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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 20, 2008 Le 20 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 20, 2008 Le 20 novembre 2008
- iv -
TABLE DES MATIÈRES / TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE / PARA
PRESENTATION BY / PRÉSENTATION PAR:
Council of Canadians with Disabilities 931 / 5529
Arch Disability Law Centre 971 / 5744
Canadian Hearing Society 1047 / 6202
Rogers Communications 1102 / 6520
Citizens with Disabilities - Ontario 1205 / 7197
Gatineau, Quebec / Gatineau (Québec)
‑‑‑ Upon resuming on Thursday, November 20, 2008
at 0900 / L'audience reprend le jeudi
20 novembre 2008 à 0900
5519 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning. This is Day Four of the hearing on accessibility.
5520 Madam Secretary, any opening remarks or comments?
5521 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
5522 Good morning, everyone. Bonjour à tous.
5523 I would like to remind everyone that when you are in the hearing room we ask that you completely turn off your cell phones and BlackBerrys and not only leave on vibration mode as they are an unwelcome distraction and as they will cause interference on the internal communications system used by our translators and interpreters.
5524 We would appreciate your cooperation in this regard.
5525 Please note also 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.
5526 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. 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.
5527 We will begin today with Panel No. 20, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
5528 Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your 15‑minute presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
5529 MR. MARTIN: Hello, my name is Kier Martin. I am the Chair of the Accessibility Technology Committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
5530 MS D'AUBIN: Good morning. My name is April D'Aubin and I am a staff person with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
5531 MR. MARTIN: The Council of Canadians with Disabilities is very pleased to have this opportunity to address the CRTC. In advance of these hearings, CCD organized a disability community consultation on related issues and points that we bring to the CRTC today are the results of what we have heard at our own community consultation and our past work in this area.
5532 CCD is pleased to be appearing at this hearing but notes it is essential that it is just the first step in an ongoing long‑term process whereby the CRTC works actively with the disability community to address systemic barriers in the areas under its mandate.
5533 As an example, following the conclusion of this hearing, it would be advantageous for the CRTC to convene a high‑level forum for representatives of telecommunications and broadcasting industries, the CRTC and self‑representation from organizations of people with disabilities. The purpose of the forum would be to develop and implement strategies for the recommendations arising from the hearings, including those of critical importance but beyond the mandate of CRTC.
5534 Such a forum could serve to put inclusive information and communication technology on a wider political, industry and community agenda, thus preventing recommendations from this hearing from being shelved.
5535 The obligations to address systemic barriers. In a report on Stakeholder Consultations on Accessible Issues for Persons with Disabilities", CRTC was criticized for lack of global vision and approaching this issue in a piecemeal fashion. CCD urges CRTC to take a systemic approach to the issues of persons with disabilities and to use domestic and international human rights and equality laws as the basis of decision‑making on areas of access.
5536 Of note, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has come into force. It proclaims the importance of accessibility to the physical, social and economic cultural environment. Article 9 of the Convention states:
"To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis to others ... to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems..."
5537 As there is a monitoring mechanism Canada's progress toward reaching the objectives set out in the article will be under international scrutiny.
5538 In general, CCD recommends the following set of inclusive principles developed by a community coalition to guide the work on access to information and communication technologies.
5539 (1) Telecommunications architecture should enable inclusive telecommunications services;
5540 (2) Telecommunications infrastructure should support different modalities, allowing a broader range of inputs and outputs;
5541 (3) Procurement of user terminal products and devices should specify accessibility requirements;
5542 (4) Accessible user terminal products and services should be available on a retail level;
5543 (5) The corporate public services and policies (e.g. procurement, customer experience, service development and employment) should include and support accessibility practices;
5544 (6) Ongoing telecommunications related research and development are necessary to ensure long‑term availability of broadly accessible and inclusive services.
5545 CCD believes that there would be a merit in an annual action plan such as those undertaken by telecommunications sectors in Australia to ensure that access and inclusion remain on the agenda for telecommunications/radio‑television sector. Included in this process should be a yearly meeting with the disability community for the purpose of reviewing the contents of these plans.
5546 Applying a disability lens, the CRTC needs to develop its own disability lens, a tool for identifying and clarifying issues affecting persons with disabilities. It provides government policy and program developers and analysts with the framework for considering and addressing the impacts of this initiative on people with disabilities.
5547 Each decision made by the CRTC also needs to include a disability impact statement. People with disabilities must be centrally involved in this process. The stakeholders document noted that the CRTC is lacking human rights expertise and expertise in disability issues. At CCD's community consultation participants suggested that CRTC is lacking staff who self‑identify as people with disabilities and approach issues from a disability rights perspective.
5548 One way to improve knowledge base at CRTC is by hiring qualified people with disabilities to work on access issues.
5549 Another way to include the expertise of people with disabilities is by appointing qualified people from the disability community to be commissioners.
5550 Of note, the involvement of individuals with disabilities is not sufficient. The self‑representational organizations of people with disabilities needs to be involved in the development of any initiative on disability at the CRTC, including the development of the framework of the aforementioned action plans, disability lens, impact statements and consultation mechanisms.
5551 As was noted in the stakeholders report, there is considerable community dissatisfaction with the avenues which exist in the CRTC for people with disabilities to bring forward accessibility issues; licence renewals, complaints process, as an example.
5552 To redress this disadvantage, the CRTC needs to develop a more user‑friendly mechanism whereby the disability community can bring to light access issues.
5553 In 2006 a community coalition proposed to the CRTC the establishment of a national telecommunications accessibility institute and CCD reiterates this proposal. This institute would be funded by but independent of ILECs, although ILEC and CRTC participation would be sought in its governance and operation. The institute would consist of accessibility experts representing a national, inclusive design, and cross‑disability perspective as well as telecommunications experts from ILECs and would be chartered to advance and establish accessibility principles throughout the telecommunications industry.
5554 Markets have force but they don't ensure access. There is overwhelming evidence that market forces do not achieve accessible information and communications technology. Rather mandatory regulation of industry and services is the most reliable and effective way to achieve access.
5555 Of note, the rapid pace of technology change and regulation for access is even more important to ensure that people with disabilities stop falling behind.
5556 Adherence to the principles of universal design can ensure that in the rush to bring technology to market access that would enhance access and not overlook it.
5557 Universal design addresses accessibility for all types of disabilities and is based upon seven principles: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance of error, low physical effort and size and space for approach and use.
5558 Regulation can be the incentive which motivates business to adopt universal design approaches.
5559 CCD is very disturbed by CRTC's practice of forbearance when it affects the access for people with disabilities, because it only serves to further entrench the status quo. The message at CCD's own consultation on telecommunications was clear: no more forbearance on access issues.
5560 It is CCD's view that CRTC must establish a new direction which emphasizes that barrier removal and nondiscrimination against people with disabilities in relation to telecommunications are of utmost importance and that particular technologies are a means of achieving inclusion.
5561 Voluntary standards are not acceptable. Voluntary standards are an approach that has been tested and found lacking in other sectors and can be seen in CCD's seven‑year battle with VIA rail over inaccessible rail cars which violated voluntary standards. CCD litigated the case to the Supreme Court which supported Canadians with disabilities' right to use public facilities. While litigation is not CCD's preferred route for barrier removal and protection of human and equitable rights, there is a willingness in the disability community to use available mechanisms.
5562 Procurement policies are required. The CRTC needs to require service providers under its jurisdiction to offer a range of products and services that meet the needs and members of the Canadian public with disabilities.
5563 Accessible user terminal products and services should be available at a retail level.
5564 Affordability. The CRTC and CCD's view has been that the public interest responsibility to ensure that affordable information and communication technologies is accessible to low income Canadians. While public access sites are an excellent community resource, they do not replace home access; in particular, people with disabilities who face many barriers to using public computers.
5565 People with disabilities live in all parts of Canada, including rural and remote communities. CRTC has an obligation to ensure that they have accessible information and communication technologies that are guaranteed under the Telecommunications Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Charter.
5566 At our community consultation participants expressed the viewpoint that there is need for more research done on the approaches to information and communications technology in other international jurisdictions. While the disability community is committed to undertaking and controlling its own research agenda, there may be ways that CRTC, CCD and other members of the disability community could collaborate on research.
5567 Moreover, when and if the CRTC undertakes research on the issues affecting persons with disabilities, it could consider qualified researchers with disabilities as potential researchers and be proactive in sharing the research results with self‑representational organizations in the disability community.
5568 In light of the input received during this hearing process, CCD recommends that the CRTC review the adequacy of the legislation for undertaking barrier removal necessary for the achievement of accessible and inclusive information and communication technology systems in Canada.
5569 Presently the Telecommunications Act does not specify or specifically address disability. It recommends that the Act be amended and address access to telecommunications by persons with disabilities, universal design and barrier prevention and removal.
5570 Pay telephones continue to be an important part of public landscape for people with disabilities. Generally people with disabilities have lower incomes than their nondisabled peers and individuals may not be able to afford a personal cell phone, so the pay telephone is traditional and important for people with disabilities.
5571 The pay telephone can be an important lifeline to police, medical, fire and other emergency services. All pay phone installations must follow universal design principles so that the widest possible range of people with disabilities can access them.
5572 Through its public interest mandate, the CRTC has a responsibility to ensure persons with disabilities have equal access to emergency services. The CRTC must ensure that 911 services are accessible to users of TTYs, voice carryover services, text phones and IP services.
5573 It is important that emergency announcements follow the principles of universal design so that they are accessible to the widest range of the public as possible.
5574 In regard to the national relay service, CCD continues to support models of VRS, video relay service, provision and is supportive of the position by the position by the Canadian Association for the Deaf.
5575 CCD reiterates calls from the deaf community for deaf people to be hired by telcos to work on their VRSs.
5576 CCD supports the recommendation of AEBC on described video.
5577 In summary, CCD holds:
5578 ‑ access and equality will only be achieved through regulation;
5579 ‑ new barriers must not be created;
5580 ‑ a national approach must be taken to information and communication technologies;
5581 ‑ CRTC must ensure its actions abide by the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act;
5582 ‑ ongoing consultation with people with disabilities is essential;
5583 ‑ the principles of universal design must guide the development of telecommunications and broadcasting services and products.
5584 Thank you.
5585 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
5586 I would ask Commissioner Simpson to lead some of the questions.
5587 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Martin, for a very concise and cohesive presentation. It is very laudable.
5588 I would like to start at the larger end of your presentation with respect to the overarching need for more effective ongoing consultation with not only the CRTC but, from what I'm hearing, all levels of government and industry.
5589 Your organization has a long and very effective track record of engagement and representation so I'm going to start off by asking you, do you feel ‑‑ I'm hearing you say that you wish the CRTC to engage you in an ongoing process. But in the fullness of all of the different levels of government, would this be the most effective forum for your representation?
5590 I'm thinking mainly because accessibility issues seem to tie so strongly to technology, which is something that we don't presently have a strong enough hand in ‑‑ and I hear you criticize that.
5591 Given the present state as opposed to the ideal state, would someone other than the CRTC be a more effective group to work with, like Industry Canada?
5592 MR. MARTIN: What we don't want to do is ever basically put our eggs in one basket. Working with all groups, there are plenty of experts out there and we believe that we should be working with Industry Canada and that we should be working with CRTC and other government groups in all our areas of expertise.
5593 But the most important thing to add to this, it needs to be an ongoing process; that we are continually working with CRTC and other government and private sector groups and not doing catch‑up at the end, that we are not brought into this process near the end saying we are going to be spending money or we are going to be introducing these regulations. Now how can we amend them to benefit people with disabilities?
5594 If we are part of the process all along, we are not going to be making these mistakes near the end.
5595 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
5596 With respect to information that is available to disability groups right now and those with disabilities, I myself have been finding it a very interesting challenge to try to find what is available in terms of what currently exists.
5597 To that end I'm wondering if you could share with us some recommendations. I'm thinking particularly of the web and I'm thinking particularly of the means by which an individual with disabilities could go to a central source for information concerning what is available to the disability community as a whole.
5598 I'm finding that there is a profound lack of information that comes to a starting point for seeking more information.
5599 MR. MARTIN: Again, it goes into a whole bunch of areas where different experts ‑‑ the web is a very broad area. If you are talking about accessible webpage and design, what you want is your webmasters and all those people that are designing and implementing accessible webpages.
5600 Many of the leaders around creating accessible webpages of different types happen to be people with disabilities as well.
5601 You would be looking at bodies like the World Wide Web Consortium, who set standards around accessible webpage design. Different nongovernmental organizations provide access to services, support programs, training and research on adaptive technologies for people with disabilities.
5602 So you would be looking more at the community groups in that regard. For people with disabilities to access these devices, you would be looking at community groups. You would be looking at more higher end technical ends for accessible webpage design.
5603 So I'm not too sure which one you are getting at, but it could be all of them all at once. There is no one place to get everything.
5604 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I think where I'm going with this is that your organization seems particularly suited to be able to engage government in the task of drawing together existing information that is out there. I, throughout the course of this hearing, have been quite amazed at the difficulty I have had in my research at finding specific information, either from specific suppliers or technology vendors or service groups or interest groups.
5605 It is very diverse right now and we have heard, again throughout the week, a very diverse range of voices from the disability community. And I am beginning to come to an understanding that one of the earliest fixes to be able to get some productivity out of these hearings is to talk to groups such as yourself about ways to aggregate the existing information to a central source and I wondered if you had an interest in exploring that.
5606 MR. MARTIN: Well, absolutely, and that is why, as CCD, we took the approach of rather than just going in with what we believed, is we brought our other community partners around the table.
5607 We talk directly to the telcos on an ongoing basis and we are committed to sharing our interests and our expertise and inviting in our other community members so that we can look at this as systemically as possible and thus be able to bring this back to you in a comprehensive manner.
5608 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Your goal, as you stated, would be to see some type of a large‑scale effort made by all members of the disability groups, stakeholders, government to come together into some form of a consortium or an institute, which is laudable.
5609 Have you seen any evidence of that kind of an undertaking anywhere else in the globe right now?
5610 MR. MARTIN: There has been some undertaking to our neighbours to the south in the U.S., and in Australia there has been a strong sharing of information, resources and cooperation between governmental organizations, between broadcasters, telecommunication companies and groups, not only people with disabilities but other minority groups to ensure that they have equal access.
5611 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Knowing the timeline that things take to evolve anywhere in government, or industry for that matter, is there or have you considered the option of forming an ombudsperson representation from the community to plug into industry and government in the meantime or has that mechanism ever been explored so that there is a contact point that can go back to the disability communities to try and streamline the process?
5612 MR. MARTIN: The different disability groups that we do support have worked with government in getting their ‑‑ in advocating to government the needs of what their different groups do.
5613 As a national umbrella organization, we do get to hear ‑‑ we are in the unique position to hear all these different ideas and these different experts in the community.
5614 To that end, which is why CCD thought it was important and we formed an information telecommunications group which is all run by volunteers and some staff from CCD support us in that in making sure that we are doing the best job possible as volunteers in staying on top of telecommunications and broadcasting issues as they arise in Canada.
5615 With more support, that group could do a lot more and so could groups from other disability organizations.
5616 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Just one more question on that idea of a contact point.
5617 Again, my observations have been throughout the week that the more you look at ‑‑ the more I look, as a Commission member, at both sides of the issues of understanding the needs of those with disabilities, it does not seem that it is an infinite challenge, but the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
5618 MR. MARTIN: Mm‑hmm.
5619 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And that same expanding universe seems to be occurring on the other side with the expansion of technology and the merging of industries. It is a daunting task.
5620 And I just am putting out to you that it may be time within both sides of the equation to start looking at focal points where smaller, more effective groups can meet, armed with a more divergent set of understandings on both sides of the fence to really start facilitating some communication, because the application of standards just in the relay area alone is something that obviously some of the larger telcos are even having difficulty getting their hands on and they are not without resources or, from what I have seen, a desire to try and solve the problem.
5621 Now, this brings me to the issue of universal design.
5622 I had mentioned yesterday that there seemed to be some productive measures underway with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and I went on record with some information about that.
5623 But I am wondering if you could talk to any other areas that you can point us to with respect to successful universal design standards that have been done to serve the needs of the disability community other than in the area of communications. Is there anything you can point us to?
5624 MR. MARTIN: It is a pretty ‑‑ there's amazing technologies that are available to really bring down barriers around technology for people with disabilities and I could probably sit here all day and list off different types of devices and technologies.
5625 The big ‑‑ one of the biggest barriers that I have seen in my 15 years working with community is seeing all these amazing devices, accessible cell phones, accessible TVs, accessible web pages, without them being implemented or people knowing about them. That remains to be the biggest challenge.
5626 I think we have no lack of devices and communications that could serve to make life a lot better for all Canadians but without knowing what they are and putting them in the right hands of the right people, we are just going to keep running around in circles.
5627 To that end, I think one of the bigger things that I have seen in the past was around ‑‑ and it is both a barrier and yet it was a positive ‑‑ a very simple thing which is putting computers out into the public for free access.
5628 I worked in the community access program for years and had the luxury of travelling around Newfoundland and Labrador in the most rural and remote communities around there and public computers enabled people to reach out past their communities. They were able to access information. They were able to connect with loved ones abroad.
5629 To that end, a small coalition, a group of us, went around and found cheap and inaccessible accessible technology so that everyone in those communities, even if you had a disability, that you could go to your public library. You didn't have to go to a disability organization that didn't exist in your community of 500 or 600 people or 1000 people. You didn't have to come to St. John's to go to a high‑tech disability centre to get on the web.
5630 We just made those truly public computer sites. So one of the good things that we have done is the knowledge is there, the technology is there, and when you have the people that are supported to do something like that, a lot of barriers can be brought down.
5631 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
5632 By the way, I am using your presentation as a checklist because it is very effective for me to cover the territory I want to get through today.
5633 On affordability, we had some very good presentations. One was from the Stark family that was very enlightening. They made a very effective case in saying that with respect to the pricing of technology services in particular, less should be less, not less is more.
5634 Their viewpoint was that why am I paying for services that I do not need and why is the removal of these ‑‑ why are the removal of these services looked at as a specialization that requires me paying more money than less?
5635 Could you expand a bit, for the record, about your perspective on affordability, both with the viewpoint to acquisition of technology such as wireless and computers and also about your view, your organization's view on pricing of services from suppliers? Could you elaborate, please?
5636 MR. MARTIN: Different accessible technologies for people with disabilities has either ‑‑ in its pricing has either stayed the same or increased, whereas around this room right now, I see a whole bunch of laptops and you can go out and ‑‑ well, I just bought one the other day for $500. You can now buy a laptop for $500.
5637 But any kind of these computers a few years ago would have cost over $2,000, and adaptive technologies for people with disabilities has generally stayed the same, which is high. So when we look that most people with disabilities don't have these high incomes to purchase these products, it has become problematic.
5638 Also, a lot of the third‑party applications that are written by some smaller companies and other groups to create accessible cell phones and accessible computers and accessible devices, they spend a lot of their time catching up.
5639 Windows changes from Windows XP to Windows Vista. Vista changes to something else. That is always an expense by the vendor that is being put back onto the consumer. So it is continuously driving up the price.
5640 Basically, it catches us in an area where the accessible vendors are doing catch‑up. People with disabilities are waiting to use new technologies that are coming out there but they don't know if they will be able to access them.
5641 And doing one or two little things, like an accessible cell phone, anyone can go out and generally get a cell phone in a package and probably get a cell phone for free that would work for them. An accessible cell phone generally is no less than $400 out of your pocket for people with disabilities.
5642 So there is still a big barrier around price that has been created, and then that cell phone might only work for one group of people and not another.
5643 Again, on another level, we look at cell phones. Not everyone needs all the features of a cell phone. Some people only need to use text messaging, and I think it would be a really good idea by some telecommunications companies to look at different types of packaging for people with disabilities and maybe not charging people for voice if you are only using text, to cut down on different types of features.
5644 What I would recommend to them is to talk to some of those other disability groups and see what market is there for them.
5645 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much.
5646 Going to a specific area that is emerging ‑‑ it is on, I think, everyone's radar ‑‑ is the issue of video relay, you know, the migration from MRS to VRS. I have a series of questions I would like to ask your opinion on, please, or your perspective from your association.
5647 The first is I assume from your presentation that your organization is in support of a national relay service as opposed to the prospect of regional services; is that correct?
5648 MR. MARTIN: Yes. A national video relay service would be of benefit to all folks with disabilities across this country.
5649 You would have a national standard which people from coast to coast, rural and remote, would be able to access and communicate between each other instead of the possibility of facing any kind of technical difficulties from region to region communicating with each other.
5650 It is also one established system that those of us that work out in the community, when we are working with folks with disabilities, that we are able to better support this national relay service and give support to people with disabilities in using and accessing a national relay service.
5651 And plus, as it moves nationally, a video relay service over time will get better, it will get faster, it will keep pace with technology.
5652 Regionally based, what you might have is different regions falling behind. A video relay service done nationally would always keep up with the times. So one fix would fix all.
5653 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
5654 If a national service was to be considered, what is your recommendation as to the definitive organization or group of organizations that should be a mandatory inclusion to the formation of the service from the standpoint of representing those with hearing disabilities?
