be done in an unstructured environment, I guess it falls upon us to take a look at how one goes about structuring something more formally.
2887 What you are telling me is we don't need structure, everything is fine, and yet what I'm hearing the industry saying is it's not quite what you are hearing from TELUS.
2888 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, obviously our view is that in the things that we have laid out for you, we believe we were consulting.
2889 So it's a question of ‑‑ I understand the frustration. I have listened to the people who have come up and given very articulate presentations. But I guess at this point in time I'm not exactly sure what that consultation then looks like.
2890 It may well be ‑‑ it may well be, as we have made an undertaking to go and talk to one group for example again, at the post or in the implementation phase of that particular project, that we will learn some more from that.
2891 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
2892 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: May I also add a broadcasting example.
2893 We do receive from time to time some feedback from various persons who use our service. One specific example that I have is with respect to closed captioning on HG services. All the trials, all the testing, all the technical testing that we had done in our labs and in our own offices and our employees use of the service did not seem to have any problem.
2894 It turns out that on certain TV sets the closed captioning doesn't show up well; it gets all garbled. And we resolved that in conjunction with someone who was visually ‑‑ or who was hearing impaired and who needed to read the closed captioning, and we were able to fix the problem on a one‑on‑one basis.
2895 These things, no matter how much consultation, even with a national group, this type of problem might not have come up otherwise.
2896 But certainly when we do get approached with a specific problem, we do try to resolve it on a one‑on‑one and generally we are very successful in doing so.
2897 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just that when you are building new services up front it would be nice to talk to your constituency. That's all I'm suggesting.
2898 Let me move on to MRS and IPRS and the like.
2899 Do you provide MRS services today in‑house or is it contracted out?
2900 MR. EDORA: We provide it in‑house.
2901 THE CHAIRPERSON: You provide it in‑house.
2902 Is there a plan or a program to look at its evolution and redevelop it or develop it?
2903 We heard earlier some people saying that it has been around for a long time and it has not changed at all.
2904 Can you perhaps enlighten us as to when it was introduced and what stages of development or redevelopment it has gone through to reach where it is today?
2905 MR. EDORA: It was first introduced, as I mentioned in the opening statement, by BCTel in 1984.
2906 To be honest, Mr. Chair, I can't speak to all the product changes that have taken place of our message relay services over time. TELUS has implemented such ancillary services such as hearing carryover and voice carryover as variants of different types of relay services. So we do look at opportunities to enhance the service, to provide better functionality for our customers.
2907 The biggest evolution that we see for relay services, at least as they pertain to text relay services, is IP relay. IP relay we view is going to be a tremendous enhancement to existing message relay services.
2908 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can you provide just an overview as to what products and services the end‑user needs in order to make relay services work?
2909 MR. EDORA: Traditional message relay services, my understanding is that a hearing impaired customer just needs a teletype writer device and a phone line.
2910 THE CHAIRPERSON: And where does he get the teletype writer device from?
2911 MR. EDORA: They are available aftermarket in a number of different locations.
2912 THE CHAIRPERSON: So they buy them on their own?
2913 MR. EDORA: Yes.
2914 THE CHAIRPERSON: You don't provide them?
2915 MR. EDORA: No.
2916 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. The service that you provide as a byproduct of it is what, the operator services?
2917 MR. EDORA: The service we provide is the relay service. Message relay service operates with the customer typing in what they desire to say to the end calling party and then the relay service operator then takes that text and relays it in voice form to the called party.
2918 THE CHAIRPERSON: The relay service operator is an employee of TELUS?
2919 MR. EDORA: Yes.
2920 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you measure or monitor the volume of these calls that come into your message relay operators?
2921 MR. EDORA: Yes, we do.
2922 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you would know what the volume of those calls are?
2923 MR. EDORA: Not offhand, I do not.
2924 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Could you find out what they were for the last 12 months and filed it, please?
2925 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
2926 THE CHAIRPERSON: You said that you see IPRS as a natural evolution of MRS.
2927 How do you see the transition for the person currently using MRS happening? Is it simply going to be that one day they are going to open the paper up and read that TELUS has now ended or is about to end MRS services and introduce IPRS, or is there a plan to transition it? And what is the process for that?
2928 MR. EDORA: There is no plan to specifically transition customers from message relay to IP relay service. If we launch IP relay service in full implementation in our regions, they can choose whether to use traditional message relay service or IP relay service.