5655 MR. MARTIN: Well, I would see CCD playing, ourselves playing some sort of role at the table, but I would also have to highly recommend the Canadian Association for the Deaf.
5656 They were talking and bringing up video relay service before any of us really understood the benefits and why to have such a service. They are truly the pioneers in this and they have been at this table long before many of us in other disability communities were here at this table. So really, I have to give my hat off to them.
5657 They have done the work and I don't think you need to look too much further than the Canadian Association for the Deaf and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Society around this issue.
5658 They have looked at other models globally. They have shared their recommendations with both telecommunication companies, other community resources like ourselves, and have always been a really good, strong community partner to us.
5659 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you, excellent.
5660 Does your organization have any information that you can share with the Commission with respect to the proportion or percentage of Canadians who are using exclusively ASL or LSQ signing methodology to communicate?
5661 MR. MARTIN: I am not too sure on that one and I know coming up shortly after me would be the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the Canadian Association for the Deaf and they will definitely be able to give a more accurate answer on that for you.
5662 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: It is something that is, I think, vitally important to understand, and if it is possible to ask you, if we are not able to achieve this information, may I ask that you look to consulting with other groups other than your own to try and get us that information to help in our determinations?
5663 I think legal counsel would ask that we try and get that information within a timely period of a week or two but that would be very helpful information to have.
5664 Next question has to do with priority issues.
5665 I think you have been very effective ‑‑ I know you have been very effective in getting some very concrete examples of your goals across to this Commission. At the end of your presentation, you had given us a summary that ‑‑ I believe there's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven points.
5666 Are these in priority in terms of your perspective of need?
5667 MR. MARTIN: Well, I think they all connect to each other. I mean if you look at them, I would say they are all a priority and that is the short and simple of it.
5668 Addressing ‑‑ like barriers are going to continue to be created, but to stop barriers, you need to have communication with disability community. Regulations would also address new barriers from being created. A national information and communications approach, this is what I hope is a first step towards that.
5669 I am hoping that some of these points are actually taking place as we are here now today. They are all a priority for me right now.
5670 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I have a job jar at home and I hear that same observation with respect to equal import.
5671 But again, to guide the Commission, if there is anything you would wish to add supplementally by way of an undertaking to putting a priority to those, it would be extremely helpful to us for, I am sure, the reasons you understand.
5672 That concludes the questioning I have. I will turn it back to the Chair. Thank you.
5673 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Commissioner Simpson.
5674 I have got a few questions and perhaps some of the other commissioners here have some as well.
5675 Mr. Martin, I refer you to your submission on July 24th, 2008. You reference in there on page 4:
"CCD has been a member of Industry Canada's Advisory Committee on Adaptive Technology." (As read)
5676 Is that committee still operational today?
5677 MR. MARTIN: I am not on that committee myself but as far as I know that committee is still active and that they do meet a couple of times a year.
5678 THE CHAIRPERSON: How would you see the role that you play there and the role that Industry Canada plays distinct and separate from what I hear some of the parties, including yourselves, asking us to do to set up an institute or a forum to look at technology and future developments of products and services?
5679 MR. MARTIN: That is an ongoing group that specifically looks at adaptive technologies for persons with disabilities and the procurement and creation by vendors for people with technologies, whereas working with CRTC, we would be looking at introducing those same technologies, some of those same technologies but not all, to the benefit of people with disabilities, putting accessible cell phones, affordable technologies, broadcasting in closed captioning, all those things that people with disabilities in this country in order to participate in the area of technology and communication need.
5680 THE CHAIRPERSON: But why can't that forum, that committee, be used and broadened to encompass some of the issues that the people here before us are asking us to undertake ourselves?
5681 The forum already exists. It may not have the broader mandate but it is there right now. Certainly, if it is looking at future adaptive technologies, it can look at current technologies and current products that are in the marketplace today and just provide a one‑stop shop for all the needs of all the disabled through this committee. Wouldn't that make sense?
5682 MR. MARTIN: It would make sense to look at that committee and their mandate and what they do and whether or not the people on those committees are the right people to broaden this.
5683 There is nothing saying too that the disability community can't be at Industry Canada's table as well as the CRTC table and that they don't need to be exactly the same people.
5684 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, I am not sure you need to have two tables either is the point that I am trying to make.
5685 MR. MARTIN: Mm‑hmm.
5686 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I am going to refer you to page 4 ‑‑ or page 8, sorry, of that same document where you say right on top in section 2.1.5:
"No one should be made worse off by reform." (As read)
5687 I am not sure if you are referring to regulatory reform or technological evolution reform. What is it you mean by "reform"?
5688 MS D'AUBIN: We are referring to political reform and regulatory reform and our position is that people with disabilities are a disadvantaged group in Canadian society and that political changes that occur in our country should not make people with disabilities any worse off than they already started off as.
5689 THE CHAIRPERSON: Any worse off, okay.
5690 MS D'AUBIN: Yes.
5691 THE CHAIRPERSON: Got you.
5692 And then on page 16 of that same document, you talk about devices and services not being readily available, and you say that they are usually expensive, which I heard you say, Mr. Martin, and difficult to locate.
5693 We have asked other parties the same question: Are there specific products and services that you have found in the U.S. or elsewhere that don't exist in Canada today?
5694 MR. MARTIN: Where the U.S. has the Americans With Disabilities Act, different groups are regulated, to have a base of accessibility.
5695 We don't have that framework, necessarily, in Canada.
5696 THE CHAIRPERSON: But what I am looking for are products and services.
5697 What physical products allow people with disabilities in the United States to live a more fruitful life, which do not exist in Canada?
5698 MR. MARTIN: The same products and services can be available in Canada, they are just not as centrally located as they are in some of our other counterparts, and that has created a big challenge.
5699 We have a lot of vendors. We actually do have a lot of companies that specialize in technologies for people with disabilities. The majority of their exports actually go into the U.S., not into Canada.
5700 We could be looked upon as leaders in creating accessible devices in Canada. The sad truth around it is, most of those devices go south, and that is where they are implemented and used.
5701 We haven't created the base for why should people be using these products, why should companies be using these products in government and schools, and how can they best be used, and who will they best work for.
5702 I think that is one of the big steps that we have missed on this side.
5703 THE CHAIRPERSON: But why wouldn't that be best addressed by the councils and the agencies and the associations ‑‑ the umbrella groups that are formed to support these people, these segments of society that need these types of products, rather than looking to government to do it?
5704 That's why I would tend to think that councils, yours and others, have been created, to be the focal point, the spokesperson, to seek out and to create those products and services to support these people.
5705 They do exist. They may not exist, as you said, to the same extent as in the U.S. today, but they are available.
5706 So the question is, why can't your agencies and your associations bring that together and be the spokesperson for the distributors, or the importers, or the Canadian developers, which we hope they would be?
5707 MS D'AUBIN: When we say that they are difficult to locate, I think it is coming from the perspective of individuals at the grassroots level who go to their local mall and look for a product that meets their particular needs, and they will likely not be able to have support from the people in the store on how to get a product that meets their needs.
5708 Our organization's perspective is that people with disabilities should be able to receive services from generic systems, that product sellers should have products available to people with disabilities, that people with disabilities shouldn't always have to go over to some other specialized service to meet their needs.
5709 We take the human rights approach that all aspects of society should be available to people with disabilities, and that goods and services should be available from commercial vendors to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
5710 Now, that doesn't mean that we think every cell phone perhaps should meet the needs of every person with a disability, but cell phone vendors should have products available to meet the needs of people with various disabilities.
5711 We are taking a human rights approach to our issues, as opposed to a medical model approach to our issues, where people with disabilities always get their needs met by some specialized service stream that the general public is not using.
5712 The problem when you go to specialized service streams is that there are always people who are left out because they don't have the information that these specialized services exist.
5713 Despite our efforts, not every person with a disability is connected to the disability organizations.
5714 We have been working over the last 30 years toward the human rights approach that the generic systems of society should meet the needs of people with disabilities.
5715 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I am going to move on to my last question.
5716 You commented on a complaint process, and the fact that, maybe, a telecom ombudsperson is a concept that needs more consideration, and Commissioner Simpson talked about it in more general terms.
5717 Are you familiar ‑‑ I was going to ask if you are familiar with the CCTS, but you are, because later on in this document you refer to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.
5718 When the government and the CRTC worked to create this independent agency, we also imposed upon it major obligations to be able to provide services to people with disabilities to the maximum extent available by any corporation in telecommunications in Canada.
5719 So it has the highest hurdle to reach.
5720 I am just wondering whether your body or constituency has tested that, and has gone to the CCTS to find out just how capable its capabilities really are.
5721 MS D'AUBIN: We have not done that to date.
5722 THE CHAIRPERSON: Those are my questions.
5723 Commissioner Duncan has a question.
5724 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I have a quick question, just picking up on your last point to the Chairman.
5725 You mentioned, I believe, that it was a challenge, and that you had worked hard to try to involve people with disabilities in your organizations.
5726 I am curious to know how you reach out to people, and whether you think that the vast majority of people are represented within these different disability groups, and also the level of cooperation and consultation between the various groups.
5727 MR. MARTIN: The CCD is continuously working with all of the different disability groups.
5728 I will let April jump in, just in case I slip up on it.
5729 We are an organization that is run by and for people with disabilities. We are made up of disability groups from across the country, and to that end, people regionally and in rural and remote communities across the country make up the CCD chapter groups.
5730 So we know, very much, what is going on on the ground. We hear it. They feed that information up through their different disability groups, through the CCD chapter groups and other disability organizations, to the national groups.
5731 And we were very clear that, in different areas that are priorities for people with disabilities ‑‑ around transportation, around telecommunications, and information technologies ‑‑ we then involve community experts. We sit down at a table and we talk to the different community groups. We involve people with disabilities, and then ‑‑ we find ourselves here today.
5732 We take all of those recommendations seriously, and we find out what is the best model for us to address these issues systemically.
5733 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Is there, sort of, a forum, annually, semi‑annually, of various disability groups ‑‑ for example, dealing with the hearing impaired ‑‑ where you would meet and discuss what approach you might take collectively in approaching Industry Canada and the Adoptive Technology Group, to get things that are the most productive for you?
5734 MR. MARTIN: Using, again, this as an example, we have met numerous times with the other disability groups, and experts from the community. We consulted, we made our views known, and we set priorities.
5735 Those priorities shaped the document that we presented to you today. Those are priorities from people with disabilities, as well as experts from around the country.
5736 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you, Mr. Martin.
5737 Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
5738 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Ms D'Aubin and Mr. Martin. We appreciate your appearance here.
5739 This concludes this panel, and we will take a five‑minute recess to bring on the next panel.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 0958 / Suspension à 0958
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1007 / Reprise à 1007
5740 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order please.
5741 Madam Secretary.
5742 THE SECRETARY: I now call on ARCH Disability Law Centre.
5743 Please introduce yourselves, and proceed with your 15‑minute presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
5744 MS GORDON: Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to be here.
5745 I am Phyllis Gordon. I used to be the Executive Director of ARCH, and now I am outside counsel, in a semi‑retirement position.
5746 My colleague is Lana Kerzner, who is an experienced lawyer, and a staff lawyer at ARCH.
5747 Before we begin, there are a couple of quick matters that I would like to make sure I cover. The first is in response to the Chairman's questions about the Adaptive Technology unit at Industry Canada. It no longer exists.
5748 We would be happy to talk about that and other issues with respect to Industry Canada in the question period.
5749 The second thing is that you have been provided with something called the "G3ict Toolkit for Policy Makers". This is a document that is still in draft form. It was prepared under the ICT's auspices, and you will note that one of the authors is Canada's expert on adaptive technology, Dr. Treviranus.
5750 The reason we are putting it in now ‑‑ and we would like it to be an exhibit ‑‑ is twofold. One, we referred to this in answer to an interrog that the Commission asked, and at that point we indicated that it wasn't ready. It is still not in final form, but we have the authorization of the authors to provide it to you in draft form.
5751 The other reason is that I think it will be very helpful to the Commission when you look at the international scene, particularly the last 10 pages of this document, which outline all of the different initiatives that are going on with respect to standards development internationally on questions of ICT and accessibility.
5752 It is a resource. I will refer to it later, but we thought that it would be really important for you to have it. As I say, it was indicated as a source material in our interrog answers.
5753 We would like to begin by thanking you, and, in Chris Stark's words, we are hoping that the Commission scores a home run.
5754 Some of you may not be aware of our organization, so I will briefly outline who we are.
5755 We are an Ontario‑based community legal aid clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities, and we have been in this business for close to 30 years. We have been at the Supreme Court of Canada frequently, and in many other legal venues.
5756 In recent years we extended our work to telecommunications because accessible telecommunications holds such potential for people with disabilities, just as inaccessible telecommunications will lead to new, significant and profound barriers.
5757 We are hoping to bring a disability law analysis to the obligations that exist under the Telecommunications Act. It seems clear to us, with each of the presentations you have heard from the disability community, that the record now indicates that there are serious gaps in the delivery of accessible telecommunications and broadcasting services in Canada.
5758 Our focus is certainly telecommunications. We don't have expertise in broadcasting, but we do have expertise in anti‑discrimination and equality rights, and submit, as a general statement, that those principles apply to both your actions and your interpretations of both of your founding statutes.
5759 The outline of this presentation is as follows:
5760 We first comment upon three general principles, and then briefly discuss the universal service obligation.
5761 We then briefly address how to go forward, and we recommend a disability unit, action plans and accessibility assessments.
5762 We conclude our submissions by really looking at the Telecom Act and the obligation to make decisions in light of human rights obligations.
5763 We have selected these as the key matters that we need to address, given our expertise, but we would also appreciate the opportunity to talk later with you about our understanding of international developments, to comment upon funding proposals, and the Industry Canada mandate and activities, as well, and anything else, of course.
5764 The first broad principle we are asking the Commission to be mindful of is a cross‑disability perspective, to adopt one wherever relevant.
5765 We have heard clearly articulated submissions regarding the telecom and broadcasting requirements of people without sight or hearing. The Neil Squires Society addressed issues faced by people with physical disabilities.
5766 However, the Commission has not heard from other groups, including those representing people with intellectual disabilities, people who have had strokes or brain damage, or who experience the pain of extreme arthritis, for example.
5767 A particularly vulnerable group of people are those with communication disabilities, including severe speech disabilities, and for whom new technologies hold huge promise.
5768 We are not expecting the Commission to address the specific requirements of these groups in this proceeding, but we are asking that, where the context permits, outcomes and solutions, particularly those that include future initiatives and consultations, be available to all people with disabilities.
5769 This is not only good policy, it is consistent with human rights and equity law, which does not recognize hierarchies with respect to disability and accords all people with disabilities the same substantive considerations.
5770 The second general reminder ‑‑ and we have heard it before ‑‑ is that a large portion of people with disabilities are either poor, or very poor. They are living at or below the poverty line and, in many cases, IP‑based solutions may not be possible options ‑‑ until, of course, as the preceding speaker mentioned, the price comes way down.
5771 Many do not have computers, and others have old computers that they can't afford to regularly update, and which may not be compatible.
5772 Regulatory solutions must take this into account and always keep the exercise of choice and the least expensive option open.
5773 A third comment is obvious, but bears repeating. As a regulator, your task is to regulate the industry and the relations of the actors in it. For the citizen, what you regulate is the fundamental infrastructure of our social world and the communications we have in it, whether they be personal, social, educational, economic or cultural.
5774 The Commission makes rules about services, classes of services, tariffs, et cetera, including consumer safeguards, but for many Canadians how you do so is not significant, as long as the outcomes are quality service and manageable prices.
5775 For Canadians with disabilities, your regulation has been essential. As already noted, to our knowledge, almost all, if not every accessibility initiative that has occurred to date in the industry has been pursuant to a direction or order of the Commission. We saw that in some of the discussions with respect to the deferral accounts. Now that there is a little bit of money, there is some action.
5776 Years ago, when we were working on ‑‑ I think it was the VoIp hearing, or it may have been the deferral accounts hearing, we asked questions. We had an interrogatory option then, and we asked questions of the companies: Why are you doing things? What are you doing? They repeatedly said, "The Commission told us to do it, and that's why we have done it."
5777 I think that is pretty clear and, therefore, your role is that much more important.
5778 One critical aspect of the Commission's regulatory approach has had an unintended outcome, which is the serious and debilitating lack of terminal equipment required to ensure that accessible telecommunications are available in the country.
5779 We submit to you that the utility and the marvel of telecom is for everyone, and we urge you to give as full effect as possible to this entitlement.
5780 With respect to universal service, we are asking the Commission to clarify the meaning of the universal service obligation.
5781 In Canada, we refer to the availability of telephone service at affordable rates as the universal service obligation. In the 1977 Bell general rate case, we said that the Commission must ensure that all segments of the public have reasonable access to telephone service.
5782 In fact, the Commission described universal accessibility to basic telephone service as a "fundamental principle of regulation".
5783 We submit that the evidence you have received in this proceeding underscores that accessibility is fundamental, paralleling affordability and availability. As part of our regulatory framework, our universal service obligation should explicitly contain the notion that Canadian telecommunications services are required to be available, affordable, and accessible to Canadians with disabilities.
5784 The starting point for all of this is section 7, which sets out the telecommunications policy objectives, and, in particular, subsection 7(b), which applies to all Canadians, including Canadians with disabilities.
5785 Further, section 46.5 gives specific statutory character to the universal service obligation and provides for a mechanism of supporting access by Canadians to basic telecommunications services through the creation of a fund.
5786 While there is no fixed concept or standard definition internationally of what should be defined within the scope of the universal service obligation, in broad terms its goals have been stated to include: availability, affordability and accessibility.
5787 Accessibility makes reference to ensuring that people with disabilities can use the service.
5788 You will note that that information is taken from a very learned article, and the cite is available for you.
5789 Australia and the United States have similarly interpreted this obligation to apply to people with disabilities. We submit that Canada's universal service obligations should be in keeping with these approaches.
5790 Going forward: An important outcome of this proceeding will be to establish a way of moving forward so that accessible telecom is addressed early and effectively. To this end, ARCH submits that a Disability Unit, based at the CRTC, is essential and the preferred model.
5791 I am going to put in parentheses here, though, that if the Commission finds another effective and independent model, and a funded model that is not at the Commission, we will not oppose it. In our view, this is the best location, and we can discuss that further.
5792 It is not appropriate or feasible for disability participants and advocacy groups to shoulder the burden for systemic change on an ongoing basis. As Cathy Moore of the CNIB pointed out, people with disabilities, like the vast majority of members of the public, are not telecom experts.
5793 We have been blessed with, and the CRTC itself has benefited from, the stamina, insight and courage of Chris and Marie Stark and Henry Vlug for decades, but neither the Commission nor the community can continue to expect these individuals to continue their advocacy in the years ahead.
5794 The FCC has benefited significantly from its Disability Rights Office. We submit that now is the time for Canada to do so as well, and would be happy to discuss the approach for the unit later.
5795 In our view, there are some core and very important functions, and that's why we think that the best place for it is the CRTC.
5796 The Disability Unit would fill many of the gaps that have become apparent in these proceedings. It should be a "made in Canada" department, responsive to our national identity, both languages, and to our industry, community and regulatory constellations.
5797 The unit we propose would be a centre of technical and policy expertise and, where possible, would be staffed by people with disabilities.
5798 It would coordinate focused consultations between industry, disability organizations and technical experts, as required.
5799 It would handle any accessibility reporting obligations required by the CRTC.
5800 It would keep itself, the Commission, the industry, and people with disabilities informed about Canadian and international policy, regulatory and technological developments.
5801 It could be a central and public repository of accessible product information.
5802 The unit would monitor cases at the Commission and advise the Commission, industry, and the community if it considers that cases may have an impact on the present or future delivery of accessible telecom services.
5803 Likewise, it would be able to identify whether new technologies or services may impact accessible services.
5804 We submit that the unit could issue best practices for the industry, including such things as how to implement universal design, and the development of an accessibility impact assessment tool to be utilized by industry early on in the review of a new project or technology.
5805 This would be something like what goes on in the environmental industries when they roll out new programs and they look at environmental impacts. Here we are looking at accessibility impacts.
5806 If I might give you a couple of examples that aren't in the written text about what I am referring to ‑‑ and I can't really address these, other than give you the examples, because I am not a technical person. Dr. Treviranus provided them to me.
5807 Examples of some things that might be caught by an accessibility impact assessment are:
5808 Whether the security encrypted routines to be used in a new online service will prevent users of keyboard emulators ‑‑ that means people who cannot use standard keypads, keyboards and mice ‑‑ from successfully logging onto the system.
5809 That could be a barrier, if the system requires hitting the screen.
5810 Whether a conversion routine from one format to another would strip out accessibility information, such as captions or descriptions.
5811 Whether video compression routines would degrade information by someone who is using sign language ‑‑ information in the movement, rather than in the still frame.
5812 Apparently the amount, or the focus of ‑‑ I'm sorry, I can't really express it, but it is very different whether one is looking at a still image or a moving image, and ASL is a moving image, so that's an issue.
5813 ARCH submits that the Commission should place annual accessibility reporting requirements on providers, and consider the adoption of something akin to the Australian Disability Action Plans.
5814 We would note that you have the power to do that under section 37(1)(b).
5815 Now, to look more at the legal framework, I just wanted to point out that, while we think that you have the task of ensuring that TSPs deliver telecommunications in a non‑discriminatory manner, we are not asking or suggesting at this point that the Commission take on the task of determining specifications and standards applicable to the manufacture of terminal equipment.
5816 That may be a bit of a relief, because I think that you might have understood that from our written materials and we are resilling from that view, if that's what you understood.
5817 THE SECRETARY: Excuse me, this is the hearing secretary, your time is almost up.
5818 MS GORDON: Oh, dear.
5819 THE SECRETARY: Can you please conclude?
5820 MS GORDON: Well, then, you have my legal argument.
5821 I don't know how you want to handle that, Mr. Chairman. I have identified it.
5822 I know there was a question from Commissioner Lamarre last time about your legal options under the act, and that's the rest of this package.
5823 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can you summarize these last five pages, instead of reading it?
5824 MS GORDON: Well, I can try.
5825 I can say that, first, with respect to the issue that we think is paramount, is that the providers TSPs must have in their inventory accessible equipment and phones, as much as they are available. We need to have options for that.
5826 And they need to advertise that. There's no reason why people with disabilities can't receive advertising, it's part of doing business, and that they need to keep the public informed.
5827 Now, you can do that. Because we are submitting, and we have put in an analysis here, that there's discrimination, under section 27(2), in general. That's an avenue you can look at.
5828 In the cellular industry in particular, we no longer have ‑‑ effectively, you get your phone from the provider. That's the way it's done in Canada, by and large. Therefore, we are saying that's ancillary. The provision of the sets is absolutely ancillary and integral to the delivery of the telecommunications service.
5829 So there's quite an analysis of that in here.
5830 And then we also have relied upon the decision that you wrote last year in the Stark decision, where you set out what would be a meaning of "discrimination" and "accessibility", and on the top of 8 I have distilled from that case a statement of principle. We are saying that's really your definition of what "discrimination against persons with disabilities" would mean if there's a failure to deliver accessible equipment.
5831 So using your principle and using the very strong language of the Supreme Court of Canada in the VIA Rail case, we are advising in our submission it is essential that you look at the obligation to provide non‑discriminatory telecommunication services in light of human rights obligations.
5832 There is no such thing in Canada as ‑‑ what was the language that was being used? ‑‑ "the American language". We have an unjust test here. It's not a readily achievable test, and that's pretty clear. In the States it's readily achievable whether one needs to provide something, but in Canadian law it's "undue hardship", in the human rights context. Your statute 27(4) said "not unjust".
5833 The VIA Rail case says you read those two together and the human rights principles are what govern you. So that's pretty fundamental.
5834 So then I have listed some other possibilities that you can do. We can say you should be putting a condition, a section 24 condition, on the cellular providers, that they provide at least two phones, if possible, if they are available; if they are available, they advertise; and they provide information about their accessible inventory.
5835 Another route I have outlined in paragraph c is that you could refer back to the local pay telephone competition decision of 1998, where accessibility conditions were imposed on telephones. That's not our preferred route, for various reasons, but it is an option for you.
5836 I have commented briefly that you may sort of get kickback with respect to Decision 94‑19, and we point out that case deregulated the sale, lease and maintenance of terminal equipment. It didn't refer to or forebear with respect to the accessibility features of necessary equipment.
5837 And if you are still unsure when you are balancing out these issues, we ask you to rely upon and remember your obligations to interpret your statute in accordance with human rights standards and the Charter.
5838 So that's the main argument there. We also say that you have got powers to take other steps. You have got section 58 of the Telecommunications Act, which allows you to take a proactive position making statements or guidelines. They wouldn't be binding, but they would have a huge impact on industry and I think would be very educative in the public if you said this Commission understands the importance of accessible telecommunications for all, that kind of thing.
5839 The second thing is that you can deal with technical standards under 32(b). And I won't go into that paragraph here because we are not asking you to do it right now, but it's just alerting you. Because I think the question yesterday is what were the powers, you posed to Mr. Vlug, and I'm just saying so this is a response to that question in some ways.
5840 Section 32(g) authorizes you to determine any matter and make any order relating to telecommunication services of Canadian carriers in the absence of applicable provision in Part III. So you could find that there's something in this more unusual and broad hearing a different kind of evidence coming than in the normal competition case. You could use that section to make an order or a direction we say.
5841 So that's the summary. We are just saying, finally, that your role as regulator is incredibly important and don't underestimate your power to achieve significant change for lives of people with disabilities.
5843 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
5844 As you can gauge from Commissioner Denton, he's going to be the person asking questions. That's why he was so interested in your legal arguments.
5845 Commissioner Denton.
5846 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
5847 Good morning, ladies.
5848 It's a really nice meaty argument you have presented, and I thank you for it. It presents a lot of issues for us.
5849 I'm going to be asking some questions that are predicated on the problem that we actually have to balance rights and responsibilities here, and I will be seeking your guidance and views on how that balance might be struck.
5850 Where I'm coming from is that in this, as you called it, "unusual hearing", we are having to consider the rights and interests of disabled in relation to the obligations we may impose upon carriers, broadcasters and others to provide equipment or to make services available to satisfy those rights of access.
5851 I'm sure you are aware that you cannot assert a right without asserting the obligation and duty of other people to observe that right. It's a mutual thing. I cannot have a right unless, basically, other people accede my right to have that right. And so that's the balancing job that we are here engaged in now, as we try to figure out what we are supposed to do.
5852 I'm going to give you a little more time, perhaps, to make the same argument you were making on paper, but I would like you to take some time to set forth your conception of the legal basis of the process we are engaged in.
5853 So to begin with, what would you say are the judgments, statutes or treaties that have got us into this position? And more particularly, where can we, as commissioners, turn to for guidance in devising the right balance between access rights, on the one hand, and the rights of others who are required to comply with those rights?
5854 MS GORDON: Firstly, I would like to say that you have two lawyers sitting here and we don't always agree, Lana often has as valuable information as I do, so we have agreed between ourselves that there's no priority here. So if she has another idea, she can jump in.
5855 I guess the judgments are from the Supreme Court of Canada. I don't think we need to go to lower courts. I don't have a recitation of all the relevant judgments. If that's of interest, we can provide in a couple of weeks sort of a list and relevant paragraphs.
5856 But I think the big one that started it off for people with disabilities was Eldridge, which has been referred to earlier. That's a case from British Columbia, where a deaf woman was birthing twins and there was no ASL interpretation, something like that, and the court made very strong statements about the equality principles under the Charter for people with disabilities. Okay?
5857 So that's a Charter principle: that equality trumps. In that circumstance, they needed to have the ASL interpreter.
5858 It's a public case, right? So one of the problem we face here is that, you know, companies aren't obligated to follow the Charter. They are private. The Charter applies to public entities and the law, and we have to make sure that our law is consistent with the Charter.
5859 But we also have to make sure that our interpretations of statutes are consistent with the Charter. And adjudicators and policy‑makers sitting in the place of government, as you are, in the sense of your implementing the policy of the Canadian telecommunications policy, it's your mandate, you have an obligation to incorporate into what you do the principles of the Charter.
5860 So, fundamentally, we are saying that people with disabilities are entitled to equality, substantive equality. There's a new decision out from the court recently, which we haven't mentioned, that we can provide you, that reaffirms that it's substantive and not formal equality.
5861 For non‑lawyers, that may be ‑‑ I don't know how familiar you are with that kind of language, but "substantive equality" is what it really means. I mean, is the person who's disadvantaged, who's entitled to equality, actually getting the real deal or is it just a formal solution that doesn't have an impact?
5862 So you are obligated to interpret your statute in light of the Charter.
5863 Not only that, in case called Tranchemontagne, you are also obligated to use human rights principles. That's very clear, as well. If there is a discrimination issue before you, as an adjudicator, the court says you have an obligation to consider the human rights law and anti‑discrimination law of the country. That's, like, Tranchemontagne, Supreme Court of Canada, maybe three years ago.
5864 That was followed in VIA Rail, which is a more parallel case to your own because it's, you know, a sister regulator. So while Tranchemontagne is a case that occurred in an Ontario administrative tribunal situation, it was followed by the Supreme Court of Canada or used in VIA Rail, so in the federal sector.
5865 MS KERZNER: Perhaps it's worthwhile for me to quote just one bit from VIA Rail which is particularly relevant to this proceeding.
5866 The Supreme Court said, and I quote:
"Human rights legislation, as a declaration of public policy, forms part of the body of relevant law necessary to assist a tribunal in interpreting its enabling legislation." (As read)
5867 And then it went on to say:
"Where a statutory provision is open to more than one interpretation, it must be interpreted consistently with human rights principles." (As read)
5868 So where we are going with this is that, when you look at the language in section 27 and it uses language of "unjust discrimination", the Supreme Court tells us that in interpreting section 27, we need to look to human rights principles and human rights jurisprudence.
5869 So that's something that should be guiding the Commission in interpreting that important section for this proceeding.
5870 And then the other thing about the Charter is that, as you all probably know, the Commission has in the past applied the Charter, in particular in the ‑‑ and I don't have the decision number, but the decision with respect to winback applied section 2(b), the freedom of expression section of the Charter.
5871 So this isn't new ground, it's something that the Commission has done before.
5872 MS GORDON: I don't know how much time you want us to take on this ‑‑
5873 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I have got more. I have got ‑‑
5874 MS GORDON: ‑‑ but I think that the fundamental statute or the Constitution of the country, in section 15, the equality rights provision of the Charter, is essential.
5875 The other thing that is really important is that you remember that the human rights obligation, you are to deliver the service in keeping ‑‑ your service. Like, a tribunal is a service within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act, so you have the obligation in terms of how you deliver your service.
5876 And we have seen that this week really fulfilled beautifully with respect to the kind of accommodation that people with disabilities were provided in a very natural and well‑thought‑out way. That's an example of it. But there are lots of other examples, as well.
5877 And I think that in setting the priorities of the Commission, itself, I mean one of our issues we have heard from the community is this whole concept of inclusive design. Inclusive design is a principle that's bigger than technological design and it's used by government now.
5878 And one of the things inclusive design would mean would be how can the Commission look at its design to ensure that it's meeting its human rights obligations? So it's another issue there.
5879 Treaties. You know, there is now the new convention that our colleagues before us referred to. It's also referred to in this toolkit. And the fact that there is a new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has really led the International Telecommunications Union to take up the issue of access in a more active way. It's opened doors.
5880 COMMISSIONER DENTON: You are referring to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
5881 MS GORDON: I am, yes, which explicitly addresses telecom.
5882 But we are not making an argument today that you have an obligation to fulfil that, that your authority comes directly from the convention, because we actually don't think it does at this point in time, so...it's the spirit of what's going on internationally, it's going to be guiding Canada, but we don't think you actually currently have that obligation, so...to apply the Convention.
5883 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, the thing ‑‑ sorry.
5884 MS KERZNER: No, I just wanted to add that I think what we can take from the Convention is the very fact that it's included telecommunications in the Convention and acknowledges that people with disabilities have right to accessibility with respect to telecom is illustrative of the existence of barriers and the need for the protection of this rights.
5885 MS GORDON: If I might go back to your initial premise, though, and question, the balancing, because I do think we have a comment to make on that, we don't believe that the costs to industry are huge at all. They come nowhere near "undue hardship" in a human rights analysis. They are small additional costs in the scope of the budgets that large companies have.
5886 So, you know, they have to redo their websites anyhow. Just do it. You know, make it available to everybody. They have to import equipment, so add some equipment that costs a little bit more, but do it properly and advertise it. That's not very expensive in the scheme of running the kind of companies that are before you, right?
5887 So in front of a human rights tribunal, these companies would never be able to establish that there was "undue hardship" with the total costs of all of the items that you have heard put before you.
5888 I mean, I sound a bit vehement on that, but I actually think that's correct, and you may want to check with your own legal department or whatever.
5889 You know, the balancing under the human rights principles that you are obligated to look at is there. You are no longer able to say it's just a polycentric kind of thing and we are balancing one principle off another one when the issue is discrimination. That's why we have taken some care to try to set out for you, at least, we believe, in the cellular industry there is discrimination currently.
5890 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, that raises my next question, which is: as we all know, the same set of buttons on a device can establish different effects. According to one's age, one's intelligence, one's degree of handicap, one's degree of dexterity, whatever, the same device can generate different effects in different people of more or less usefulness to them.
5891 I mean, I can pull a device out of my pocket and there's 27,000 functions in it that I can't access yet because no one's yet trained me. Someone else can use it much more effectively and some people can't type it, use it or see it properly.
5892 So the same device can produce effects as different as one might be supposed for different classes, kinds and, you know, abilities of people. Now does the mere fact of different effect constitute discrimination?
5893 MS GORDON: No, I don't think that I would phrase it in those terms. I think that the issue ‑‑
5894 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, I don't think you would but...
5895 MS GORDON: No, but the issue here is that you have a segment of the population that can't use most of the equipment, right, and that the equipment they can use isn't being provided. Remember, the cellphone is connected to the network of the provider.
5896 Like, that's one of the things that I have gone into there. It's unlike the wireline, where Bell puts my phone line in and then I go to Radio Shack or whatever to buy my phone. We don't do that in cellular, right? There's an aerial inside the cellphone that connects to the network of the provider.
5897 So these are not separate parts of the delivery of the service.
5898 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I grant you that.
5899 MS GORDON: Yes. So this is a public service, I mean, it's run by companies, but, you know, your job is to ensure that the social and economic needs of consumers, of users, are being met, and they are not being met, in our view. We believe that's been established.
5900 Now, it's true. I mean, I have a very simple cellphone and I hardly use most of it. And I can't see it very well. I'm not raising a complaint against that. But, you know, there are so many people who have significant disabilities, there is equipment available and it's not being marketed, it's not on the shelves.
5901 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I understand you. What I'm trying to get at is that, you know, our statute requires us to consider unjust and undue discrimination and preference and self‑preference. And so before the word, you know, "discrimination", in our statutes we have "unjust" or "undue" ‑‑
5902 MS GORDON: Yes.
5903 COMMISSIONER DENTON: ‑‑ because that puts the balancing act into the judgments we have to make about, you know, the behaviour of former monopolies, and now competitive players ‑‑
5904 MS GORDON: Right.
5905 COMMISSIONER DENTON: ‑‑ as to whether they give themselves preference and my customers get a better deal than the interconnected customers, et cetera, et cetera.
5906 So we are always in the business of trying to find the appropriate balance between, I suppose, the rights of capitalists to make money and the rights of people to use it effectively, including all people, including disabled people. So...
5907 MS GORDON: You know, with the payphones, you did find that balance. You told payphone companies to make them accessible in 1998, you know.
5908 I mean, the balance, to me, if you are looking at it, as I said, it's a small amount of the budget, but it has an enormous impact on a person's life and on a whole community's life.
5909 We all know that telecom is our entry into communication, and, as the examples have been given this week, you know, it's an expectation of work that you can use email, right? Well, that cuts a whole lot of people out of work. And if you go to a university that has a whole phone system that doesn't have the right chip in it and you can no longer use the phone system, you can't work there.
5910 Like, telecom provides that for all of us. It's not just to say that telecom provides communication to people with disabilities and they don't get it, we all are able to communicate, more or less, and the equipment assists us, right? The service provides the infrastructure to our social relations in the country, you know ‑‑
5911 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I acknowledge if the value of the network goes up ‑‑
5912 MS GORDON: ‑‑ and that is being denied.
5913 COMMISSIONER DENTON: ‑‑ the more people can connect.
5914 MS GORDON: If the telecom service is not available to somebody then they are denied the basic infrastructure of communication in the country.
5915 Now, balance that against the small cost. That's our submission.
5916 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So how does the term "substantive equality" bear in the interpretation of unjust discrimination and undue preference in this context?
5917 MS GORDON: I think that in this context what we would be saying is that substantive equality ‑‑ like we have not asked for the world. We have said that each provider should try to find two phones that meet the different disabilities and provide them, import them. They are available ‑‑ if they are available.
5918 We haven't gone radical and said that they have to ‑‑ you know, have all phones provide all services. We are just saying provide some.
5919 So that may not to some people be a substantive equality enough, but at this point in time we realize we are in an incremental situation. The phones are still costly, so we think that would achieve quite a bit for people.
5920 The substantive formal equality discussion is primarily in the context of the Charter and we are saying ‑‑ I mean, your primary relationship here and the parallel between section 27(2) and (4) and human rights principles is really more parallel to the Canadian Human Rights Code, and there the discourse on substantive and formal equality isn't as present.
5921 So I am having a little bit of trouble moving back to your statute.
5922 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I mean, that's the problem I have, is when I look at them, when I see the Supreme Court's decision and its kind of rhetoric and I see our statute ‑‑
5923 MS GORDON: Excuse me, VIA and Tranchemontagne deal with human rights and administrative tribunals. Right?
5924 They are right on point for you.
5925 COMMISSIONER DENTON: And so did they deal with substantive equality in VIA?
5926 MS GORDON: I don't think it's a big focus. I can't remember.
5927 MS KERZNER: It deals with the assessment of undue hardship and undue obstacles in the transportation industry.
5928 So what that case does is it takes from the interpretations that have been given to undue hardship in the human rights world and applies it to transportation, and the Supreme Court says that the Transportation Agency can't limit itself in assessing undue obstacles just to looking at the language of its statute.
5929 But I just wanted to add one comment about your question about balancing, and that's just a bit of a response to the interrogatory that we were asked asking us to provide concrete details relating to the benefits to people with disabilities for accessible telecom.
5930 I wanted to point out that when you are doing a balancing it's often easy to come up with figures for costs, for the cost of accommodation, but there is no parallel for coming up with figures for the benefits that people with disabilities achieve when the barriers are removed.
5931 The Supreme Court makes a nice statement about that in VIA, which is, as I said, a very similar fact situation, where it said that the costs of accessibility are financially calculable in contrast to the benefits of eliminating discrimination which tend not to be.
"What monetary value can be assigned to dignity, to be weighed against the measurable cost of an accessible environment?"
5932 So I guess what we are saying is that you can't weigh ‑‑ you can't compare numbers when you are doing the balancing exercise in this proceeding in the context of disability.
5933 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, that makes our already difficult task even more difficult. I read from your presentation, which is a very good presentation:
"The interests you will be advancing is not just the right to accessible telecom services but the right of Canadians with disabilities to enjoy the same benefits of telecom in their lives that nondisabled customers have." (As read)
5934 Now, I would submit for your consideration that as between dollar figures that we can more or less roughly calculate and the mental state of satisfaction of the disabled in getting a better device, these are incommensurate things.
5935 It doesn't mean they are not right to serve their interests. I'm just saying the court asks us to measure incommensurate things between dollars on the one hand of burden, which are relatively easily calculated, though they are a little harder than you might suppose, and the incommensurate benefits of dignity, participation and access.
5936 Any help here?
5937 MS GORDON: That's your task. I'm sorry, but it's true, it's your task.
5938 COMMISSIONER DENTON: That's why they're paying us the big bucks, eh.
5939 MS GORDON: Yes. Just remember that you balance regularly ‑‑ at least you used to more before the order that suggested you should narrow your focus perhaps on the objectives. Objective 7(h) is still there, right. You still have an obligation to balance, in your full consideration under your own statute, the social and economic requirements of users.
5940 And our community fits right in there. The social is what we are talking about in that balance, but there are also the economic and the economic can be writ large. It can be writ large because the economic need ‑‑ I mean it's not only the economic need for a cheap phone, it is economic need to work.
5941 If you can't use the phone, you are in trouble.
5942 I know it's a big task, but it is what the Charter is doing for the ‑‑ I'm sorry, what human rights and the courts ‑‑ the shift is happening across the country in administrative tribunals that tribunals start to balance perhaps what are intangibles but which are very profound against monetary costs.
5943 Again, I go back and repeat that you will crunch the numbers with respect to possible costs or maybe say that we need to have another hearing on it. I don't know. But they are not that big.
5944 Most accessibility costs in fact are much, much smaller than people anticipate. We are not even asking companies here to make the phones, you know. We are not doing that. We are saying import and make available what exists and monitor what is going on in the technological world so that you buy the phones, so you have at least two; right?
5945 This is not an unreasonable condition to be placed on somebody, to be placed on a multinational ‑‑ sorry, a multibillion dollar company.
5946 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, I hear you. I understand you.
5947 MS KERZNER: In the VIA case what was being looked at was accessibility or inaccessibility of trains, of being able to travel by train. But that didn't stop the Supreme Court from doing that assessment because they couldn't put a monetary value on being able to travel by train from Toronto to Montreal at a time that someone wants in a way that accommodates their disability.
5948 The other thing is that it's not uncommon in making decisions to have to assess things that can't be ‑‑ where money can't be tied to it. For example, courts all the time assess pain and suffering. Courts assess damages for defamation. These assessments are done where it is obvious that you can't put a monetary value on it, but there is still recognition of the damage, or recognition of the loss and recognition of the rights and the need to address those.