2929 The difference mainly is the customer interface device.
2930 So if they choose to go to an Internet enabled device and use relay services in that manner, they can. But TELUS plans on supporting message relay service until the last TTY is off the market in its ILEC regions.
2931 MR. WOODHEAD: If I may, Mr. Chairman, this was a point that we picked up in the consultations during the deferral account proceeding from groups who were interested in that service.
2932 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You are currently, I guess by CRTC Decision, collecting a certain amount of money per customer in your provinces for message relay service.
2933 Is that right?
2934 MR. EDORA: That is correct.
2935 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is that amount of funds you see sufficient to run both the MRS and the transition to IPRS services?
2936 MR. EDORA: The current tariff is just for the existing traditional message relay service. There would have to be separate cost recovery for IP relay.
2937 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you would be looking at applying to the CRTC for approval for the general body of TELUS customers to pay for the cost associated with providing IPRS services?
2938 MR. EDORA: Yes.
2939 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you not think that as people transition from MRS to IPRS, the business that you have now in MRS will deteriorate or drop and as a result you will have sufficient funds from the MRS collection to move across?
2940 MR. EDORA: We haven't done that analysis. We haven't examined the precise cost implications of launching IP relay service fully across our regions.
2941 I should say that the migration from MRS to IP relay is not necessarily one‑to‑one. There are reasons why customers may choose to make ‑‑ continue to make calls on message relay service even though they may have access to IP relay.
2942 So it's not necessarily ‑‑ it's not necessarily implied that as one minute goes from message relay service to IP relay service that the message relay service operation goes down automatically by one minute.
2943 THE CHAIRPERSON: When was the last time the CRTC approved the rates for MRS in British Columbia, Alberta and Québec for you?
2944 MR. EDORA: That I do not know.
2945 THE CHAIRPERSON: I would hypothesize that at least five years, if not more.
2946 MR. EDORA: Yes. The rate for message relay has also been frozen during the price caps period.
2947 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Have you had productivity gains in terms of mechanization for customer service over the last five to 10 years? Do you not think that some of that economic benefit that accrued to your mechanization and customer service improvements would have resulted in savings perhaps in how you perform MRS, and yet, you are still collecting the same amount of money for the MRS general body?
2948 MR. WOODHEAD: The mechanization of MRS?
2949 THE CHAIRPERSON: The mechanization of your customer service.
2950 MR. WOODHEAD: Of our enterprise‑wide customer service?
2951 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes. Yes. I mean I think most of the phone companies across Canada have realized sufficient grains in productivity improvements through mechanization of all sorts, including customer service handling, your VRUs and everything else as well, in order to be able to realize savings, and yet, the rates that have been struck back five, 10 years ago haven't changed at all.
2952 So I put it to you: Is there a not a contribution there that can be used to aid in the development of IPRS, and probably VRS as well?
2953 MR. WOODHEAD: We have to look at that but I would also tell you that the costs of providing MRS have gone up, you know, labour costs which are, as you pointed out, an operator service. The costs of the service itself, and we incrementally cost, have gone up and the rates have not.
2954 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. With regard to wireless services, do you provide any wireless services today that support the needs of either of the parties that have appeared before us in the last two days?
2955 MR. WOODHEAD: We believe we do, yes.
2956 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you have wireless products?
2957 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, we have wireless products and I think ‑‑ are you asking do we have a phone or a device that is specifically designed for a person with a particular disability?
2958 THE CHAIRPERSON: We heard this morning from ‑‑
2959 MR. WOODHEAD: Jeffrey Stark?
2960 THE CHAIRPERSON: No. We heard from the Neil Squire Society that there is a phone from someone called Jitterbug in the States that has one‑button or two‑button or three‑button access to end users.
2961 MR. WOODHEAD: There is a phone called the Jitterbug that was developed in the last couple of years in the United States that has large tactile buttons.
2962 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you offer it?
2963 MR. WOODHEAD: We don't offer the Jitterbug but we offer a phone that is very similar.
2964 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you do offer a phone that is very similar?
2965 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
2966 THE CHAIRPERSON: So if any of the people who are looking for it need one, can they just walk into one of your TELUS stores?
2967 MR. WOODHEAD: I was looking at one on our website the other day. I haven't gone and looked at a store but it is on our website.
2968 THE CHAIRPERSON: It is on your website.
2969 MR. WOODHEAD: And if I may perhaps, wireless devices, as I guess everyone pretty much knows, have evolved a great deal over the last decade or more, and a lot of the issues ‑‑ and I, you know, listened to Mr. Stark this morning come with the size of the device and the positions of the keys and some of that sort of stuff, and I couldn't quibble or argue that the devices, as they got smaller, probably, you know, constrained only by the distance between the ear and the mouth in terms of how small you can get them, have gotten smaller in terms of the tactility.