5949 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes, I understand those are the sort of judicial functions. I just wanted to get on the table the idea that against monetary outlay, we have intangible but real benefit not merely to the handicapped but general participation in society. I have blind friends who are greatly assisted by voice operated service. You know, their e‑mail is, you know, it's a real thing, but...
5950 Okay, I'm done with this line of probing. Now we will get onto some other I think simpler questions.
5951 MS GORDON: May I make just one more comment on it?
5952 You know, if we don't do something then the barriers will become impenetrable. So this is only evaluating a good, a social good of accessibility. We are actually in the throes of huge technological change, and if things are not considered and dealt with upfront or after, if need be, then barriers will arise.
5953 So we are going back then 50 years.
5954 So that is sort of in the balance as well. Thanks.
5955 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes. Yes, every software upgrade is a new barrier even for me and people on this Panel and you.
5956 In your submission you suggested that service standards for serving persons with disabilities should be adopted by service providers.
5957 Have you given thought to what these standards should include and what consequences should be imposed by the Commission for failure to meet those standards?
5958 MS GORDON: Could you refer us to what paragraph?
5959 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I'm sorry?
5960 MS GORDON: We were just wondering if you could refer us to the paragraph in our submission.
5961 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I can't.
5962 MS GORDON: Okay.
5963 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Staff...?
5964 MS POPE: Yes. Could I have two minutes? If you want to go on to the next question, I can get that reference for you.
5965 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay. Our lawyers are going to look up where it is in your submission. We will be back.
5966 Some service providers have suggested there are other resources available to persons with disabilities, such as CNIB catalogs that provide or should be providing suitable information pertaining to products of interest to the disabled.
5967 Do you have a view as to whether these resources provide an effective solution to the need for information?
5968 MS GORDON: I have a couple of comments with respect to that.
5969 The first comment ties into what I was just saying, and that is that we don't think the service provider has an obligation to advertise and talk about all the equipment, but they do have an obligation to make known their own equipment after they have an obligation to bring it in, right, just like they let everybody know what their services are.
5970 So that's like the bottom line with respect to the service providers.
5971 The CNIB catalogs, that kind of task is a very difficult thing to keep maintaining.
5972 There are some centres around the United States and the world that are developing inventories and some of that is documented in this handbook toolkit, and it's a hard thing to keep up.
5973 I mean, when we were part of the VoIP hearing and the VoIP hearing ended up going to SISC, or our issues went to SISC and Lana prepared a nice document, which is an appendix in that review, of information about disability and accessible disability.
5974 Keeping that up is a big task. You really need some dedicated and knowledgeable people.
5975 So I guess my concern is that the Commission not overestimate the capacity of the community to take on something for ARCH, for the CCD, for almost every one of the organizations. Telecom is about somewhere between one and 5 per cent of our activities, and we have like six people or three people to do it all.
5976 So without funding, without sort of a permanent funding for a person to manage a repository like that, it's an enormous burden on agencies that actually don't have stable funding by and large. Ours does have much more stable funding, but many of the national groups have to keep applying every year and it depends on the government: they get, they don't get. It's hard.
5977 So I guess I'm just trying to urge you not to think of the community as per taking on another whole new fundamental task. That's why we think that that could be one of the functions of a small department in the CRTC.
5978 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you. You have answered the question.
5979 In relation to the format of consultations, how should participants for consultations be selected on the issues you have mentioned?
5980 MS GORDON: I guess my thought about consultation is that what would be really good is if the CRTC decides where consultations are needed.
5981 One of the experiences we had subsequent to the VoIP hearing ‑‑ and if you go back and look at the VoIP decision, you'll see it sort of is large ‑‑ we were tossed everything. The whole policy issue about accessible telecom was tossed to SISC and SISC doesn't have the kind of mandate or the kind of expertise to deal with policy; right.
5982 So depending upon the nature of the issue that you are suggesting there be consultation about would in some ways influence how the committee be structured.
5983 So if you are talking about making sure that the new ICT development in Canada is not going to create barriers and will open doors or what open access would mean, that kind of thing, then you would want a pretty highly qualified technical committee, right, and some people with disability technical overlap, as well as industry.
5984 If you are talking about setting priorities, well actually we are hoping you are going to set the priorities because you are the regulator. Going back to that, we don't really think that it should all be tossed back to an industry community consultation. We have kind of been there. It needs definition. Any consultation, no matter whether you establish a unit or not, needs clear definition and guidelines and a reporting structure back.
5985 We can't go with just let's get together. It doesn't ‑‑
5986 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Who would devise the guidelines?
5987 MS GORDON: We suggested that the CRTC should after this hearing or develop a process, you know set up something. We think that you have heard that there is this gap; that things are not happening well between industry and the committee at the community on some levels.
5988 There are some players in industry, some individuals who seem quite committed to advancing the interests of persons with disabilities, but the corporations haven't so indicated. I mean, if the corporations were really interested, I think we would have had accessible websites a while ago.
5989 I mean, if there had been some level of recognition we wouldn't ‑‑ remember what we said earlier and what other people have said, is that no movement has happened unless you have directed or when we got the deferral account monies.
5990 So volunteer committees from the community, you know, I am there one month, I can't go the next month. There is no staffing, there is no continuity, there is no research capacity, or very little. So it becomes an unbalanced kind of consultation.
5991 If you are talking about consultations that say specifically we need to know what the real needs are of this user community, what are the functionalities that are required, then that is a really different kind of focused consultation and there you would really want to test. Like Gary Birch was saying, you know, the design should happen right away by bringing in people from the community.
5992 I have heard people from the disability organizations say let us be involved in the selection of who would be part of that. I don't really have a strong view as to how a test runs on a product or if you were just looking at a new cell phone or something, how you would select the blind people you needed to talk to.
5993 I'm not sure. I don't know, Lana, if you have a view on that.
5994 COMMISSIONER DENTON: It's okay not to have a view.
5995 MS GORDON: Yes, we don't have a view on it.
5996 MS KERZNER: But I just wanted to add or to underscore the importance of having some reporting requirement and some CRTC role with respect to consultations, and I want to go back to SISC a bit because I think it illustrates the real potential for failure and for lost resources and time in consultations that have no follow‑up and no ‑‑ nothing that comes out of them.
5997 So what happened subsequent to the VoIP decision, the SISC committee, an ad hoc SISC committee was struck to examine inaccessibility of VoIP for people with disabilities. Phyllis and I were both on that committee, as were several service providers, and we spent countless hours researching and researching and writing and writing non‑consensus reports and filed it with the Commission. I can't tell you the exact date but it was certainly probably a few years ago, and nothing has happened since then.
5998 So the result is that ‑‑ so we very much worry that any sort of consultation that isn't more structured with a more specific mandate, with more specific follow‑up and requirements, will end up being a lot of time and resources spent with no outcome.
5999 That is why we feel so strongly, because we have been through it and we have seen how it has failed.
6000 That's where we are coming from when we are talking about consultation.
6001 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Got it.
6002 How should participation of persons with disabilities in consultations or working groups be funded?
6003 I ask you to give thought to that on the telecom side and on the broadcasting side.
6004 MS GORDON: I hate to be a bit repetitive, but in some ways I think it depends on the nature of the consultation.
6005 So if Rogers is trying to figure out which two phones to sell that are most effective, then Rogers should pay for the consultation, right, and bring people in.
6006 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes.
6007 MS GORDON: Right? So that is kind of one sort of consultation.
6008 If we are asking, you know, five companies or three companies or whatever to meet on a semiannual basis with leaders from ten disability organizations to review the state of affairs, if that is sort of the mandate, then I think that should be shared by the corporations.
6009 We have seen some willingness from the companies so far in the past. I guess the deferral accounts, I don't know if the deferral account money actually paid for the consultations directly or if it was just somehow. But the consultations that did take place with the deferral accounts, I think I am correct that the disability community did not pick up the tab and people were flown in. Right?
6010 We could stand corrected on that, but that is my recollection.
6011 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay. So if you had three things that needed to be done, what would they be and in what order?
6012 MS GORDON: Good question. The three things that we have identified coming from where we stand as the lawyers in the community, I guess, the first one is to place conditions in the cell phone market, conditions of supplying available phones, advertising them and monitoring future developments so that the companies continue to provide accessible telephones to persons of various disabilities.
6013 That is our number one.
6014 Our number two is that there be a disability unit established. The value ‑‑
6015 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I'm sorry, a disability what?
6016 MS GORDON: A disability unit established, whether it is a department within the CRTC ‑‑ it wouldn't need legislative change, just restructuring administrative resources inside the CRTC; whether it means going to estimates committee ‑‑ I'm not sure what it's called federally, but to seek more money.
6017 But we do think that it is really important that there be ‑‑ I think it's actually like a department really when we talk about a unit. We are more on that line than an institute; that it be associated with the regulator, as it is in the United States, and it has had an important role to play in the United States.
6018 So that is ‑‑ you know, I'm happy to talk about that model more or answer more written questions, whatever.
6019 The third is that you take a look at our submission with respect to the universal service obligation, because we think that that is connected to 46(1)?
6020 MS KERZNER: 46(5).
6021 MS GORDON: And we think that the law is already there; that the obligation is to provide telecommunications services to people with disabilities, but a clarification of that and a statement about it from the Commission in its decision is a big signal.
6022 MS KERZNER: I just wanted to add a couple of things.
6023 With respect to a disability unit ‑‑ so the FCC's Disability Unit is called their Disability Rights Office and they have other public ‑‑ they have public participation also at the FCC through a consumer advisory committee.
6024 Just what I wanted to point out is, having spoken to people in the United States who work in accessible telecom and who are very familiar with the issues of people with disabilities in the States, one of the things that they highlight as being potentially very successful and very useful is a disability unit within the regulator.
6025 So that is something that they highlight as being very ‑‑ as having the potential to be very effective in the States and something that we should definitely be looking to consider here.
6026 Then, in the context of the universal service obligation, what is interesting is that ‑‑ and of course in our view emanates from section 7 ‑‑ I think it's (b). But there is similar language, there was in the mid‑'90s, in the comparable legislation in Australia.
6027 There was a case that interpreted that to apply to people with disabilities even though that section didn't specify disability per se.
6028 There is also in the American experience they talk about the universal service obligation extending to people with disabilities, so it is really not ‑‑ it is something that is being done. It is something that with similar types of statutory language has been interpreted to extend to people with disabilities.
6029 And there has been also discussion, I think as Phyllis mentioned in her presentation, at the international level, of the assumption that the universal service obligation includes accessibility for people with disabilities.
6030 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So you are looking for an expansion or declaration of that universal service obligation?
6031 MS KERZNER: Well, we are looking for the concept of the universal service obligation to be recognized as applicable to people with disabilities. That isn't ‑‑ we don't see that as terribly different than what the statute already says, which talks about all Canadians. People with disabilities are Canadians and so it would naturally follow that the principles of accessibility and affordability would apply to them.
6032 So I don't know that it is anything new. It is just a recognition that all Canadians include people with disabilities.
6033 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, that brings us right around to that same problem of incommensurate benefits and completely determinable costs; but yes.
6034 Don't worry, we will address it.
6035 I see in your brief you have Scott v. Telstra as your example of what was done in Australia.
6036 Can you speak to that just briefly?
6037 MS KERZNER: I can. I can speak to that briefly because I'm not ‑‑ you know, I don't practise law in Australia. It was a case where the complainants were deaf and they claimed that they should have the right to the provision of TTY equipment in the same way that people who don't have disabilities had a right to terminal equipment that they could use.
6038 It was a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. It is somewhat different because it was a complaint under their Disability Discrimination Act.
6039 I'm just getting it out for a minute because ‑‑ if you would just bear with me ‑‑ because even though the context was different, the Commission makes a statement about the applicability of the universal service obligation. And I'm going to quote from it.
"The emphasis and the objects of the Telecommunications Act on the telephone services being reasonably accessible to all people in Australia must be taken to include people with a profound hearing disability." (As read)
6040 So it is that principle that we take out of Telstra and Scott and that we submit should be applied in Canada as well.
6041 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay. I noticed that you also cited ‑‑
6042 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can I just interrupt for a minute?
6043 We are going to try to take a break. I think some people need some relief.
6044 We are going to reconvene with the same panel at 11:30.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1115 / Suspension à 1115
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1130 / Reprise à 1130
6045 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please. Let's reconvene.
6046 Commissioner Denton...?
6047 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay.
6048 So we want to talk about telecom relay services and in particular the advent of Internet protocol relay service and video relay service which, as we know, are quite different things.
6049 So as you are aware, the IPRS, VRS funding model based on that of the United States is such that all telecommunications service providers contribute to a fund which compensates providers of relay services, including those who are not themselves telecom service providers.
6050 Question: What is your view of the proposal to adopt a national model for video relay service and IPRS and what funding model might you propose and why?
6051 MS GORDON: Mr. Commissioners, this is an issue that given the huge amount of material that is before us, we don't have a lot of expertise. We have views, but we don't consider them to be as formed.
6052 Really it is something we haven't gone into in great depth.
6053 We do believe that a national relay service is essential. We don't understand any logic for not doing so, but that was clearly an issue at the deferral account consultations and the community was pretty solidly together on the need for a national service.
6054 With respect to the funding model, I am somewhat personally compelled by the presentation of the Canadian Association for the Deaf on the funding model. I am also intrigued by the way it is set up in the United States where the carriers themselves are not providing the ASL. They are not managing and it is not part of their operation, right, it is another company ‑‑
6055 COMMISSIONER DENTON: It is contracted out.
6056 MS GORDON: ‑‑ that comes in. It is contracted out, yes. Apparently it has led to high quality service. That is what we are told. So that is of interest for Canadians reliant on relay services.
6057 Funding model, I think I'm going to see if Lana can address that part.
6058 MS KERZNER: I guess we don't have ‑‑ we haven't formed a definitive view on funding for IP relay and VRS, but I guess what we do want to say is that section 46.5 provides authority for creating a fund to ensure access.
6059 So that is certainly one possibility and you have the jurisdiction to use that section to make it happen.
6060 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you. I do appreciate that you are making a distinction between what you believe and what you know and what you think might probably be so. Thank you, that helps.
6061 Do you ladies have any view of the best source of information of those who use sign language and who therefore might be the customer base for a video relay service?
6062 MS GORDON: I don't quite get the question. Can you say it again?
6063 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes. Do you have a source of information about the number of people who depend on sign language who therefore might be the logical customer base for VRS?
6064 MS GORDON: No, we don't know the answer to that.
6065 My suggestion, although I haven't canvassed him, is Gary Malkowski who is on today for the Canadian Hearing Society may know that.
6066 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
6067 MS KERZNER: Can I just go back to your question about funding, because I do have one thing I would like to add from the American experience, is that ‑‑
6068 UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Would you like to hear an answer? (Off microphone / Sans microphone)
6069 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Mr. Chairman?
6070 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm sorry...?
6071 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Someone is volunteering to answer the question.
6072 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, I think we should leave this witness to continue, please.
6073 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay. Thank you.
6074 MS KERZNER: In the United States there is discussion about the expansion or the interpretation of the universal service obligation to include services such as IP relay and VRS, and there is discussion about the ‑‑ I don't know if the question is in your minds about the use of the words basic telecommunications services specifically in section 46.5.
6075 So we are asking that those words be ‑‑ I know that there is no definition of those words in the Telecommunications Act, and I understand that that was left undefined for the purpose of being able to ‑‑ for it to change in the context of evolving technologies.
6076 So what we are suggesting is that the universal service obligation and the concept of basic telecommunications services apply to IP relay and VRS.
6077 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
6078 You may already believe you have answered this, but I will ask it this way. This deals with telecommunications equipment.
6079 Is ARCH aware of mobile and wireless equipment that exists in other countries that would address accessibility issues encountered by persons with disabilities?
6080 Please talk about any innovative aspects that this equipment has in providing solutions.
6081 MS GORDON: I think that's a question that we are not prepared today to respond to. If you would like us to send forward in two or three weeks an answer to it after completing more research, we could do so.
6082 We didn't come prepared with that information.
6083 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I'm not prepared to rule on that. If you feel it would be a good idea, then we will take that and I will leave that up to you.
6084 MS GORDON: So I understand, if we send it in, you will receive it?
6085 COMMISSIONER DENTON: If you send it in, we will receive it and read it.
6086 MS GORDON: Thank you.
6087 COMMISSIONER DENTON: The question that follows is: If the Commission were to determine in a follow‑up proceeding to re‑regulate the sale, lease or maintenance of terminal equipment, what specific regulatory measures should the Commission put into place that would be effective in providing solutions?
6088 MS GORDON: I have ‑‑ there is sort of a conundrum for me that I will explore a bit in this answer.
6089 That decision dealt with sale, lease and maintenance. We hear about it as a total deregulation of terminal equipment. The case itself really dealt with the commercial aspects of, you know, the old monopoly companies providing a phone in your home and that finally getting put out on the market, right.
6090 It is really kind of a market case and it doesn't deal with the nature ‑‑ the case doesn't say the nature of terminal equipment is forever forborne. You see what I mean?
6091 There is kind of what the equipment does, what it looks like, all of that kind of thing, and then there is the sale, lease and maintenance part. So the decision, the forbearance was with respect to the sale, lease and maintenance.
6092 I'm just putting that out because it influences my thinking about the issue.
6093 If we are talking about reconsidering terminal ‑‑ it would be nice if you reconsider terminal equipment altogether, but I would ask that you not only reconsider the sale, lease and maintenance, because you should reconsider the whole issue of terminal equipment.
6094 COMMISSIONER DENTON: In what way?
6095 MS GORDON: Well, in terms of what terminal equipment does. Does it satisfy the needs of all Canadians?
6096 That terminal equipment, there are questions about availability, there are questions about safety, there are questions about accessible design, compatibility with ‑‑ certainly compatibility issues with the new evolving technologies would be a key question.
6097 And then on the provision side or the sale and lease side, I guess it is the kind of thing we have been talking about, about ensuring that as the market has tended not to provide for a lot of choice, or any choice with respect to terminal equipment, that that issue be revisited; the question of whether or not competition is sufficient in the context of accessible telephones.
6098 One of the participants this week ‑‑ and I can't recall who ‑‑ made the point that is written up in the disability accessibility community, an American professor, who really makes the point again that if there is a regulation, that that actually in some context, in the context of small markets, helps. If there is an obligation to provide something it helps, because everybody has to do it and so there isn't the competitive advantage.
6099 I guess it was Gary Birch who was talking about the way that the competitive world and sort of the secrecy and the product development kind of thing happens isn't functional when there is a small market.
6100 The man's name is Dr. Vanderheiden who has written about this, and if that is of interest we could certainly provide you with his theory.
6101 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I would just like to say that the reason why we dissociated telecom equipment from the service operation was to dissociate what were then monopolies of service provision from a market that could become readily competitive.
6102 In the 20 years or whatever since that has happened, you know, we now hold computers in our hands that have vastly more resources than the largest computers that were then able to exist. So technology has accomplished a vast amount between then and now which could only have happened if those markets were deregulated and dissociated from monopoly provision.
6103 So we now see some problems ‑‑ or you now see some problems with certain devices for certain purposes. But the fact that they have advanced so far, so much in so many different ways, is a matter of technological revolution. We don't want to mess with that.
6104 MS GORDON: I'm not going to dispute that historical analysis. I did so four years ago ‑‑
6105 COMMISSIONER DENTON: It wouldn't be a winning argument.
6106 MS GORDON: ‑‑ but I don't any longer. I have learned more.
6107 I think that a huge amount of innovation has happened because of the relaxed rules.
6108 With respect to people with disabilities, we are not seeing a whole lot in Canada. So it is kind of what happens when you have a small constituency in terms of the whole market. That is where regulators need it.
6109 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, what do you think of the idea that some of the issues about the terminals might best be addressed at an international level whereby on a worldwide basis standards might be developed that would guide or assist telecom equipment manufacturers?
6110 Presumably at a worldwide level a standard might assist manufacturers to comply with something that was at least agreed upon.
6111 MS GORDON: We agree with you. You know, the pay phone case of '98 said basically pay phones have to have certain features. They have to be accessible for people with physical disabilities. They have to be hearing aid compatible and then there was about seven criteria for blind users of pay phones.
6112 It wasn't a specification setting exercise. It set out minimum conditions. And I guess in our view if the market isn't providing for the minimum required functionalities of a piece of equipment, that is something the CRTC could address and speak to in a new 94‑19 review or now, you know.
6113 But we don't actually imagine the CRTC itself is going to entertain the task of writing specifications. There are people around the world doing it.
6114 I mean that's why I brought this in. If you look at the last several pages of here, there are enormous efforts going on right now in developing accessible standards in the ICT world.
6115 COMMISSIONER DENTON: By "this" you refer to ‑‑
6116 MS GORDON: That's right, yes, the toolkit.
6117 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
6118 MS GORDON: If you start on page 66, there is a Japanese industrial standards committee on ICT accessibility. That is stuff that their efforts have actually led to several ISO standards being set.
6119 There is a U.S. telecommunications and electronic information technology advisory committee that is relooking at the two key statutes ‑‑ sorry, the regulations and standards under two key provisions in the United States that for the last many years have ensured that people in the United States get proper telephones are accessible telephones.
6120 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. We will take a look at it.
6121 MS GORDON: Yes. I think I don't need to go through that.
6122 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don't think you have to read it out. Yes, thank you very much.
6123 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you. That completes my questions.
6124 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think Commissioner Lamarre has a question for you.
6125 Does Commissioner Duncan have a question?
6126 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: No.
6127 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, okay.
6128 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Merci, Monsieur le Président.
6129 I have one question. There is a short preamble so please stick with me.
6130 I heard you say that in your opinion we would not have the obligation to apply the specific sections of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, those sections that relate to telecommunications, in making our decision in this proceeding.
6131 Now, based on the Treaty section of the UN ‑‑ please take my word for this ‑‑ the Convention is in effect. Canada has ratified it and therefore is a party to it, and Canada has made no reservation nor declaration neither at the signing stage nor at the ratification stage of the convention.
6132 Why then would this legal framework not apply to a decision by an administrative tribunal like this commission, a commission which is the creation of the Canadian state and is also part of its judicial system?
6133 MS KERZNER: So I think I should start by maybe refining the statement that we made earlier.
6134 There is a line of jurisprudence that talks about the application of UN treaties and conventions in the Canadian context to courts and tribunals and it is just ‑‑ I don't think we are saying that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities does not ‑‑ is not relevant to this proceeding. We are not saying that you don't need to consider it.
6135 From a strict legal analysis, and I think we have included a bit of it in our interrogatory response but I would have to check, but it stems from the case of Baker which talks about what use Canadian courts or ‑‑ and I would have to check to see if that applies to tribunals too ‑‑ but what use is to be made of UN treaties and conventions.
6136 And so certainly, I don't think there is any question that they are relevant to your deliberations.
6137 The law is less settled as to exactly what impact it has on your deliberations and we would be happy to put in further submissions in relation to that question if you would like. I would be really more than happy to do that if that would be of assistance.
6138 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Because remind me the Baker case, and correct me if I am wrong, but I think the difficulty in the Baker case as dealing with the convention for the rights of children was the fact that Canada had not ratified the Convention at the time.
6139 MS KERZNER: I actually ‑‑ I think I need to check it because my recollection was ‑‑ I think I recall it differently than you, so I would need to confirm because I thought that it was.
6140 But I would be ‑‑ as I said, I would be more than happy to look into that and to provide you with more extensive submissions on this issue because it is important to the proceeding.
6141 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: I appreciate it, thank you.
6142 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Lamarre.
6143 I think Commissioner Molnar has got a question.
6144 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
6145 I understand your focus upon the terminal end of it.
6146 I would like to turn the discussion briefly to the issue of website accessibility.
6147 I will tell you, I am not a lawyer but I appreciate hearing nonetheless your perspective as it relates to the obligations that we have related to website accessibility and I am going to talk specifically on the telecommunications side.
6148 Websites in the telecommunications world really serve two primary functions, as I see it: they are a vehicle for service and they are a vehicle for customer support.
6149 I make the distinction on the service side, of course, you know, they are used as a service channel. There's customers served through websites where you can use the web to, for example, order a service or initiate a service and those sorts of functions, and that is, to me, a service channel.
6150 And telecommunication service providers have alternate channels. There's customers served through things such as the web; there is a dealer‑serve model; there is a telecom‑serve model where you can phone into a call centre, for example.
6151 So there's various channels for service, and the website is one of them.
6152 The other primary purpose of a website is the customer support, information and support. It is an avenue to access information, you know, on terms of service, on product information, just perhaps some other examples, and a vehicle on the support side, for example, to lodge a complaint.
6153 Once again, I would say that most telecommunication service providers have various, various support channels. Again, you can call into a call centre, you can go to a business office, you can go to a store or you can use the website.
6154 Under this model where the website is one vehicle for customer service and customer support, what do you view to be the obligations to make that channel accessible?
6155 MS GORDON: We think there is an obligation to make it accessible. I don't think that there is an exception because there are alternate means. The alternate means aren't available at 3:00 in the morning or, you know ‑‑ I mean it is not the same service.
6156 If I am understanding what you mean by alternate means, is that the telephone? I mean what are the alternate means? There is customer support ‑‑
6157 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, as I said, with customer support, I mean there are all the means that existed before websites became a vehicle.
6158 MS GORDON: Right.
6159 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You have call centres and in many cases, you know, they are 7/24.
6160 MS GORDON: That is true, you are right.
6161 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: For example, if you have a trouble, you can call in and, you know, there is 24/7 support.
6162 MS GORDON: Right.
6163 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So there are alternate means. There are call centres. There are, you know, stores. There are, as I said, all the channels that were available before.
6164 I am not talking about functionality that is available only on a website but I am talking about when a website provides an alternate means of customer service or customer support, do you believe there is still a legal obligation to make that accessible?
6165 MS GORDON: I guess my prediction would be that if that were a human rights complaint, that a human rights tribunal would say it needs to be accessible, that the alternate isn't ‑‑ just because it is an alternate is not good enough.
6166 So many people now rely on ‑‑ I mean while it may be alternate for the company, it may in fact be the most effective for people with disabilities because some people with disabilities, worlds have opened up because of the website and the communication they can have over the website.
6167 I am not ‑‑ you know, I haven't put my mind to that explicitly but my prediction would be that a tribunal would say the whole thing has to be accessible and that the alternate in that instance would not be ‑‑ it isn't justified.
6168 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So are you saying every channel of service and every channel of support must be accessible?
6169 MS GORDON: I guess it is up to the point of undue hardship, so it would be an evaluation. If one were examining ‑‑ you know, part of the difficulty, I guess, is to not see the whole context of something.
6170 You are really asking an important question but it is somewhat hypothetical because you evaluate the undue hardship test always in the context of the corporation or the person who has the obligation to provide something, right, in terms of what their means are.
6171 So I am not sure. I think though that when we expect ‑‑ we say that alternate format communication is essential, right? That is for sure. And one of the key points now for alternate format information is the website.
6172 So it would be ‑‑ yes, I can't ‑‑ I guess I can't pursue it much further other than to say that.
6173 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you.
6174 MS KERZNER: I just wanted to make a comment on the flip side relating to websites because it has been put ‑‑ now, I can't remember if it is on the record of this proceeding or the one relating to provision of information but it has been suggested that some information be put only on websites.
6175 And so I just wanted to raise the issue that people with disabilities have a lot less access to the internet than the general population. And we actually have statistics that have varied but one of them is, for example, the percentage of people with disabilities who have access to the internet is only half of that of the general population.
6176 I am just picking up on Phyllis' comment about alternate formats that while the internet and websites are very important modes of communication for people with disabilities, as the general public, it is not a replacement for other modes of communication.
6177 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
6178 That is my only question.
6179 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.
6180 I think Commissioner Duncan has got a question.
6181 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Yes, I do.
6182 Ms Gordon, when you were talking about the disability unit and you recommended that it be based at the CRTC, you made the comment that you would accept it if it was somewhere else as long as it was independent.
6183 I just wondered if you had some other ideas where that somewhere else might be, some other ‑‑
6184 MS GORDON: Well, I actually only see it as being freestanding, either with the CRTC or freestanding.
6185 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay.
6186 MS GORDON: Certainly not Industry Canada. I don't think that that is where we would see it to be.
6187 One of the real issues there is we see a key function here is, you know, really to provide a service for the CRTC so that as things come down the line you are apprised of a disability implication. So if the terminal equipment case were before you today, somebody would say, whoa, there is a big issue here, so that we don't get into making decisions.
6188 Now, Industry Canada can't have that function. I mean there's conflict issues.
6189 So in our view, there is a significant value to the CRTC to having it and we don't see it having to be too big. You know, it is not an enormous thing. It may be four staff but really dedicated.
6190 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Size was actually another issue I had in mind, that I was wondering about. Okay, no, that is fine.
6191 MS GORDON: I could imagine 20 or 30 but core functions could happen, I think, with a small staff.
6192 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay, thank you very much.
6193 That is it, Mr. Chairman, thank you.
6194 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Duncan.
6195 Does counsel have any questions?
6197 Thank you very much, both Ms Kerzner and Ms Gordon, for appearing before us today.
6198 We will just move right along to the next appearance.
6199 THE SECRETARY: We will now proceed with our presentation by the Canadian Hearing Society.
6200 Sorry, just some technical difficulties. I am just going to ask the interpreters to move closer in front, if that is okay.
6201 THE SECRETARY: Please introduce yourselves and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
6202 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Hello, my name is Gary Malkowski. I am the Special Advisor to the President and CEO and responsible for Special External Affairs.
6203 MS WILSON: My name is Cheryl Wilson. I am the Manager of the Sign Language Interpreting Service for the Province of Ontario, which is a core program of the Canadian Hearing Society.
6204 MS BENTLEY: And I am JoAnn Bentley, the Manager of the Communication Devices Program at the Canadian Hearing Society.
6205 MS WILSON: We are just going to move through our slide deck.
6206 I will give a brief overview of the Canadian Hearing Society.
6207 We were incorporated in 1940 to provide services, products and information to culturally deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people and to educate the hearing public.
6208 CHS is governed by a volunteer board of directors, the majority of whom are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.
6209 We are the leading provider of services, products and information that remove barriers to communication, advanced hearing health and promote equity for people who are culturally deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, and we do that primarily in the Province of Ontario.
6210 Unique in North America, the Canadian Hearing Society offers a complete roster of essential services under one roof through 27 offices, including sign language interpreting, one‑to‑one language development for deaf children using play as the medium of learning, employment services, sign language instruction, speech‑reading training and the most complete range of communication devices that assist and augment communication, including TTYs, visual smoke detectors, baby monitors and alarm clocks.
6211 I will turn it over to Gary.
6212 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I think this is an important slide to allow you to see the profile of access needs and the various groups that we serve which are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing.
6213 So we have these four different groups, beginning with the culturally deaf Canadians, oral deaf Canadians, deafened Canadians and hard of hearing Canadians.
6214 Their communication needs are very different from one another. What is important is to understand that they all may use hearing aids, they all may use cochlear implants and they all may use American Sign Language as well, just looking at their primary and their secondary communications.
6215 And there's a number of different methods that would be used in that. It could be interpreters, real‑time captioning, TTYs, and that is outlined in a grid in front of you.
6216 MS WILSON: We are on to page 4.
6217 I would like to present some of our concerns.
6218 Like other agencies, we are concerned with the lack of meaningful consultations with the use of the deferral account funds to improve access to telecommunication services for persons with disabilities, including culturally deaf, deafened and hard of hearing individuals, as they are the key consumer stakeholders initially and on an ongoing engagement basis throughout the development and delivery of specifically video relay service.
6219 We have significant concerns about the delays and the development of the implementation of VRS in Canada, despite the fact that it has been in the States since the year 2000.
6220 There is a lack of understanding and consultative mitigation planning by the telecommunication industry with respect to the capacity of the interpreting field and its ability to support video relay service and community interpreting needs once video relay service is implemented and realized.
6221 There is a lack of national solutions to the provision of VRS in four languages: ASL, English, LSQ, French.
6222 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): There is a lack of ASL and LSQ and captioning on the content in webcasts and the videos streaming from the internet providers.
6223 There is a lack of visually accessible emergency information when on the road or at home of announcements that are auditory in nature: radio and public service announcements.
6224 I have one story I would like to ask Cheryl to share with you at this point.
6225 MS WILSON: I would like to add to Wayne Sinclair's 911 story which he gave yesterday during the VRS Consultative Committee of BC presentation.
6226 I had a deaf colleague who was a mental health practitioner who was in a crisis situation with a deaf individual in an isolated park in Toronto. She needed to call 911.
6227 Her technology was a BlackBerry. There was no opportunity for her to do that directly to 911. I was shopping in Sobey's and I got a message from my deaf colleague asking me to call 911 for her and here is her location.
6228 The deaf consumer was in a suicide mode. It was critical and essential. Considerable barriers.
6229 I carry a BlackBerry. My deaf colleague carries a BlackBerry. There was an equivalency.
6230 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Another barrier faced is the lack of compatibility of internet phone and services such as TTYs and 711.
6231 The lack of CRTC regulations requiring cable TV and TV broadcasters to be accountable to ensure quality captioning.
6232 As an example, just last night, you know, coming to Ottawa and thinking how very accessible it was going to be, but as soon as I got into my hotel room, I wasn't able to use the captioning and when I went down to the front desk to inquire, they said: I am sorry, we don't have that available to you. So just another example.
6233 Lack of employment equity initiatives specifically with regards to persons with disabilities in telecommunication industries and in CRTC's personnel hiring, retention and promoting employees with disabilities practices from the front line to senior management.
6234 We are seeing the federal employment equity which is beautiful in writing and it is nice but it is not being instituted and nobody is being mandated to in fact follow it.
6235 Lack of CRTC disability secretariat, an example being the disability unit. The advisory committees and CRTC complaint mechanism for dealing with related disability and accessibility issues.
6236 I see in front of me a number of commissioners and I don't have knowledge that any one of you have expertise with disability issues. I don't know if any of your staff or researchers have that expertise and that is definitely a gap that is being observed.
6237 We all know the legal legislation that speaks to the duty to accommodate and I don't want to go over all of the information that has already been shared with you with other presenters, but without equal access, there can be no equal opportunity.
6238 The United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and I am speaking specifically of Article 9 which speaks to the right to access information and technology.
6239 Last May all of the political parties in the House supported the resolution so that the Government of Canada would move forward with ratification and that is in process currently and it should be ratified quite soon.
6240 The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically Section 14 that recognizes deaf individuals and their right to have a sign language interpreter during court proceedings.
6241 Section 15.1, which would be an example of the Supreme Court Eldridge decision and I know ARCH has already spoken to that case, so I won't repeat it. And that decision had impacted with all levels of government because it showed the legal accountability and the duty to accommodate up to undue hardship, which is very important.
6242 When we look at the federal group, they didn't comply, although they were reminded of the Eldridge decision. What happened was, the federal government was brought to court, and that, in turn, brought us the Federal Court decision on the Canadian Association of the Deaf, which reaffirmed the Eldridge decision, which requires that all federal programs and services, which would include the CRTC, have the duty to accommodate any public consultation such as this, or any programs and services, any licensed projects.
6243 There is accountability there, and it is clearly stated within those decisions.
6244 I will quote Judge Mosley's comment. He recognizes that "individuals with disabilities in Canada have the right to access democracy, and the right to participate in Canadian life," which is very important. That is a very important quote.
6245 The Human Rights Act, again, quite clearly states the duty to accommodate.
6246 Let me quote two different reports. The first report is "No Answer", which was a review of the Government of Canada's telephonic communications with people who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, and for those with speech impairment. This report was done in 2005, and it can be found online.
6247 One of those two recommendations, speaking specifically of ‑‑ of those reports, speaking specifically of number 3, spoke to technology, VRS and VoIP.
6248 "Inclusive of innovative technology" is included in that report as well. That means that all departments of the federal government must include this in their planning.
6249 The second report that I am going to refer to is "No Answer 2", part 2, which is a review of federally regulated organizations' telephonic communications for people who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, and those with speech impairment. This is a 2006 report, which clearly recommends, again, the technology, and video relay services specifically.
6250 It is that report which has led to the memorandum of understanding between the Treasury Secretariat of Canada and the Secretariat ‑‑ with the Treasury Board of Canada. It has led to an agreement that the duty to accommodate is in place for all federal departments.
6251 Also, the Federal Court of Canada decision has led to Service Canada and the Treasury Board, as well as Human Resources Skill Development, implementing ‑‑ which I know will be released quite soon, but it will be an accessibility policy specific to individuals who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing.
6252 One point I would ask you to keep in mind is that there are two different groups. There are people who currently have a disability, with the deaf and hard of hearing specifically, and then there is another group, which is made up of the rest of the individuals who are, essentially, waiting in line for their disability to happen. That would be everybody in this room, if you do not yet have one.
6253 Technology will be needed by you in the future, so I think that is something that you really do need to give thought to. It is worth the investment at this point to move forward with this, rather than spending all of the investments on the legal case and trying to defend what you think should or should not happen.
6254 So I would encourage you to invest in accessibility, specifically looking at the aging population. The aging population is no longer a minority, it is the majority.
6255 I think that you should really give considerable thought to where you would like to spend your money, defending legal cases or spending it in including and moving forward with accessibility.
6256 That not only would only allow for accessibility, but I would encourage you to work with Industry Canada, and to work with industry, because that would create jobs. It would create consumers coming to take their business. If it is accessible, people will want to spend their money at those places. It is a proactive opportunity.
6257 MS WILSON: Now we will move on to Slide 8, and talk briefly about recommendations.
6258 I will speak specifically to the Video Relay Service, and my colleague JoAnn will speak to the more technical areas.
6259 It is essential that the CRTC mandate the full and complete engagement of all stakeholders.
6260 And, by stakeholders, we are not only including deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community members, we have to give consideration to the interpreting community. For the professional field itself there will be significant impacts.
6261 The interpreting service providers, my colleagues across the country who deliver the same kind of service that I do, have a vested interest in being engaged not only in the development, but in the ongoing delivery.
6262 We recommend that the CRTC create a funding framework from which the telecommunications companies and the VRS vendors can create concrete business development plans in an accountable and transparent way. As service providers, it is not our field of expertise, and at times we really don't get it, and we don't know where to get the information. We don't even know if the information is accessible to us. We are looking for accountability and transparency.
6263 Slide 9: It is imperative that the CRTC require that deferral account funds be utilized for a national VRS solution, and that the service, again, be available in four languages.
6264 MS BENTLEY: I will carry on with Slide 10.
6265 Part of our recommendations, continuing, is that the CRTC set regulations to ensure that internet phone service providers provide equitable, compatible and accessible phone services to consumers, regardless of the products or services used.
6266 As well, we recommend that the CRTC set regulations requiring cable TV and TV broadcasters to ensure quality captioning.
6267 As we know, captioning benefits many Canadians, not only our deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community, but the growing multicultural community, as well as children learning language.
6268 Currently, all programs do not offer captioning, and the quality of captioning that is offered at times is garbled and inconsistent.
6269 We recommend that the CRTC set regulations to require TV broadcasters to ensure that all emergency broadcasts are captioned and accessible.
6270 When there is an emergency in the community, we often receive information in a variety of ways. TV and radio are options to us all. It is crucial that emergency broadcasts be provided in an accessible format for the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community, and that consideration be given to sending information to text paging systems.
6271 We recommend that the CRTC set regulations to require internet providers to provide captioned webcasts and video clips over the internet.
6272 As well, we recommend that the CRTC set regulations to require companies responsible for high‑definition technology, Blu‑ray technology, and other emerging technologies to meet requirements to make that technology compatible with captioning technology.
6273 In addition, we recommend that the CRTC set regulations requiring emergency 911 and 711 call centres to be accessible and compatible with VRS, IP relay, cell telephone compatibility, and the CapTel captioning service.
6274 As we continue to experience changes in technology and the various communication modes, the telecommunications needs of the deaf, deafened, oral deaf and hard‑of‑hearing Canadians must be considered. We must realize that not one mode fits all, and that Canadians need equal access to the various options, which must include newer and older technologies, such as VRS, IP relay, VCO, MRS and the CapTel service.
6275 We must be careful not to create barriers to those who still use some of the older technology as we move toward the future.
6276 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Now we are referring to Slide 12: the CRTC to set regulations requiring telecommunications industries and CRTC personnel to establish employment equity measures, so as to comply with the federal employment equity legislation and the Canadian Human Rights Act ‑‑ for example, the duty to accommodate in the workplace.
6277 Remembering the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is very clear in section 15, the equality, and the recommendation from the Canadian Human Rights Act ‑‑ the "No Answer" report that I referred to has a number of different recommendations within it that are quite clearly stated.
6278 And the UN convention for rights for individuals with disabilities ‑‑ support was there from all political parties to support the government moving forward with ratification.
6279 The previous presentation by ARCH Disability Law ‑‑ we support all of the recommendations they put forth, as well.
6280 The CRTC to set a CRTC Disability Secretariat and Advisory Committee ‑‑ Disability Unit ‑‑ and the CRTC to establish a complaint mechanism ‑‑ and to make sure that that committee is effective ‑‑ and to make sure that there is a complaint mechanism in place for dealing with related disability and accessibility issues.
6281 If we look at the Federal Communications Commission, they have a Disability Unit, and they have hired expertise within that unit. I think it is a model that we really should be looking to. As a strong recommendation, I would suggest that the CRTC recycle all of the information from the FCC. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, everything is quite clearly set out in that body, and in that model.
6282 They provide VRS services, and there is an excellent company ‑‑ the Purple Communications company ‑‑ which is a fabulous company in what they are doing.
6283 I am the father of six children, and three of my children reside in the U.S. I lived in the U.S. for 15 years, and communication was easy and very accessible.
6284 The FCC has since banned all VRS services to accept Canadian calls. If I want to contact my daughter in the States, I am not allowed to do so. The Canadian government hasn't moved forward with VRS. It affects my job performance. I need to be able to network with all levels of government, and I am not able to do so. I go back to the old method of booking an interpreter, and waiting for their ability, to then be able to meet with the people I want to, which doesn't allow for the best effectiveness.