2970 On the other hand, the devices, and I'm not suggesting that this is perfect, but the devices have become so much more application‑driven. It is not just voice, it is data.
2971 And again, this doesn't solve everyone's problems but with the advent of GPS‑enabled devices where you can get directions, with all of the variety of enhanced directory assistance type services, with the ability to manipulate fonts, with the greater proliferation of websites designed to W3C compliance and designed, indeed, for mobile devices, I think, you know, it is not ‑‑ I am not going to suggest to you that it is the perfect story but there has been an evolution here, and I appreciate that there still remains challenges for folks but it hasn't been a completely static situation and these devices actually can be assistive in many ways.
2972 THE CHAIRPERSON: You said in your opening remarks that you have just rolled out this website application for special needs.
2973 Is that now operational?
2974 MR. EDORA: Yes, as of September 2008.
2975 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So I am sure we will be having people come before us in the next three days who may test it and let us know just whether it really is as robust as you have developed it to be. I look forward to hearing that as well.
2976 When your professional buyers sit down with the wireless manufacturers, do they question these manufacturers with regard to the ability to meet some of these special needs?
2977 MR. WOODHEAD: The standard‑setting is done, you know, at international organizations. So, for example, a lot of the, either through ‑‑ well, let's just use a couple of examples.
2978 Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act in the United States, some of the equipment suppliers do this.
2979 There are also rules, similar types of standards, that are established internationally through international standards‑setting bodies that the device manufacturers build to comply with. And so that is kind of how we do it.
2980 When our buyers, and you are right, when our terminal buyers go, do they ask for special types of arrangements? I don't believe so but the devices are manufactured to international standards and that is what we buy to.
2981 And I think Anne has something to add.
2982 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Yes. In fact, the questions are asked from our buyers as to whether or not devices are compatible and that is how we know that there are a significant number of our wireless devices that are compatible with, for example, TTY so that you can use a TTY service on many of our mobile phones.
2983 Questions are asked, but to Ted's point, obviously, we are a very small market and not a very big buyer in the whole global scheme of things but we do ask those questions.
2984 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So once they ask the questions and the manufacturers say, we have the product, do your buyers actually buy them or do they come back and not buy them?
2985 Because what we are hearing is, like I said earlier, other than Jitterbug, which you said you don't have but you have got something else, are there other products that you are not offering that may be readily available off the shelf from the manufacturers that might address the needs of some of these disability groups?
2986 MR. WOODHEAD: We are not aware of that, but to the point, I think ‑‑ I was listening with interest to Jeffrey Stark this morning and his presentation and I believe those devices that I think he was talking about, we actually offer, but there are ‑‑ in the case of the ones that he was talking about, we currently don't offer some of those specific ones but we offer CDMA‑equivalent devices.
2987 But one of his concerns was devices with operating systems in them that are not as beneficial as others and I believe he was sort of suggesting that mobile devices with Windows operating systems or Symbian systems in them are easier for him to use and manipulate.
2988 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I guess we heard in the last day and a half as well that some of the products that people are buying, I mean they need the services but some of the applications they can't use, for example, simply because their disability doesn't allow it.
2989 Is there some way, similar to, I guess, what the Commission did in long distance for TTY, where there was a discount of 50 percent ‑‑ is there some way of recognizing the fact that the utility of some of these products are not at a hundred percent for the people that are buying it, just because, you know, they have got a disability, and some way of incorporating that into the pricing or the service of these products to recognize that?
2990 Because they are not getting the value for it. You have put it in there because you bought a handset and the handset comes the way it does and you can't change it, as you said.
2991 Given that, though, and given the fact that they need part of the utility, is there not some way of recognizing the discounted utility, if I can call it that?
2992 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I think there is and I think it probably exists. I was looking at our online store ‑‑ well, that is where I happened to come across, and I wasn't actually looking for it for that reason, but this device that we were just speaking of earlier that is a substitute, if you will, for a Jitterbug‑type phone.
2993 There are a variety of devices ‑‑ let's take the device side. There are a variety of devices that you can get even online, if I cast my mind back, at virtually zero dollars on a package. So the functionality of the device is there but do you need it all?
2994 To flip to the package side, you can pretty much à la carte. Now, the story ‑‑ you can à la carte and say I want data only.