6285 We have mobile video phones. Purple Communications will speak to the unit they have that is mobile. I can bring that to a meeting. I can set it on the table and I can have a meeting with anyone I choose to, I don't need to wait for the interpreter's availability, wait in line for my turn to have access.
6286 I want to be able to participate, and that would allow me to do so.
6287 I would like to ask you an important question, and it something that I would ask you to consider. Is it worth investing all of the money to defend a position, creating new barriers, and all of the associated expenses, or would it be better to invest that money in accessibility?
6288 I want you to keep in mind who uses elevators. Everyone uses elevators. Who uses captioning? Everyone uses captioning. People who are learning English as a second language or learning French as a second language utilize the captioning service to develop their language and literacy skills. Children ‑‑ everyone ‑‑ seniors in a noisy environment, or even going to a bar. The captioning is on the TV, so everybody has access to the information.
6289 Captioning is an absolutely fabulous tool to encourage the development of literacy, at all ages and at all levels, because everyone utilizes it.
6290 Keep in mind that VRS is not only going to be for deaf individuals. I want to be part of society. I want to be able to participate. I want to see that bridge built for effective communication, and that will happen with VRS. That is where we are going to see that technological solution.
6291 Again, keep in mind that you are waiting in line for your disability, but use us as the experts. Let us provide you the expertise we have ‑‑ and use our recommendations.
6292 It is time for you to go forward and make this decision. Bring the industry and service providers, Industry Canada and the CRTC, and the communities together. Let us work together. That can happen by setting up the CRTC Disability Secretariat. That will allow us to be the symbol that everybody else in the world will look to. They will look to Canada for what it is we have. We will have the best accessibility ‑‑ the best quality of accessibility ‑‑ and I want us, as Canadians, to be renowned in that respect.
6293 Thank you for allowing me to participate today.
6294 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for your very articulate presentation.
6295 I would ask Commissioner Duncan to lead our questions.
6296 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Good morning, Mr. Malkowski, and your team. I do have a lot of questions for you, and I think that a lot of them tie in with your comments, so hopefully we can get everything on the record that we need.
6297 First of all, I wanted to discuss the most effective approach going forward to ensure that the universal standards that are being developed for captioning, once they are approved by the Commission, are implemented and maintained on an ongoing basis.
6298 I am wondering, in your opinion, if establishing an internal policy ‑‑ if licensees were required to establish an internal policy setting out the quality control mechanisms, do you think that would be an effective and adequate way of ensuring adherence to the standards?
6299 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I would suggest, for best practices and best policies, that you look to the FCC, the Disability Unit they have. They have set the best practices. They have that model in place, which not only includes standards, but includes enforcement.
6300 I think it is a model that could definitely be utilized by the CRTC.
6301 How are you going to be able to get that advice and that consultation for best practices?
6302 We are here to support you in that, but you have that available to you as a resource centre. You have those policies available.
6303 If you are looking for an internal policy for accessibility, the CRTC should be the leader, and it should set the example, because we are going to have broadcasters and everyone else take on that policy.
6304 I think it would also be an excellent example for employers.
6305 So we are looking to the CRTC to be the leader in developing those internal policies, and I know that I am more than willing to help you in that process, as I know other disability organizations and groups would be, as well.
6306 Looking at Service Canada, they are currently in the process of developing that policy, so that is something that you could take from, as well.
6307 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you very much.
6308 With regards to reporting and compliance ‑‑ because, of course, once we have the policy in place, we will want to make sure that there is compliance.
6309 With regards to reporting and compliance, I noted that, apparently, in France the government meets annually with disability groups to discuss the captioning and any problems that there are with it.
6310 I am wondering if you think that, in Canada, we need a more formalized approach, which would include quarterly compliance reporting, and perhaps audits.
6311 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I think the important piece is setting up a mechanism.
6312 I'm sorry, I haven't seen the French model, but I could look at that and could have some consultation ‑‑ I could actually look at that and speak to individuals that I have contact with in France, to see what their satisfaction level is with that model.
6313 In the States they have the Captioning Act, which requires that all TV and cable must report, and I think that reporting process is excellent.
6314 I would suggest that the most undesirable method, which I would hope the CRTC would not follow, is the federal Employment Equity Act. The reporting process ‑‑ I mean, yes, there is a requirement to submit reports, but they are not required to comply with their own recommendations.
6315 I would say that that would be the least desirable and the least effective model. But, quite clearly, in the Canadian Human Rights Act, the duty to accommodate should be a guiding principle. When something is not effective, we are able to look to that for enforcement and compliance.
6316 The accessibility planning and reporting should be happening, and the CRTC should also be establishing a mechanism for compliance.
6317 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: By that you mean for reporting ‑‑ a reporting mechanism?
6318 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Yes.
6319 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: It would be useful if you would give us the input from your counterparts in France, if we could get some input on whether they are satisfied with the system the way it works there, and maybe a little more detail on what they are actually doing.
6320 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Certainly, I would be happy to do that.
6321 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you.
6322 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Just give me a little bit of time. I am going to ask for about two months.
6323 We are coming up to the Christmas holidays, but if you give me a little bit of time, I will make sure that I do that.
6324 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: We will have to check with Legal after to see about the deadline, but Veronique will deal with that after.
6325 As far as developing audit standards, I am assuming that ‑‑ I shouldn't assume. Do you think it would be necessary to have audit practices in place?
6326 Perhaps that is an aspect of the U.S. Captioning Act.
6327 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I think it is worth having that contact with the FCC, the Disability Unit specifically, to ask about their model more specifically, and to ask them what does work and what doesn't work.
6328 Asking them for that information, I think, would be an excellent resource, an excellent tool for you to be able to gain that insight.
6329 Also, Australia ‑‑ their reporting, and that mechanism, taking a closer look at that and seeing if it's effective or not.
6330 If you would like for me to do that, I would be happy to look at the France, Australia and the U.S. models and offer you some guidance in that respect.
6331 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: If you could do that, that would be appreciated, as long as you have the time. Thank you.
6332 Do you think that it's necessary to impose a Condition of Licence on licensees requiring them to adhere to these new standards?
6333 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): If there is compliance with the standards of the CRTC ‑‑ if they do not comply, then they should be de‑licensed.
6334 It is important that ‑‑ the Supreme Court of Canada ‑‑ the Eldridge decision is quite clear in its comments that it is both direct and indirect funding and policy.
6335 So if there was not compliance with the policy, within those set objectives, then they should not be allowed to continue providing service until they have been able to bring their piece up to meet compliance.
6336 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you very much.
6337 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): And if they fail to comply, there should be a penalty in place, a set fee, that the CRTC would be able to deem if one is guilty or not, and then be able to impose that penalty, as well as de‑licensing them for the time being.
6338 I think that fee would also allow you to take those funds and reinvest in accessibility, and improve it in that respect.
6339 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Unfortunately, the Commission isn't allowed to levy penalties like that. Nevertheless, we can impose it as a Condition of Licence.
6340 We don't have fining powers.
6341 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): One solution, that being legislation that is coming down the pike, is the National Disabilities Act, and that's where we could see some ‑‑
6342 I think that's where they are going to be spelling out that penalty, and ensuring that everybody is in compliance.
6343 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Fine. Thank you.
6344 If we are going to require compliance, obviously, with the new standards, we are going to have to be able to measure them. So I am wondering if you think that it is going to be feasible to establish an acceptable error rate.
6345 What factors should be taken into account to determine that?
6346 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I think it's important to set a benchmark using the universal barrier‑free design, and I think that should become the benchmark dictating what's acceptable and what's unacceptable, and, again, looking at the FCC disability unit and looking at their model, and, again, Australia and Britain, and across Europe, just to understand what has been working and what hasn't been working and really being able to collect that data.
6347 But, again, a strong recommendation of mine would be that the CRTC needs to set up a disability unit, having the staff available to them to be able to do the research necessary to move forward. So that would be my response to your question.
6348 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay, thank you.
6349 Do you think that an acceptable error rate would vary depending on the type of captioning, whether it's stenography‑based or voice recognition or whether the program is live versus prerecorded?
6350 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I think the quality of captioning right now, when we look at TV broadcasting, I mean some are just absolutely fabulous, in terms of their accuracy rate, and then others are not. So I think it's a training issue.
6351 And I think in Canada we only have seven qualified licensed real‑time captionists ‑‑ seven ‑‑ I mean, to be able to provide that service. So the broadcasters are hiring their own individuals.
6352 And there's no standards in place for quality, whether it's been pretaped or it's live, it's news, what have you. But there needs to be regulations in place to be able to monitor that.
6353 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: When you say seven, is that seven individuals you are talking about?
6354 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): That provide real‑time captioning services. An example of the two we have sitting over here, my understanding is there's only seven in total.
6355 There's computerized notetakers, which are separate from real‑time captioning, because computerized notetakers don't really have that quality and don't have that standard. So the broadcasters have their own, they have their own hiring practices. And we don't have access to those individuals or the information and how they hire. We don't have that because it's a private business.
6356 But, I mean, I don't know what model it is that they are utilizing. I don't know what best practices they are advising.
6357 Whether it's a pretaped show or it's a live broadcast, one suggestion being that any time a government body makes an announcement, the real‑time captionists should have the prep material, should have that information in advance, and that can be checked against delivery. Or bringing the individuals into a locked room and allowing them to have access to that information in advance, understanding, of course, that's it a confidential document.
6358 And an example of that being yesterday's throne speech. That should be shared with the captioners in advance so that it had the highest rate accuracy as possible.
6359 The news, I think it should be the highest standards possible set in place.
6360 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: And so the throne speech, to your knowledge, wasn't shared with the captionists in advance?
6361 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Well, it's checked against delivery.
6362 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay.
6363 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): So, I mean, I don't know why it wouldn't be given in advance or simultaneously. My understanding is that, no, it's not, that it's happening simultaneously and nobody's being given prep material or advanced information. But there could be an agreement made with these individuals and with the government bodies to be able to allow that to happen.
6364 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: One thing I noticed...I guess maybe I should finish my thought on that last suggestion.
6365 We, of course, wouldn't be able to control anything like that, other than with respect to our own announcements. I guess we could suggest that if broadcasters or telecommunications providers were making announcements, but I don't think the Prime Minister would be....
6366 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): But I think he could be a model to them.
6367 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Well taken.
6368 One thing I was struck by when I read your submission, and I noticed today, as well, you commented on the shortage of people, skilled people, that are able to provide the captioning.
6369 I just haven't got the right spot right here in your comments, but...the point I wanted to make was: I know from working with some educational institutions that, of course, they are very anxious to make sure that their programs are relevant to the communities they are serving and I was curious to know what your society does, in terms of trying to approach post‑secondary education institutions, to encourage programs that would train the people that you need.
6370 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I would say that question be referred to the experts that we have here for real‑time captioning and interpreting.
6372 MS WILSON: It's a significant challenge. In Ontario, there's one college that provides instruction to sign language interpreters. I can't speak on the captionist side, that's not my area of expertise, but that college graduates approximately 6 to 10 individuals a year.
6373 In Ontario, there are 80,000 deaf individuals who may use sign language interpreting services. My agency has 165 interpreters on our roster. Demand significantly can't be met.
6374 So we work diligently and then collaboratively with our colleagues on the education side, but to build an interpreter is second‑language learning, and that's significant. And that's a timing issue, not just an ability to gain skills. It doesn't happen in a two‑year/three‑year period.
6375 And again, I apologize, because I do have an Ontario focus, but certainly across Canada there are significant needs for enhanced training. In the States you can get a university degree in the area of interpreting. We don't have that in Canada.
6376 There's lots of momentum and synergy. We are faced with ministries that don't see it as a need. We are faced with colleges who look at the cost of delivering a program that moves a small number of people through it. They are looking at their bottom line.
6377 You know, we are faced with video relay service technology coming in and changing the way interpreting service is delivered, to a degree. It's almost a field of expertise.
6378 If an interpreter wishes to become highly skilled in court interpreting, for example, there's no specialized training. I mean, we constantly engage our colleagues, you know, in the training areas, but they are faced with the ministry challenges. It's a big cyclical kind of ‑‑ we are not seeing great movement and push for enhancement or new programming.
6379 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: It would seem that it's going to be really important, obviously. I think it's been noted by others, of course.
6380 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Sorry, if I could add, just in terms of the real‑time captioning training, in fact, there's no formal captioning training program available anywhere in colleges and universities in Canada.
6381 There is a program that has stenographers and real‑time captioning in the court rooms. That program has since closed because they have had a transition with technology being voice recognition. But those are the real‑time captionists, who were previously working in the court systems that we want to bring over and start working in the community as real‑time captionists.
6382 There is a name of a report that I'm going to speak to, and that was the Review of Interpreting and Intervening and Text‑Based Reporting. That was provided by colleges and universities, and that was in response to a private member's bill. As a former MPP myself, that was the bill that I introduced. That was a report that had excellent recommendations, unfortunately, none of those recommendations were implemented, and those spoke to expanding the pool of real‑time captioners.
6383 Currently, the Canadian Hearing Society has hired a consultant to look at the availability of real‑time captionists and do an overall review and to answer the question whether or not our organization should be implementing this as a service delivery, similarly to what we provide with interpreting services.
6384 I mean, looking at the aging population, it's becoming a high demand service. If they are not able to access that information audiologically, then they are using the real‑time captioning services to be able to participate.
6385 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you.
6386 I think it's obvious it's going to be, obviously, an increasing problem as VRS service becomes available, so thank you.
6387 And I note that you ‑‑
6388 MS WILSON: Can I just add?
6389 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Certainly, sure.
6390 MS WILSON: I think what's advantageous is that VRS has been in the States for 10 year. Sacramento is no different than London. The deaf people run their lives the same way in both cities. So video relay services has been there in 10 years. They did feel the impact of video relay services on community interpreting.
6391 So the video relay service providers have that insight and knowledge. They know how to mitigate that. We have had conversations about that because, you know, this is significant on my radar. So, you know, we can learn from those experiences.
6392 You know, when they open a new call centre, for example, in a new city, they know what's happened in the other cities, they know what to do to make sure that doesn't occur. And, in fact, they set up their business to support community interpreting, so that if an emergency arises in the day and there's a video interpreter not working or finishing their call shortly, they then dispatch that interpreter out to the field.
6393 So they have provided ways to do that in a way we can certainly learn from that, and we have had those conversations.
6394 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): And if I can add, an example of that being Purple Communications Company, who have recently developed specifically two pieces, VRS, but as well as CART, real‑time captioning services. And I think that's definitely interesting and definitely something that needs to be explored because that is where they are at in the development phase at this point. So, I mean, looking at VRS and trying to understand how they deal with the number of interpreters, the pool of interpreters available at call centres and where they have seen success, because they are able to meet the high demand and the volume of service required.
6395 Something that needs to be explored is that discussion with providers to understand what has been happening and having some partnerships with VRS services in the States. I mean, if all phone companies like Bell or TELUS were to support a national VRS service, then I think that there should be some support for a national CART service, as well. Everyone would then be able to share the costs, everyone would be able to offer them support, and I think that's one approach that the CRTC could be exploring at this point.
6396 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay, thank you.
6397 I'm interested in you could prioritize for us the recommendations that you would give, say, your top priorities to. What do you think would be the most urgent?
6398 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): The number one priority would be to have a CRTC disability unit as quickly as possible and appoint a CRTC commissioner who has the expertise in disability issues, as well as moving forward and hiring people and individuals with disabilities who also hold that expertise. I would say that would be the number one priority.
6399 The second priority would be establishing national VRS services, including all four languages. I mean, you want to speak about mental health prevention and discrimination prevention. We are helping, we are helping you to provide a good business case to make this investment in accessibility. These accessibility initiatives, we are trying to assist you in that, so...and I would say that being the second priority.
6400 The third priority is having an effective advisory committee, meaningful consultation. I think that can be cost‑shared between industry and CRTC to ensure that investment is happening. And it should be a requirement of the industries to hire individuals with disabilities to move forward with the development and consultation on their processes.
6401 Because it typically is a them and us and we are not welcome. I think that needs to change, that practice needs to change, so not only are we being included, but we are being respected. And there are costs associated with that, but also making sure that they have individuals on staff with that expertise.
6402 MS WILSON: Can I just add to Gary's initial comment, the disability unit?
6403 I'm quite impressed by your legal team on the side who provide you with expert knowledge and insight into an area that you perhaps don't bring to your job, and I see the disability unit providing that same insight and knowledge and expertise.
6404 You know, I, certainly, for years have been talking, talking about my work, talking about the interpreters, how we haven't got enough. You know, Gary has spent a lifetime talking about access issues. Let's start paying people to talk about access issues.
6405 And I have noticed through the last day‑and‑a‑half that I have been here that you are asking a lot of hard questions about stuff that, from our expertise level, we can't answer well. But a disability unit would give you those answers.
6406 They would research it well, present you with the options ‑‑ here's what's happening in France, because I talked to somebody in France and I got that insight, here it is ‑‑ in the same way your legal colleagues give you their legal insight.
6407 It's an ideal vehicle and we do support ARCH's comments around all of that.
6408 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you.
6409 I don't know if you wanted to add. Did you want to limit yourself to three or...priorities?
6410 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I would suggest that the commissioners visit service providers who work with individuals with disabilities, meet with consumers. That would be a suggestion.
6411 Hosting a national forum being sponsored by CRTC, inviting individuals with disabilities, inviting experts to be able to bring that research and best practices together, and then from that have that documented, with best practices, with the broadcasters. That would be a suggestion of mine, a national forum.
6412 Bringing industries together, as well, and I think that's ‑‑ a very important role that you have is bringing the industry service providers and the consumers, the users of the service, together to make sure that happens.
6413 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay, thank you.
6414 I wanted to move on because we have a limited amount of time and there's still some more important information we would like to get.
6415 We were wondering ‑‑ the question that we were asking before and you were volunteering to answer ‑‑ about the number of persons that are deaf or hearing impaired that are unable to use the current message relay system.
6416 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): We do not have formal research to respond to that question. I can give you an estimate.
6417 The Canadian Association of the Deaf statistics show that there's 310,000 deaf Canadians. Another statistic shows that one in very four Canadians reports some form of hearing loss. And that's research that the Canadian Hearing Society has. Statistics have also said that 1 in 10 individuals in Canada have reported some form of hearing loss. So, as you see, the research varies.
6418 So we are talking about some individuals who do use and who don't use. But I think a lot of people are unreported because they don't have the accessibility to reach, to have that communication, so then that information is not being recorded.
6419 And we have to think, too, hearing children of deaf parents, they use American sign language, as well. Teachers of the deaf, interpreters, other individuals who work in the field of deafness use American sign language. I think many people with hearing loss, however, they are in denial. They would not allow themselves to be identified as someone with a hearing loss.
6420 So I'm going to say that the statistics are quite unpredictable and quite difficult to gauge. We know that individuals who are over the age of 65, when we look at that number, 40 percent of whom have a hearing loss, that number increases as they age. So at 70 there's a 50 percent hearing loss, and then it grows so on and so forth.
6421 So that number is ever‑changing. I mean, to look at technology, a number of seniors are not comfortable with technology, especially new technology, or they are just not aware that it's available to them, so I think there's so many factors affecting this.
6422 So having that disability unit implemented will allow you to find the best answers. We can all try to answer, and I'm sure that there's information available to you somewhere.
6423 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: If I could just may rephrase my question, I was just trying to get at the number people or the percentage of persons with hearing impairment that would be reliant on sign language, as opposed to being able to use the MRS to communicate.
6424 MS WILSON: The sign language interpreter service that I provide, in fiscal year 2007‑08 had 21,000 requests for service and we were able to fill a little over 16,000. So about a 78 percent fill rate or delivery rate. And we managed about 25,000 interpreter hours in that year.
6425 So those are people who come forward, who we are able to fill, who request our services, but, as Gary mentioned, it's not including captioning. So hard‑of‑hearing individuals don't use our service. We don't know what that looks like.
6426 We also provide service in LSQ to our Francophone community members.
6427 We can talk about our service that exists. There are lots of people that don't call us because they are kind of thinking they are not going to get service anyway, so why bother calling, "I'm always told that interpreters aren't available. I'm not even going to bother".
6428 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. What I'm trying to get at or wrestle with is what the cost of providing the VRS service is going to be in relation to the potential number of users.
6429 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): And the important piece to keep in mind is 310,000 Canadians are deaf and use American sign language. And it's not only that group. There's going to be hearing children of deaf parents, which is a very large number, a very, very large number, and, I mean, as well as siblings of deaf individuals.
6430 So, I mean, looking at that core number, it would expand from there. I mean, it's people who want to communicate with deaf people. I mean, you have absolutely no idea to be able to even come up with an estimation of how many individuals who want to communicate with deaf people and who would use this service.
6431 So let's just say everyone uses an elevator, everyone would use captioning, everyone will use VRS if they want to communicate with deaf people at some point or another.
6432 People who voted me in, they had the right to communicate with me. They had the right to communicate with me and that could have been done via VRS as their elected representative. Unfortunately, VRS wasn't available at that time, '90 to '95.
6433 But the important piece is that people have the right to communicate with their own elected representatives, so people can use VRS to be able to make that communication and that would have bene something that would have been fabulous to provide to them at that point.
6434 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you, Mr. Malkowski, that's very helpful.