2995 Now, I understood Mr. Roots to say that he had had some difficulty there ‑‑ and I don't doubt that either ‑‑ and I can say that we are not a hundred percent all the time on our customer contacts. We should be but we are not. And I find ‑‑ and I understood that he ultimately got what he wanted at a different location.
2996 Not the greatest customer service story but I know that you can à la carte all of these services and reduce the price or you can go on a variety of different plans.
2997 THE CHAIRPERSON: But I think the issue is they don't know that. I mean you are in the business. You are certainly aware of it. They, one, have difficulty accessing some of these things and, two, don't even know what questions to ask.
2998 I am just wondering, we are going to hear from SaskTel later on, but they in their evidence indicated they have got a special needs manager basically who looks after an awful lot of the customers.
2999 Is there not a way of focusing ‑‑
3000 MR. WOODHEAD: We have that.
3001 THE CHAIRPERSON: You do?
3002 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
3003 THE CHAIRPERSON: So would everybody in your territory who has got a question be able to call this person and ask them how they go about getting a product that meets their needs at a price that is not ‑‑ that is more creative than just the price that is there? If you package something together, you bundle it together, you can actually get what you want at a lower price than buying it à la carte?
3004 MR. WOODHEAD: I will ask Eric to correct me if I am wrong here but I believe there is a contact ‑‑ there is contact information and contact numbers for special needs customers who want to reach a TTY operator in that client service group or, you know, whatever, somebody, a live person who can fulfill their needs, answer their questions and would be able to explain how the plans and devices might best work for them.
3005 But I will ask Eric if I have misspoken.
3006 MR. EDORA: There are specific product management personnel that can deal with accessibility issues, at least as it pertains to our wireline services.
3007 When it comes to wireless, the really best avenue for all of our customers, including customers with special needs, is to see a personal attendant at a TELUS store. Those people are equipped and can ask all the questions that they have to ask of that particular customer to find out what precise needs they may have.
3008 It is important to realize that customers, by definition, have different needs. Customization is a big part of trying to build the right package for a wireless subscriber, and as a result, sometimes you need to have the personal one‑on‑one contact so you can ask all the questions and understand the usage of that particular device.
3009 THE CHAIRPERSON: I have no problem with the one‑on‑one but I have been in retail as well and I know retail employees come and go and training is a major issue, and I would have thought that a one‑person point of contact, or two or three or whatever, would make it far easier because that person is there a lot longer than someone who has been trained in a retail store today and has moved on to some other part of a career tomorrow and then you are left having to train them.
3010 MR. WOODHEAD: Mr. Chair, can I take an undertaking because I believe that even on the ‑‑ I believe if the implication of what Eric is saying, I believe that on the wireless side there is, in fact, a client centre that would do this but I can answer that fully if you wish me to take an undertaking on it.
3011 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, I would appreciate it.
3012 This is more a point of principle and I am going to put it out there. But again, we have heard that technology is evolving very, very quickly, and it is hard to keep up with it but I think we have also heard suggestions made, and I don't know in what context, but as technology evolves, certain functions that are there today for some of the people with disabilities aren't there tomorrow.
3013 As a principle, would you agree with me that it would make sense to, at a minimum, say that people with disabilities should not have less capability and less applications with new evolutions of technology than they are already receiving with the existing?
3014 MR. WOODHEAD: I would hope that would be the case, yes.
3015 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
3016 Okay, I want to move on to described video.
3017 You said in your remarks this afternoon, on the bottom of page 2:
"TELUS TV also provides the pass‑through of video description to its customers." (As read)
3018 Is it a hundred per cent pass‑through?
3019 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Not yet. We are still working towards that. We did have some difficulty in obtaining the described video signal from services that we obtained from Bell ExpressVu. There was a time where the services that we obtained from the Bell service were actually separate, we would need two separate encoders. That has changed now and so we are working to ensure that that now gets fully passed through.
3020 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there a timeline for this to be done?
3021 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, definitely by the September 2009 deadline but hopefully sooner.
3022 THE CHAIRPERSON: So at that point in time, you will be a hundred percent pass‑through?
3023 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Yes.
3024 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
3025 We talked about your website. Could I ask you, if you don't know, to let us know how far along W3C compatibility your website is and to what extent you intend to evolve it so it does become W3C compatible?
3026 MR. EDORA: Our website today, our telus.com website for customers to access, for example, to find out information about our products and services, my understanding from our IT people is that our website is 90 percent compliant with the W3C guidelines.
3028 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I guess if I was part of the 90 percent I would be happy. If I was part of the 10 percent and it makes it totally useless for me, I wouldn't be.
3029 So I guess all I am asking you to do is to tell us, not necessarily now but you could file it, what component of W3C you are not compatible with today.
3031 THE CHAIRPERSON: So what limitation does that provide and to what interest group does that limit it? Who then cannot access your website?
3032 MR. EDORA: Most computers nowadays can run websites with Java and so I can't give you the percentage because I honestly don't know but the vast majority of internet users would be able to access our website.
3033 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: If I may add as well.
3034 Eric spoke of the telus.com website, which is our corporate website that offers all the information with respect to the services that we offer.
3035 With respect to content that we offer on either the mytelus.com service in English or the globetrotter.net service in French, there are some issues and it doesn't necessarily go to accessibility per se.
3036 W3C compliance, when we looked at that, there are numerous standards included in that that really don't relate to accessibility for persons with disabilities. But with respect to where you include video and a lot of imaging, which of course is what we do on those websites that offer content, it does make it very difficult to follow the same standards as are required in order to meet the W3C standards.
3037 But that doesn't mean that they are any less accessible to persons with disabilities. It just means that we are using a different type of standard that perhaps works better with our mobile service or perhaps works better for various reasons but it does not necessarily mean that it is any less accessible to persons with disabilities.
3038 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. TELUS is also a BDU. We heard yesterday the Canadian Association of Broadcasters indicate that with regard to captioning quality, there is a role for BDUs to play as well as part of the work towards making closed captioning better than what it is today.
3039 Can you comment on what role you would see TELUS playing as a BDU in this regard?
3040 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, obviously the pass‑through, which we do for all services, and I did mention the example of there were technical difficulties that we have resolved and as far as we know we have resolved them all with respect to HD services.
3041 So as you change technologies, the standards that were initially set for HD have evolved over time, and so it does require us to make adjustments to our IPTV service in order to ensure that. So I definitely think that those are the roles ‑‑ that is the role that we should be playing as a BDU.
3042 With respect to the actual provisioning of closed captioning, this is part ‑‑ that is an integral part of the broadcasting programming service. It is not a distribution thing. We already pass through all of the components.
3043 So to the extent that the CAB might have been looking for additional funding, it seems to me that perhaps that is something that ‑‑ and it was at one time included in the funding that we provided to the CTF, so that programming funding that they received for the programming from the CTF did include some funding going towards the closed captioning. Perhaps those rules should be re‑instituted.
3044 THE CHAIRPERSON: I didn't think it was funding that they were looking for. I thought they were looking for support on the back end of the distribution chain but I could be wrong.
3045 Anyways, those are all my questions, but I am sure some of the commissioners here have got questions as well.
3046 I will turn to my right first, to Commissioner Lamarre.
3047 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
3048 Since we are talking about closed captioning, I do take your point that after doing the test and when you put up the system, there were still some issues that were at the receiver end and it was involving TV sets and you fixed that.
3049 Did you actually do an accounting of what it cost you in resources to try and fix that?
3050 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: No, we didn't. It was ‑‑ you know, we considered at the time that it was one‑off and, you know, it was adjustments with respect to one particular brand of TV set and it didn't occur to us at the time to cost that out.
3051 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: So would it be fair to say that it was not significant enough for you to take the trouble of doing the exact accounting of how much resources it took?
3052 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: With respect to that particular problem, absolutely, yes.
3053 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: With regards to the ‑‑ let me get the proper wording here. With the enhanced directory assistance, in answering a question from Commissioner Katz you answered that it is not deployed in Quebec at this point.
3054 When do you intend to deploy it in Quebec?
3055 MR. EDORA: I don't know the specific timeline for the Quebec implementation.
3056 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Would it be possible to get one?
3057 MR. EDORA: Yes, absolutely.
3058 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Mr. Woodhead, as part of your undertaking as far as the issues of contact for customers with accessibility, would you kindly add to that the issue of the availability of that service also in French as well as in English?
3059 MR. WOODHEAD: Absolutely.
3060 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you.
3061 As far as your website ‑‑ and you had mentioned that you now have a special section on that website for products and services for persons with disabilities ‑‑ is it available in both French and English?
3062 MR. ENDORA: At this time it is not, but we are working on the Quebec French‑language implementation of the website. It should be available by March 2009.
3063 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: March 2009. Thank you.
3064 You have touched upon one implementation difficulty that you will have the VRS in regards to the scarcity of LSQ interpreters available to fulfil, you know, positions in order to make your service available in French.