6435 I wanted to talk about, and you mentioned in your remarks there, about information available on the Internet.
6436 What would you consider to be the most appropriate type of content that should be described on the Internet and/or captioned on the Internet? Types of programming.
6437 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): There should be a range, a range of programming available. Some people are visual learners, some people are auditory learners, some people are...you know, so I think there's a range.
6438 For me, my preference is that ASL format be available and be accessible. Other individuals will prefer that there be captioning available to them.
6439 So I think there should be that full breadth of accessibility.
6440 The Internet, however does not allow ‑‑ sorry, we don't have the captioning available in many areas. There are a few videotapes that are available that are.
6441 The Ontario Human Rights Commission, Elections Canada, they have also posted on their website American sign language videos. So I would like to see that component expanded upon.
6442 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I was thinking there of the type of programming like news programming or drama, children's programming, if you were to prioritize, because I gather at this point there is a very limited amount on the Internet.
6443 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): In the U.S. they have their own what is called the silent TV network cable and we don't have that in Canada. We have an hour program, which is the ability programming, but I think there should be a channel specific to individuals with disabilities, a full channel. I think that would be an excellent tool.
6444 Oh, also for public education, for people to be able to view that and be able to be educated on a number of different issues.
6445 Canadians have the right to access information and communication. Just as Judge Mosley had stated, Canadians have the right to a democracy and the right to participate in Canadian life. So I think by asking me where I would set those priorities, I think that is not the acceptable approach. I don't think that question is fair.
6446 And I think that the CRTC has to accept the responsibility to ensure that the duty to accommodate happens in every realm and in every Canadian's right to communication and information and I think it is your responsibility to look at that.
6447 The broadcasters have wonderful and fabulous and dense resources and they have the universal barrier free design, as well, available to them. I mean really again the question comes to where do you want to see your investment: defending this position or moving forward and investing in accessibility?
6448 So essentially we are just trying to help everyone save their legal fees and their legal costs in defending this and move forward with accessibility so that everyone can participate in society.
6449 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I don't think I was meaning the question in that way.
6450 What I was thinking, we can't snap our fingers and tomorrow it will be done, so I was just trying to get at ‑‑ and of course we don't regulate the Internet as well, as you know.
6451 So what I was really trying to get at was that type of programming that would be more useful. If it was going to take five years or longer to achieve the ultimate goal, what type of programming would you prefer to see first, children's programming or ‑‑
6452 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): I mean the population is huge and the ages are across the board, of course.
6453 I actually asked ‑‑ I posed the question to the Purple Communications Company and I said: If you were to be offered to be able to establish services in Canada, how long would it take you to be able to do that? And they said overnight they would be able to do it, overnight. But with the LSQ services, it would take just two weeks to be able to get those resources in place.
6454 But they have the technology available. It's here, it's waiting, it's ready. So the broadcasters have their own technology as well, so it's ready.
6455 So I think one area that could see benefit in your regulation is getting people together to have that discussion surrounding the priority, because it is going to impact them. I think that is where you are going to see the best benefit.
6456 So looking at whether it is going to be news or children's or what have you, it's important to have a range.
6457 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. Thank you.
6458 I noticed then ‑‑ I think this will be my last question so that the other members of the Panel can ask you questions.
6459 I noticed that you did say in your remarks that you provide a wide assortment of equipment, adaptive equipment, I gather. I'm just wondering where the deficiency is, in your point of view, with accessing telecommunications services.
6460 MS BENTLEY: We do provide equipment to the community, mostly in Ontario but across Canada as well.
6461 Just some examples of deficiencies, with 911 service in particular, people who use a voice carryover telephone have not been able to access 911 services adequately. So it could really be a customer service issue and not technology and compatibility.
6462 Cell phones is another area where cell phone compatibility with a portable TTY is used in the community, and for somebody wanting to access a message relay service through the cellular network is not, again ‑‑ the service is not provided adequately.
6463 Again, it is a customer service issue.
6464 So those are two key areas.
6465 Also, TTY communication with 911 emergency services, again, we have received various, many complaints from community members and not being able to access appropriately.
6466 So those would be three examples that come to mind.
6467 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Malkowski and Ms Wilson and Ms Bentley.
6468 Thank you, Mr. Chairman, those are my questions.
6469 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. We are going to try and wrap up this panel before lunch so I will ask the Commissioners if they have any questions.
6470 Commissioner Lamarre...?
6471 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Merci, Monsieur le Président.
6472 I think my question is mainly just to you, Ms Wilson, because it is on a subject you touched on.
6473 But before I ask that question, Mr. Malkowski, I need to thank you for so gently reminding me during your presentation that I should not try to substitute myself for the Canadian government in ratifying international conventions.
6474 So I will try to not do that any more in regard to the International Convention for Persons with Disabilities that I mentioned was ratified, and you corrected me by mentioning that the ratification is in the process but not completed yet.
6475 Madam Wilson, in discussion with Ms Duncan you have established, actually portrayed the situation regarding the availability of ASL interpreters.
6476 Would you know what is the situation as far as LSQ interpreters is concerned? Is it similar, is a more difficult or is it easier?
6477 MS WILSON: The primary source of LSQ interpreters is of course Québec, although we do have three staff interpreters in the province of Ontario that deliver LSQ services and we are very fortunate. But in fact we have had to build one of those interpreters from the ground up. So they don't come readily trained, proficient.
6478 So it is very concentrated. You know, in terms of video relay service provision, it would have to be delivered out of the province of Québec in terms of a call centre where interpreters would actually sit and interpret.
6479 So on a comparison level, it is critical. It is in a crisis mode in terms of supply and demand.
6480 They are a smaller community. They are networked because they only really have to network in one province as opposed to, you know, my colleagues in front of us here who have to network across the country.
6481 They are well trained, they are well qualified. Their profession is on par with the ASL English interpreters in terms of quality, training. The ability to screen and determine credentials is all in place.
6482 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: So basically there is, first of all, the fact that there are not that many people who do have that profession and, second of all, there is another level of difficulty from the fact that most of them are located in Québec. So it makes it more difficult for Francophones outside of Québec to be able to have that service?
6483 MS WILSON: Absolutely. But video relay service could help with that, because your interpreters would be sitting in a site in Québec and the Francophone individual could be living in Winnipeg and receive interpreting services through video relay services. There doesn't need to be a physical interpreter in Winnipeg to assist.
6484 So it actually ‑‑ it is a double‑edged sword, right, video relay service provision. It enhances the communication, that whole area, good gosh, would I like to be able to call Gary through a video relay service provider service with ease.
6485 The flow of the conversation is very natural. It is a lovely service, gosh. But I am a service provider who sees the potential of, you know, half of my workforce moving over to a more ‑‑ an easier work environment where they don't have to travel, they don't have to deal with, you know, all of the work conditions that are present, you know, going out to the hospital, going out to community interpreting sites.
6486 They get to pick their shifts. It is an incredible working environment, it is very enticing. So that is the challenge.
6487 The beauty of it? The reality of it, of the delivery of it.
6488 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you. That was my only question.
6489 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): If I can just add, one of the most ‑‑ a very important role is the Official Languages Office ‑‑ I mean the Official Languages Act which says that ‑‑ it speaks to French, but it doesn't speak to ASL and LSQ.
6490 So again, each and every province, as it stands ‑‑ I mean, Québec, they are building their LSQ interpreters and their pool of LSQ interpreters and we are working on that in Ontario.
6491 But I think the federal role is to make sure that there is partnerships with the official language act and trying to see that expansion happen.
6492 I mean, there are going to be LSQ interpreters needed in other areas, Winnipeg or in the Windsor area, the St. James area. So LSQ is a service that is needed across provinces, across Canada, so it is definitely an area that needs to be explored, because if there is a VRS centre established that offers the resource of LSQ, that is going to allow for that capacity.
6493 The Eldridge decision plays a big role, because it enforced that at the provincial level they need to make sure that the interpreter programs were expanded to allow for that pool to grow.
6494 So I see a very important role here for the office with disability issues, the office for official languages, and for that discussion to happen so that the expansion of the pool of interpreters can happen as well.
6495 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Your point is duly noted. Thank you very much.
6496 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Lamarre.
6497 Does legal have any questions?
6498 I want to thank the panel very much for appearing before us today.
6499 We will now take a break until 2:30.
6500 MR. MALKOWSKI (interpreted): Thank you.
6501 MS WILSON: Thank you.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1315 / Suspension à 1315
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1435 / Reprise à 1435
6502 THE SECRETARY: Please be seated. Veuillez prendre vos places, s'il vous plaît.
6503 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please.
6504 I have some preliminary remarks.
6505 As most of you will recall, we announced on Monday that we will inform everybody whether we will have to go over to next Wednesday. It has become very clear that in order to give all parties an opportunity to present and to have their information tested as well, we are going to need to move over to Wednesday of next week.
6506 I don't know which parties will be moved over yet.
6507 It is the Commission's intention to attempt to run the proceeding on Wednesday via videoconferencing, and as a result the Commissioners from the regions will be joining us via videoconference here in this room.
6508 Obviously the national Commissioners will still be here as well.
6509 For anybody who has any questions with regard to logistics, whether it is logistics regarding people with disabilities or timelines, please see the Secretariat at the break, probably around 4 o'clock today.
6510 At this point in time, unless we can create some sort of extra time, it is pretty obvious that we are going to have to run over until next Wednesday, as was initially defined in the Letter of Conduct a month ago.
6511 Madam Secretary...?
6512 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
6513 Before we begin, I would like to note for the record that the document that was distributed by ARCH, entitled "G3 ICT Toolkit for Policymakers", will be ARCH Exhibit No. 1.
6514 Also note that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities has agreed to submit their undertakings by 28 November.
6515 Furthermore, I note that we have prepared a summary of the 19 November undertakings for SaskTel, the Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec, the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association in Hamilton and the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance.
6516 This summary will be added to the public examination file and posted on the Commission's website shortly.
6517 I note this document to be CRTC Exhibit No. 3.
6518 We will now proceed with the presentation by Rogers Communications Inc.
6519 Please introduce yourselves and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
6520 MS DINSMORE: Thank you very much.
6521 Chairman, Members of the Commission, good afternoon. My name is Pam Dinsmore. I am the Vice‑President, Regulatory at Rogers Cable.
6522 With me today are, to my immediate left, David Watt, Vice‑President, Regulatory Economics, Rogers Communications. Next to him is Tiffany Schell, Manager, Economics, Rogers Communications.
6523 On my right is Peter Kovacs, Director, Regulatory at Rogers Cable. And to his right is Rosie Serpa, Senior Director, eDirect, Rogers Communications, and to her right is Brenda Stevens, Director, Intercarrier Relations ‑‑
6524 THE CHAIRPERSON: Excuse me, I'm just going to interrupt you for a minute.
6525 MS DINSMORE: Yes.
6526 THE CHAIRPERSON: I apologize.
6527 MS DINSMORE: ‑‑ Rogers Cable.
6528 Behind me, from left to right, is Robin McIntyre, Regional President, Ottawa, Rogers Cable; and Ali Ahmed, Director, Network Technology, Rogers Cable.
6529 We are here today representing the telecommunications and cable areas of our business and we will speak to the accessibility issues that are being discussed.
6530 Rogers Media had a representative on the CAB panel that appeared before you on Monday, and its views on accessibility issues as they relate to broadcasting were addressed during that appearance.
6531 Rogers is pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss issues related to the accessibility of telecommunications and cable services to persons with disabilities.
6532 We want to be very clear from the outset that Rogers fully supports the objectives of this proceeding, which are to reduce the obstacles to the delivery and receipt of communications services and to improve the accessibility of these services. The needs of our customers who are disabled are very important to us.
6533 At Rogers, our goal is to satisfy the needs of all of our customers, including those with disabilities. We are constantly searching for ways to provide services that meet each customer's specific needs.
6534 While some parties to this proceeding have expressed the view that service providers have not gone far enough in meeting the needs of the disability community, we would emphasize that the Rogers group of companies has implemented several measures designed to enhance the accessibility of our services. A number of these measures have gone beyond the obligations that the Commission has established for service providers.
6535 On the telecoms side, the services we offer include a talking cell phone, free directory assistance, alternative billing formats, message relay service and wireless voicemail to text.
6536 We also offer a data only wireless plan to all of our customers and provide free long distance service to our wireless customers who use MRS.
6537 For cable customers we provide a free digital set‑top box to those who have visual impairments so that they can access described video programming. As part of this offer, we will be introducing a big button remote control free of charge that will allow customers who are visually impaired to access described video in a given program by pushing a single button.
6538 This will be available in the first quarter of 2009.
6539 In addition, we provide a range of accessible cable services, including a common channel placement for voiceprint, the pass‑through of described video and closed captioning, the availability of bills and channel lineups in alternative formats and the ability to alter audio range settings.
6540 80 per cent of our rogers.com website currently meets W3C guidelines. We are phasing in a redesign of that website over the next three years. Within that timeframe our website will be as W3C compliant as possible.
6541 We are also implementing a special quality control software for the rogers.com site which will identify, among other things, accessibility gaps.
6542 Finally, as an interim measure we will be providing a special needs micro site that will be fully accessible to persons with disabilities.
6543 On all service fronts, Rogers continually strives to improve our customers' experience and their satisfaction levels. Our customer service consultants are trained on the entire range of Rogers' products and services, including those that are designed to assist our customers with disabilities.
6544 Our customers are able to contact us through a number of different channels, including by telephone and TTY, online and by mail.
6545 By implementing various measures, Rogers has responded to the needs of our customers with disabilities and we have taken steps to enhance their ability to use our communications services. We acknowledge, however, that more can and should be done.
6546 We will now address the specific accessibility measures that have been identified by participants in this proceeding and provide our views on them.
6547 We will discuss the financial impact of a VRS initiative and are prepared to discuss with you the costs associated with the implementation of other measures proposed at this hearing.
6548 I will now ask David Watt to address relay services.
6549 MR. WATT: Like other service providers that have appeared at this hearing, Rogers supports the notion that the Commission needs to hold a separate proceeding to assess the feasibility of providing a bilingual video relay service on a national basis. We simply do not believe that the Commission has enough information on the record of this proceeding to adequately assess how VRS would be implemented in Canada, how it would be funded and what the timeframe should be for its implementation.
6550 In our view, the Commission needs a focused comprehensive assessment of the options available for providing VRS and of the costs associated with each option in order to select the best course of action.
6551 We also believe that the Commission will have to have a hard look at the proposal to implement a VRS system in Canada from the perspective of whether this would be the best and most effective use of the resources that will be devoted to accessibility measures in the years to come.
6552 It has been estimated by GoAmerica that the cost per annum could be in the order of $100 million to provide service to 30,000 users. Even at this small volume, this would mean that over 10 years this VRS service would cost $1 billion. This is a great deal of money.
6553 If VRS were to be implemented at that cost, then it would inevitably inhibit the implementation of other measures designed to make services more accessible to persons with disabilities. The costs and benefits associated with providing a VRS service will have to be weighed against the cost to consumers and the impact that the implementation of VRS could have on other accessibility initiatives.
6554 My colleague, Peter Kovacs, will now outline Rogers' position on described video and closed captioning.
6555 MR. KOVACS: Rogers recognizes that our customers face challenges accessing described video and we are looking for ways to improve. As we have indicated, our cable systems pass through all of the DVS programming we receive to our digital customers. We have a free set‑top box program for our customers who are visually impaired.
6556 All of our customer service consultants have the knowledge and the tools to assist those customers who are visually impaired in accessing this program.
6557 We will also arrange for a technician to visit the home of a customer who is visually impaired, at no charge, to install the set‑top box and to demonstrate how DVS programming can be accessed.
6558 Separately, we have approached our interactive program guide data supplier, as well as our set‑top box guide and remote control manufacturers, to clearly identify in the IPG those programs that have DVS.
6559 There appear to be five issues related to the distribution of DVS that have been discussed in this proceeding: a talking program guide, duplicate channels that contain open DVS, single button remote access to DVS notifying customers who are visually impaired about the availability of described video and, finally, an audio loop promoting the availability of DVS programs.
6560 At this time, our cable systems are not able to offer a talking program guide as part of our IPG. We will, however, undertake to continue to work with equipment vendors to determine if the IPG could provide some form of audio signal to identify that a program has DVS.
6561 Similarly, we do not currently have the ability to offer a duplicate channel to provide access to DVS in an open format without using significant amounts of bandwidth that we do not have available, even if this was limited only to local TV channels.
6562 As noted, however, the big button remote control that we provide as part of our free set‑top box offer can be programmed to enable our customers to access described video with the touch of a single button.
6563 We are also prepared to look at creating a channel was an audio loop that would identify for customers the programs that contain DVS, including the channel number and time.
6564 Turning to closed captioning, the CAB has suggested that BDUs may be responsible for some of the closed captioning quality issues that have been identified in this proceeding. With respect to Rogers, this is not the case.
6565 Our cable systems pass through closed captions on line 21 of the vertical blanking interval of all analog, standard definition and high definition programming signals without alteration.
6566 Pam will now address issues related to customer service, support and consultations.
6567 MS DINSMORE: Rogers is committed to ensuring that our customer service consultants and technicians have both the knowledge and the tools necessary to effectively respond to the needs of persons with disabilities. We continue to provide both training and coaching to our CS seasoned technicians about the products and services we offer that are accessible to individuals who are disabled.
6568 We acknowledge that in not every experience a customer has had with a CS technician has been satisfactory and that some of our staff have not, in every instance, provided the level of customer service expected. The pace of change in our industry and the vast array of products and services we offer, coupled with the rate of employee turnover we experience, all combine to contribute to the challenge of providing customer service at a consistently high level.
6569 As others have noted, as the population ages, the likelihood that each one of us will develop a disability increases. The demographic trend toward an aging population cannot be ignored. All businesses must and will adjust to properly service this growing segment.
6570 Rogers recognizes this and we are exploring the idea of setting up a special needs centre to address these issues for persons with disabilities.
6571 In closing, we would note that there have been a number of proposals presented at this hearing for consultations among industry representatives, disability groups and the Commission. Rogers supports an approach to consultations where they would be focused on specific issues with clear objectives and set timelines for implementation.
6572 Rogers believes that persons with disabilities, service providers and the Commission need to continue to work together to ensure the accessibility of telecommunications and cable services is improved and to ensure that any obstacles to the delivery and receipt of communications services are minimized.
6573 We support every reasonable measure that is designed to enhance the accessibility of our services to customers. The reality is that we cannot do everything all at once. We need to set priorities for accessibility and identify effective measures and then figure out a way to implement those measures in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible.
6574 Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to appear before you. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
6575 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
6576 I am going to start with the follow‑up, but I'm sure that my Commissioners on the panel will equally have some questions as well.
6577 Before I start with the questions that I have prepared, there were a couple that came up this morning that I have made a note of them. I thought maybe the best thing to do was to deal with them first.
6578 One of the parties this morning talked about the fact that BDUs for hotels don't pass through closed captioning. They were in a hotel here in Ottawa, I guess, and they didn't get it. You were saying you pass through everything.
6579 Can you provide some clarification as to how hotels are treated differently, if they are, or whether they actually are truncating the closed captioning as they come through?
6580 MR. KOVACS: We do pass through every closed captioning line or datastream that we have provided to us for every programming signal, whether it is on analog or digital, and that includes the signals that we deliver to hotels.
6581 So those signals are taken by the hotels and passed through to each suite within the hotel for display on an analog TV set or through a digital box if they happen to have that.
6582 The captions are there; they come from us. If the program stream comes from us, the captions will go to the TV set and the TV menu should be able to activate the captions.
6583 It may very well be that there are programming signals that the hotels themselves are originating, whether it is a movie service or an information channel about the city, that they themselves are not encoding the captioning stream and that might be the issue.
6584 THE CHAIRPERSON: But to your knowledge, they are not truncating anything that you are sending to them?
6585 MR. KOVACS: Not to our knowledge.
6586 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. The other question that came up was MRS over cellular.
6587 Can you provide us some insight as to how you handle MRS through cellular?
6588 MR. WATT: Yes, I can.
6589 We provide MRS to our cellular customers through a third party organization that provides the MRS service. We pay that company for that service and then in turn bear those costs.
6590 People can access the service, the MRS service, either by a 10‑digit phone number or they can access it through the standard 7‑1‑1 abbreviated dialling plan.
6591 THE CHAIRPERSON: That is throughout your national territory?
6592 MR. WATT: Yes, it is.
6593 THE CHAIRPERSON: You said you pay a third party. I think we have asked other parties as well. Can we ask you for an undertaking to file with us the payments that you make to the MRS third party ‑‑
6594 MR. WATT: Yes, we can do that in confidence.
6595 THE CHAIRPERSON: ‑‑ over the last five years, please.
6596 MR. WATT: I think we can do that.
6597 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you charge your customers for MRS service?
6598 MR. WATT: We do not have an explicit separate line item charge for MRS for our wireless customers. So really the recovery of those costs are embedded in our normal monthly revenue stream, but there is not a separate line item.
6599 This is in contrast to our wireline service where we do have a separate MRS line item.
6600 THE CHAIRPERSON: How much do you charge for MRS?
6601 MR. WATT: For wireline service I believe it's 19 cents per month.
6602 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right across the country to all your customers?