3065 I have to admit I have absolutely no clue what it takes to become an LSQ interpreter, but I'm still wondering if you have considered putting in place a training program so it would be easier for you to hire LSQ interpreters.
3066 MR. ENDORA: In terms of availability of LSQ sign language interpreters, we would see that as an issue that the provider would have to report back to us and indicate that to us. We do not have any specific plans for a training program operated by TELUS to get LSQ interpreters, to make people able to provide LSQ services.
3067 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: So basically what you are telling me is that the VRS service is actually being contracted out to a vendor?
3068 MR. ENDORA: Absolutely. My understanding is in the U.S. all video relay services are contracted out to specialized providers of VRS.
3069 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: But you are the one setting up the requirements from your supplier for the VRS service, so what I would like to know is just how much thought you have put into this to make sure that you do meet the requirements of your clients in both English and French?
3070 MR. ENDORA: At this time, our vendor does not meet the requirements for French.
3071 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: And when will the vendor be meeting those requirements for French?
3072 MR. ENDORA: Our trial is just for Alberta and British Columbia, for English ASL. As a result, there is no specific requirement at this time for LSQs VRS service.
3073 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: So you did not set any specific requirements for LSQ at this point?
3074 MR. ENDORA: Well, irrespective of whether we set requirements or not, we understand that it's impossible right now for our vendor to supply LSQ VRS service.
3075 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: However, you his client, so if you don't set up the requirement, what's going to motivate him to meet that requirement?
3076 MR. ENDORA: The motivation will be that if there are LSQ‑available people that can provide the service, then they will be able to provide VRS services in Quebec for people who require that service. That's the motivation.
3077 Unfortunately, what has happened is we understand that there's just a small number of people that can provide the service, not just for video relay services, but just in general, in Quebec and for the French language.
3078 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Endora, but I'm not satisfied with your answer. What I'm trying to convey to you here is that you have French‑speaking clients who will need that service and what you are telling me is that you will be providing that service once you have LSQ interpreters available.
3079 Well, how are they going to be made available if you don't insist with your vendor that your clients, your French clients, are being served the same way you are serving your English clients?
3080 MR. WOODHEAD: We will have to get back to you on what was in the actual RFI and whatever the arrangement is with the vendor. Because I believe we heard just previously from Mr. Roots that one of the issues was in Quebec that one of the providers that is involved in trialing this or wanting to come into Canada is trying to absorb LSQ translators from other positions that they might be in in Quebec, and we can certainly get back to you as to what the status of that was. But, obviously, we would want to offer the service across our operating territory. We are not in the habit of having services, you know, here and not here.
3081 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Oh, I appreciate that. Thank you.
3082 Now, my last question is basically for you, I think, Mr. Woodhead.
3083 In answering questions of our chair, Mr. Katz, regarding procurement of equipment and how you get across to the manufacturers the need that you have for your customers that have accessibility issues, you mentioned that the specifics or requirements or the standards ‑‑ I don't remember exactly the word you used ‑‑ were actually decided on international regulatory bodies.
3084 Now, I was hoping you could be more specific as to which body specifically you are referring to and whether it's a regulatory body or a standardization body.
3085 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I wouldn't have suggested, I don't think I said ‑‑ I hope I didn't suggest it was a regulatory body. I think it's a standard‑setting body.
3086 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. You did. Oh, so it's a standardization body. Okay. Could you be specific as to which body we are referring to here, as far as wireless devices are concerned?
3087 You can get back to me on that, if you wish.
3088 MR. WOODHEAD: I can. I was going to say I suspect it's some working group of the ITU, but I can figure that out for you and get back to you.
3089 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. And also I would be interested to know if TELUS is actually sitting on this organization, either as a full participant or as an observer.
3090 MR. WOODHEAD: TELUS Mobility actually leads one of the Canadian delegations to the ITU. We have a dedicated individual that goes. I'm not sure ‑‑ and I can check ‑‑ if he is involved on that particular subcommittee.
3091 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: If you are referring to Mr. Serge Bertuzzo, I can assure you that's not what he's doing. He's mainly dealing with the spectrum issues.
3092 MR. WOODHEAD: Okay. That would be who I was speaking to ‑‑
3093 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
3094 MR. WOODHEAD: ‑‑ so you have answered your own question.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
3095 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Well, I'm disappointed. Maybe you can find someone else who sits on those standardization organizations, but just let me know if at least you also have an observation task that's assigned to somebody with regards to what's going on?
3096 MR. WOODHEAD: We would not, then.
3097 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: No?
3098 MR. WOODHEAD: And who we would rely on for that would probably be our carrier partners in the United States.
3099 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
3100 Those are all my questions. Thank you.
3101 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
3102 Before some people cross their legs a second time, we are going to take a break here. I think some of the commissioners here have more questions to ask, but we will adjourn till 4:30 and we will come back with some final questions.
3103 Thank you.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1620 / Suspension à 1620
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1630 / Reprise à 1630
3104 THE SECRETARY: Please be seated. S'il vous plaît, prend vos places.
3105 THE CHAIRPERSON: If anybody's my age and has watched Columbo in the past, you will know that he always has one more question. Commissioner Lamarre just realized she has a couple more questions to ask of you.
3106 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Well, actually, staff pointed a few things out to me and, as I'm the designated techie on this panel, I'm the one who gets to ask them.
3107 Ms Mainville, in response to the issue of having difficulty to pass the descriptive video ‑‑ from what you receive from Bell ExpressVu, you have mentioned that the issue has been fixed and you expect that by September 2009 ‑‑ your target there is that by September 2009 it will be fully passed, you are not going to have any such issues any more.
3108 Did I hear you say that previously, with the fee you were getting from Bell, you needed two specific decoders and coders to put it on your link and that now you only need one?
3109 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: That's correct. We would have needed two separate encoders.
3110 What was happening was that the video and the normal audio feed were on one encoder, and then there was a separate encoder for the video description audio feed, and they weren't ‑‑ essentially, it's almost like they were split out. I'm not a techie, so...but it's essentially as if they were split out, and so it would have required a second encoder.
3111 Obviously, that would have been very expensive to implement. And I believe that the Commission agreed with that because in the process that we had on video description only, you know, less than a year‑and‑a‑half ago, it was determined that only those feeds received from Cancom, Star Choice, were required to be passed through by January 2008, which, of course, we do.
3112 And so since then we have been notified by Bell that has changed now. And they weren't doing that just to be mischievous. It had something to do with the way that they then offer the signal to their subscribers. And you will be speaking with Bell shortly so I'm sure you are going to have those questions, but it had to do with the way that they were then offering the video description to their subscribers.
3113 But as an SRDU, it created problem for us BDUs when we received the signal to be able to then put it back together as one. Now that problem is fixed, we will be now adjusting our systems such that we will be able to include the video description feed in the way that we do now.
3114 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. So if I want to know exactly what changed, with the feed you are receiving from Bell I will be asking Bell about that.
3115 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: I think that would be a good....
3116 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay, thank you.
3117 Now, I don't know if you are aware, but there are other feed providers that have a different system, where, you know, as far as the set‑top boxes is concerned, for the user, actually the TV viewer, you can set it up so that you always get the secondary audio channel, and hence the descriptive video. But there's a glitch with that type of setup, insofar as when there is no described video it's a lost track, and then you basically lose the audio.
3118 Do you encounter such difficulties with the way your system is set up?
3119 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, what we have been asking broadcasters ‑‑ and so far we have had a lot of success in those, you know, discussions with broadcasters ‑‑ is to ask then that, where there isn't any described video, that you just have the normal audio that's on that track. So that whatever programming is described, let's say, at 9 p.m., whatever else, you know, at 8 p.m., 7 p.m. and whatnot, is just the normal audio feed, and then, boom, the programming with the described video.
3120 So that secondary audio always has some audio feed, whether it's described or not, and so that certainly enables us to have the setup that we do. So that once a person has changed, gone through the steps that it takes to change it to always receive the described video, even if they change the channel, they still end up on the described video feed.
3121 So whatever programming that is described will pop up first ‑‑
3122 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
3123 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: ‑‑ but if there is no described video, then they should get the normal feed.
3124 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: So basically you are telling me that whether or not there is described video on the second audio channel, you are always transmitting something on the second audio channel, even if it's just a repeat of the main channel?
3125 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, it's not a repeat ‑‑ well, yes, it's repeat, yes, it's the same, identical as on the normal channel.
3126 And so we have worked with the programming services to ensure that secondary audio has that and, where they weren't able to provide, they have sometimes indicated where they do have described video, and then we swap it for them.
3127 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. And that does not cause bandwidth issues with your system?
3128 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: No, because actually the ‑‑ ultimately, we did implement a SAP, so a secondary audio programming.
3129 You may recall that our initial submission back, you know, a year‑and‑a‑half ago, we had indicated that we would rather not do that and come up with some different solution that would allow us not to have that blank channel, but that just didn't pan out. And as we changed some of our middleware, so the way that we provide the programming services, we were able to just dedicate a small ‑‑ audio programming doesn't take that much bandwidth, so we just dedicated a secondary audio. Programming that bandwidth is always taken up whether there's something there or not.
3130 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay, thank you.
3131 Finally, about the electronic program guide, which I'm assuming you do have on your set‑top box, are you using either unique audio tone or logo in that guide to indicate whether a specific program is being described?
3132 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: No. In fact, one of the difficulties that we have is getting advanced notice where there is, in fact, described video. We are not getting, necessarily, that notice from all of our content providers, so that would be very difficult to implement, number one.
3133 Number two, from a technology perspective, at this time our programming guide is visual only. And while I have certainly listened with interest to the comments that were made that it would be simple to do this, my techies tell me otherwise.
3134 But certainly I will be bringing this back to them and seeing if, in fact, it is difficult or not and if there are ways of doing so. That would be contingent, of course, of receiving the information.
3135 But part of our discussion with the content providers was that they would prefer to just fill up that secondary audio with DV ‑‑ either described video or normal audio programming and not necessarily providing advance notice.
3136 You come to the same problem as we have with simultaneous substitutions. Schedules change on a regular basis and it becomes cumbersome for content providers to provide notice to all BDUs, who are obviously not their only customer. So it does get a bit burdensome for them, I'm told.
3137 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. And if I may just insist about the fact that your electronic programming guide, you mentioned, is 100 percent visual. Do you have any plan to make an audio program guide? Do you know if it's feasible? Or could you undertake to let us know?
3138 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, certainly I never heard of such a thing before we started this proceeding. And I read with interest the comments that were made from other parties that have implemented that kind of thing.
3139 We have started discussions as to, you know, how expensive would it be to launch that kind of thing, but those discussions always lead to the point that, unfortunately, during the type of service that simply just reads out what programming is available at what time does not fit well with the interactivity of our programming guide.
3140 So rather than implement that kind of service, which I think is of limited use, if there was a way that we could actually have the technology that allowed us to, you know, when you tune to that channel it tells you, "You are on channel 46, watching whatever", that, to us, is what we would really strive for.
3141 So as we discuss with our TELUS TV team, I think that we will be looking towards that kind of ultimate solution. We would prefer that to an interim solution that was just a reading out of the programming guide.
3142 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: What that solution actually tells you what channel you are on and ‑‑ well, the way you are describing it right now, actually. So it tells you what channel you are on and probably which program you are watching, but it doesn't allow you to plan your evening or weekend as far as TV viewing is concerned.
3143 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, I mean, if we envisioned it in such way that when the ‑‑ at this point the menu pops up on screen and then your cursor ‑‑ you can always see where your cursor is, and if there was a way for that cursor to tell you, "You're now on Desperate Housewives, on CTV, channel 7" and that's when you can click to put in a reminder to set it as one of your favourites, if there was a way that could be read out to you with a screen‑reader technology or ‑‑ you know, we are an IPTV service and so we would like to see, ultimately, the best technology fit with, you know, what we are already offering by way of interactivity.
3144 You know, we would hate to go retro with something that is of limited use by just having, you know, an audio‑scrolling type of ‑‑ you know, the old analogue channel that tells you, you know, channel 4, that tells you what's coming, on and you have to wait for a significant amount of time for the programming that you really want to see.
3145 So we would strive towards that kind of solution, which I don't think is very near at this point. I do think that it's, you know, a bit further down in the future. But, ultimately, I think that would be the best use ‑‑ or that persons with disabilities would get the most use of that kind of interactive audio guide and it may not be that distant in the future.
3146 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: And what would be your educated guess as to what "not very near" means?
3147 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: At this point screen readers exist, but the technology folks on our TELUS TV tell me that, you know, you are at least two years.
3148 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you, those are all my questions.
3149 THE CHAIRPERSON: We will go from east to west.
3150 I look to Commissioner Duncan to start.
3151 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Just a couple of questions.
3152 First of all, picking up on Commissioner Lamarre's question about the Bell signal, I understood you to say that they are no longer passing it through on two channels. But then in your response to Ms Lamarre, you said that there is still a second track for the audio.
3153 So it is still using two channels?
3154 MS MAINVILLE‑NEESON: Well, it's not using two channels, per se.
3155 A while back, the way that we offered CPAC, for example, with the two audio