6603 MR. WATT: Where we provide local phone service, yes.
6604 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Can I ask you to file ‑‑
6605 MR. WATT: I will confirm that. I looked at the Toronto charge, so I'm not sure if it does vary in British Columbia or New Brunswick or Newfoundland.
6606 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can I also ask you to file with us the revenues you generate from your MRS service as well?
6607 MR. WATT: Yes, we can do that.
6608 THE CHAIRPERSON: From the date you started I guess wireline telephone service.
6609 Okay, moving on to some of the other questions.
6610 I believe it was CCSA yesterday talked about the fact that Bell and Rogers had initiated a consultation with the disabled groups and apparently nothing came of it. But he wasn't part of it, I don't believe.
6611 Can you elaborate on what that initiative was, how it started, where it progressed to and where it's at?
6612 MS DINSMORE: The CCSA was in fact part of it.
6613 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh.
6614 MS DINSMORE: It was the CCSA, Rogers and Bell who ‑‑ actually it was before your letter of order and conduct was issued.
6615 So we were still at ‑‑ the record had closed. But we were interested in meeting with some of the larger groups who were taking part in this proceeding in order to better learn what their issues and concerns were, and we did in fact meet with a number of them, both in Ottawa and Toronto.
6616 I think in most meetings it was the three players.
6617 Our meetings were great and that we learned a lot more about their specific issues and concerns. They didn't come to any specific resolution, but they were very helpful for us in learning more about what the priorities were for each of the groups in terms of their desires of what they wanted to get out of this hearing and what the go forward might look like terms of ongoing dialogue and consultation.
6618 THE CHAIRPERSON: Who was there from the people with disabilities groups?
6619 MS DINSMORE: We met with a number of different groups. Offhand I couldn't probably list them all, but I could provide that to you, if you wish.
6620 THE CHAIRPERSON: Could you, please
6621 MS DINSMORE: Yes.
6622 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
6623 When you all parted ways, was it just because of this hearing and it was to be continued or was the consultation over and now we are coming to this proceeding and we will start anew?
6624 MS DINSMORE: I think it really was a question of time. Time was marching on. The hearing was looming and we and other parties had to get back and focus on this particular hearing.
6625 You had at that point issued your letter which very clearly specified the issues that were going to be at play in this proceeding, the issues that you wanted to focus on.
6626 It is fair to say that in the context of our meetings we were trying to get some, I guess some sense around what a consultation might look like, what issues might be discussed, what issues had to be prioritized, because there seemed at that point to be about 35 or 40 issues on the record of this proceeding, and it wasn't clear to us what the key issues were that the groups might want to focus on.
6627 Subsequently your letter came out and it was very clear at that point what the issues were going to be, at least that the CRTC was going to focus on at this proceeding, which helped to sort of define the issues for everybody.
6628 We decided that ‑‑ we learned a number of things from it. One of the things we learned was for every group there are different priorities; that while we had met with some of the larger disability groups, there were many others we had not met with who might in future need to be part of some sort of ongoing consultation.
6629 And I guess out of it all what we really learned was that unless there are specific focus to consultations, unless the consultations that we might undertake following this proceeding are targeted with, you know, specific action items to achieve that in the end nothing may be accomplished.
6630 So for that we were grateful that we had had the opportunity to have these sessions.
6631 THE CHAIRPERSON: On page 10 of your presentation this afternoon you state, up on the top:
"Rogers believes that persons with disabilities, service providers and the Commission need to continue to work together to ensure..."
6632 And then it goes on.
6633 Are you advocating that the Commission and the people with disabilities and service providers need to work together as opposed to working without CRTC or other government involvement?
6634 MS DINSMORE: Yes. One of the interesting things that we learned in the course of this proceeding was that, you know, some of the groups felt that the CRTC should be very involved, others felt the Commission could be less involved.
6635 I think there was certainly a reaction to the SISC‑like process that had gone on before because it didn't appear that it had led to any real conclusions or results for the groups that we met with.
6636 So we looked at a variety of different models. There can be a model with ‑‑ a SISC‑like model where the Commission has oversight and the groups have to identify items they wish to work at and file documentation with the CRTC for resolution.
6637 Or there could be another model, which was more what we were thinking, where the Commission would be involved. They would be there either in observer status or, you know, moved the thing along.
6638 I think you do need some sort of CRTC involvement and I think you need the CRTC to identify what it is that each ‑‑ or the consultation is trying to achieve. Otherwise it gets too broad, too general, and again we all end up not really accomplishing very much.
6639 I think that's what ‑‑ to speak for the groups and this is what we gleaned. I think that's what they felt as well. There is no point having a consultation if it is not going to lead to some concrete results.
6640 So I think the Commission needs to help define what the issues are going to be that we consult upon if we are going to have a successful consultation.
6641 THE CHAIRPERSON: How would the funding be generated for this series of consultations, because it would just be one obviously?
6642 MS DINSMORE: No. I mean when you look at the Telstra example and the kinds of consultations it is able to have, the beauty of it for Telstra is that they are one company and they sit across the table with a host of disability groups and they hammer out what are the issues that the disability groups want them to accomplish within their company.
6643 The difference here is that you have multiple players potentially on either side of the table and that creates complications. So somewhere you have to find some sort of definition.
6644 I guess we would still have a situation where within given issues we would have multi‑parties sitting across the table. The issues would be defined and I presume the funding would come potentially in part from the Commission, potentially in part from the industry players. I don't suspect we would look for funding from the groups.
6645 I mean, I think we would be prepared to contribute to the budget of these consultations and I guess that would have to be worked out.
6646 The frequency of meetings, you know, the expectations of the meetings, the length of the meetings when we actually have them would all have a bearing on what the cost would be and where the groups were coming from and how many.
6647 I mean, there are a whole lot of things that would have to be sorted out before the actual budgets could be fixed.
6648 THE CHAIRPERSON: One of the issues that came to my mind in listening to the need for this and the fact that many of the parties that would be on these consultations are competitive entities, how do you see the ability to share information?
6649 I mean, these are your customers ultimately as well. When you start talking about providing services ‑‑ and we have heard that some of the people in disability groups are saying that carriers should carry two of everything, and you start getting into talking about products and prices. I'm not sure it's actually reasonable to consider that in an open, competitive environment unless it is structured.
6650 Have you given any thought to this?
6651 MS DINSMORE: We have and I think it is certainly something that would gate the kinds of things that can actually be left to the consultative process.
6652 One of the things I think of when I think of a consultation, we have had a lot of discussion on the record around how it is that described video programming isn't easily findable, not just actually turning on the set‑top, but actually knowing, knowing when it is going to be, the scheduling, the scheduling of described video programming.
6653 So in our view that is something that we could play a role in and equally the broadcasters could play a role in.
6654 So we see potentially a working group where we sit down with the broadcasters. You have the distributors, as well as the visually impaired groups that are affected and want to access this programming, and we figure out ways that we can make that programming more successful.
6655 Maybe it's a modest agenda, but I think you have to start with, again, very discrete issues that you want to work at, and for that we would be quite prepared to have that session be part of that working group.
6656 I know the CAB was discussing the idea of some sort of closed captioning in terms of quality, and I don't see that we have much to do with that one. Frankly, I don't think we have much to do with the quality of closed captioning, but we would be quite happy to tag along if that's what the Commission wished.
6657 All to say that it's going to be a problem if you go into areas where there is a lot of competitive information that has to be shared. It is going to be a problem.
6658 Maybe those kinds of issues don't lend themselves to this kind of consultation.
6659 THE CHAIRPERSON: You mentioned that you don't see a role for the BDUs or for Rogers anyways with regard to the reference that the CAB made with regard to closed captioning and engaging the BDUs as part of the solution to the problem.
6660 Do you feel that you are doing everything that you absolutely have to do and there are no issues with regard to Rogers and closed captioning?
6661 MS DINSMORE: Absolutely.
6662 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
6663 I don't know if you were in the room or not this morning when ARCH was here, but they made a submission that was very, very legalistic in mind but basically focused on the rights of people with disabilities pursuant to the Supreme Court decision and others as well.
6664 Do you have any comments? Have you had a chance to digest that and have any comments with regard to their views and the applicability of their views with regard to the CRTC's obligations?
6665 MS DINSMORE: You know, we are not human rights law experts, and much as I have read the VIA Rail case and appreciate its significance, it is difficult you know off the top to give you an answer.
6666 I would be happy to sort of take it back, you know, think it through and then get back to you.
6667 I have actually read the case. I understand the test. Obviously the test ‑‑ you know, the test is applicable on any given particular situation, trying to figure out whether, you know, an obstacle that is there is an obstacle that a service provider must spend the money to overcome.
6668 It's the whole notion of reasonable accommodation, what is reasonable. Again I understand the concepts, but in terms of how that meshes with, you know, what the CRTC is required to do, I would rather have time to take that back and perhaps get back to you on that.
6669 THE CHAIRPERSON: We certainly would welcome your views on it.
6670 I gather it can come in the form of final reply comments.
6671 MS DINSMORE: Okay.
6672 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because you would be responding to their position.
6673 On page 4 of ‑‑
6674 MS DINSMORE: I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman.
6675 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sorry...?
6676 MS DINSMORE: We did to some extent address this in our reply in October.
6677 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You may want to look at it again in light of their submission this morning, I suggest you.
6678 MS DINSMORE: Okay.
6679 THE CHAIRPERSON: On page 4 you talk about the fact that 80 per cent of your website currently meets W3C guidelines and you are phasing the redesign over the next three years.
6680 Then you say:
"Within that timeframe our website will be as a W3C compliant as possible."
6681 What you mean by "as possible"? I guess that means that something won't be compliant and I guess the question is: What won't be compliant? And can you provide us with some insight as to what it would take to make it compliant?
6682 MS DINSMORE: Yes. This is a very fundamental area and I'm going to pass it onto Rosie Serpa, who is our web design expert at Rogers.
6683 The fact of the matter is there are applications on our website that use the flash item that will probably not in any foreseeable future ever be able to be W3C compliant.
6684 I will pass it onto Rosie to explain that. Thank you.
6685 MS SERPA: There are two components. One is when we are working with separate vendors that have these applications that Rogers not build within their own IT groups. They build frames within frames. We are pulling it in from a rogers.com perspective, so we are pulling their information.
6686 So I would have to have guidelines to have the third party vendor create certain components for the W3C standards. So that was one area.
6687 The other area, with regards to the flash, is it is a constant blinking component and one item would be the stock ticker. That comes through as a real‑time feed that is a constant blinking component, that right now we don't have a workaround for it and we don't see that there is a software out there for the blinking area.
6688 The other area from a flash perspective is more of a marketing wow factor, like a bouncing ball through to promote the football games that we have with the bills.
6689 That will not be presented on the micro‑site that we have. So we would have a static look of that similar promotion versus a bouncing ball or a blinking ball or anything in that way.
6690 THE CHAIRPERSON: But people with disabilities would still get the essence of what is being offered and promoted on there?
6691 MS SERPA: Correct.
6692 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Do you have any order of magnitude of what it would take if in fact the Commission required you to be 100 per cent W3C compatible for everything?
6693 MS SERPA: I have two answers. Yes, I do.
6694 For the rebuild that we are going through for the next three years there is one that I would have from a presentation layer of the website that is pulling the majority of the content; so again the third party application, such as a store locator that we don't own or a frequently asked question engine. That again is another item that we don't own.
6695 Those items, I would say it is between 3 to $5 million. If I have to have the applications that aren't pulled within our Rogers applications, have those created with the W3C compliance, I could come back with a firm number, but we are looking at most likely between $20 million and plus to have those applications coded to make it fully compliant.
6696 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can you just give me an order of magnitude of how much did it cost you guys to develop your website?
6697 MS SERPA: So just recently in November ‑‑ so we had 15 shopping carts to purchase our products and services. So each of those flows were different. And as of November we had them all migrated into one consistent shopping cart so the customer has one look for when they are purchasing after the buy is consistent.
6698 That alone was $6,600,000 for the deliverable.
6699 The next part that we are doing is behind the sign‑in where they could have access to support service on: my phone is not working; how do I download this application or the BlackBerry or upsell myself with channels or get my own bill or get real‑time payment.
6700 That redesign is coming in between 12 to $15 million and there are 12 different flows and six different looks. We would have to import those over
6701 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can I ask you to file, I guess next Friday or whatever is reasonable, the cost associated with making your website 100 per cent compliant as to what you talked about here.
6702 MS SERPA: Sure.
6703 THE CHAIRPERSON: So we have it on the record, please?
6704 MS SERPA: Yes, I can.
6705 MR. WATT: Maybe if I could interrupt again and Rosie can correct me. But I think you have been referring to making the site 100 per cent compliant. My understanding is that can never be 100 per cent compliant.
6706 MS SERPA: With the change of technologies going on, there is always something that will come up and we are looking through and I believe the compliant ‑‑ the guidelines for W3Cs are changing in December, from my understanding. So we would always have to always come up to speed or bring back something. So I don't think we will ever get 100 per cent to the change of the technologies and also of the asks.
6707 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, let's stick to what's out there right now, which is 2.0 which is the government standard, I guess ‑‑
6708 MS SERPA: Correct. Yes.
6709 THE CHAIRPERSON: ‑‑ as dictated by Treasury Board.
6710 MS SERPA: Okay.
6711 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
6712 On the issue of accessibility and information as well, with regard to your wireless products and services, to what extent do you provide information for the people with disabilities with regard to braille, issues, handbooks, guides, manufacturers' documentation?
6713 MR. WATT: To summarize very quickly what we do offer to the blind community, that is we offer a talking cell phone.
6714 Just to briefly describe that, that is a Nokia handset. It is a GSM technology that allows for a Symbian operating system, which then allows for third party application programs like the Nuance TALKS program to be loaded on. This program effectively reads off all the menu commands on that phone and walks people through its steps.
6715 That is one way in which a blind person can be assisted in using a cell phone.
6716 There is a braille manual that goes along with this particular phone. It is literally 8 inches high and that is provided with that particular phone.
6717 People would learn about that phone from our website. It is marked there and it is explained that it is of interest to people who have visual impairment.
6718 We also have other phones, Nokia phones that have Symbian operating systems.
6719 We do not provide the package solution that I just described for what was the Nokia 6682. For this particular phone the Nokia N95, people with visual impairments would acquire that phone and then they would apply their own third party software such as the Nuance TALKS program. Again, that is explained.
6720 Is that sufficient?
6721 There is a third way. We have another phone coming out, the E Series. Nokia also have Symbian operating systems and a lot of these type of software to be added.
6722 The third way, there has been discussion about other handsets. Rogers benefits by having the GSM standard. GSM allows the subscriber information module known as the Sim card to be taken out of a phone and be put into another phone and still work.
6723 So customers can acquire unlocked handsets of their choice. We do not block people from taking their Sim cards and putting them into those phones that they would acquire themselves. Should these phones have operating systems that would support various functionalities, they are free then to avail themselves of those functionalities and add software that would be of assistance to them.
6724 So there are really three ways that our wireless company for the visually impaired provides support.
6725 For those who are hearing impaired, I think 15 of our handsets are hearing aid compatible and they are two different standards for that. Then again is denoted on our website.
6726 It also requires ‑‑ I'm sure people can get these from third party vendors, but we also do sell the loop extensions that go with the hearing aid compatible phones to make connections.
6727 Again, this is explained on our website and documentation is available.
6728 THE CHAIRPERSON: Are those products that are audio related or braille in both official languages?
6729 MR. WATT: I would have to ‑‑
6730 THE CHAIRPERSON: You said eight inches.
6731 MR. WATT: Oh, yes. Certainly the talking cell phone, that is supported in both French and English, yes it is.
6732 THE CHAIRPERSON: How about the Braille?
6733 MR. WATT: Braille, yes, as I said earlier.
6734 THE CHAIRPERSON: We heard, and I think I read in the submissions on October 6 when they were filed that this famous talking phone is out of stock and has been for a long time.
6735 Can you comment on the availability of some of these products you refer to?
6736 MR. WATT: I didn't actually hear the reference. Somebody made that reference earlier this week?
6737 THE CHAIRPERSON: It has been made a couple of times.
6738 MR. WATT: Okay. What probably has happened here is they have gone to our website and you will actually see that comment there or that indication.
6739 That is incorrect. Unfortunately, this is probably the absolutely worst time that we could have done this but we are in the midst of a system changeover from one inventory supplier systems program to another inventory program.
6740 You will see if you go to our website a number of phones with that indication. They are not out of stock either.
6741 So unfortunately that has arisen in a very bad timing for this particular proceeding, a very bad timing for our fourth quarter as well.
6742 But that is incorrect. We do have that phone in stock and it is available.
6743 THE CHAIRPERSON: So if someone would call up your customer service folks, they would know it is available, they can work them through the process if they are able to communicate?
6744 MR. WATT: They should know that it is available. The only reason I hesitate at all is I cannot say for absolutely certain that the same glitch doesn't show up in their interface with that inventory at this current time.
6745 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's what I would suggest to you.
6746 MR. WATT: But that is a ‑‑ I can tell you that this is a temporary issue. We have had this phone in the market since May of 2007. To date there have been 600 units put into the field.
6747 So my point being that it is a phone that has been of great interest, obviously, to a number of people. But the demand is ‑‑ it is not enormous. And as I say, unfortunately, it may be ‑‑ misinformation may be being provided for a period of couple of weeks here but we will correct that.
6748 THE CHAIRPERSON: So we should find your phone number and then just have everybody call you directly. Since you know it exists, you can take the orders.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
6749 MR. WATT: I think we would rather go through the normal channel.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
6750 MR. WATT: And I have just been given a note saying that the site is to be updated on Saturday. I am sure it will be updated on Saturday and I hope it works.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
6751 MR. WATT: Not that ‑‑ Rosie and the IT field is maybe more confident of the IT people than I am.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
6752 MS SERPA: I am very confident.
6753 THE CHAIRPERSON: You also stated pretty emphatically ‑‑ and I guess we are going to have GoAmerica here later today or tomorrow ‑‑ that the cost of VRS is quite high and it needs to be better understood.
6754 We also heard during the week from the various groups representing people with disabilities that the product is there, it is turnkey, it is off the shelf, it exists in the States.
6755 What is the problem? Is there is a disconnect here? Because I can't imagine that it would cost ‑‑ and I will ask GoAmerica this myself ‑‑ but $100 million, when it is already existing in the U.S., to leverage something that is already there sounds like a re‑creation of something that doesn't need to be re‑created.
6756 And I guess I raise this question because it is, I think, the Commission's hope that we don't have to continually revisit the same issues again and again, and if there is something that is readily available and if the Commission so chooses to move forward, maybe the operations and the logistics may be something to be dealt with but having to re‑create and resurrect a decision seems like something that is inefficient.
6757 MR. WATT: I don't think there is a disconnect. Our numbers are drawn directly from the GoAmerica presentation. You may not have that right in front of you but on page 8 of their submission dated October 6th, in paragraph 31, they say:
"Depending on the number of deaf Canadians who would be using VRS, the national VRS program would cost more than $50‑100 million a year." (As read)
6758 And that then references you to footnote 10 where they say:
"This estimate assumes 15,000‑30,000 end users. Each will use VRS an average of 500 minutes per year..." (As read)
6759 That is only 40 minutes a month for these 15,000‑30,000 end users.
"...at reimbursement rates similar to current U.S. reimbursement rates." (As read)
6760 That is the support for the ‑‑ we took the 30,000, the upper end.
6761 And so we certainly agree that is a system that exists in the United States and we strongly encourage ‑‑ as we have said, we think there should be a follow‑up proceeding to address this very comprehensively.
6762 We are strong supporters of the model that applies in the United States where there are third‑party suppliers of the service who are ‑‑ I am sure they are as efficient as they possibly can be but even with that efficiency, the average cost and their reimbursement cost from the FCC ‑‑ and it is a tariffed rate ‑‑ is, I believe, in the order of between $6.50 a minute to $6.70 a minute. So it is an expensive service to provide.
6763 It is true that it is up and running and exists today but there is not a disconnect in the sense that that then suggests that that service will be economic to launch. It is simply a service that requires highly skilled people to do the interpreting and it is an expensive service.
6764 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you know who funded the development of the service in the U.S.? Was it industry? Was it was government? Was it private?
6765 MR. WATT: I don't know who funded the development of the service but my guess is that this service, 80 percent of the cost, maybe 90 percent, is labour cost of the sign interpreters, the call assistants that are operating in the middle between the people signing and those who are hearing.
6766 So in terms of the development, I don't know if the development costs were enormous. I know that it was put in place early this decade and that it is funded essentially through a levy on interstate long distance revenues and the FCC looks at it, obviously, very closely. The cost started out being in the order of $17 per call minute. So they have been reduced down into the $6 range.
6767 And as I say, these rates are reviewed and approved by the FCC because, in essence, NECA collects the money from the carriers and then pays out in accordance to the rate determined by the FCC.
6768 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is this the same fund that is used for long distance contribution to support rural development in the States?
6769 MR. WATT: It is the same body that collects the rural support funds, yes.
6770 THE CHAIRPERSON: But it is a different fund?
6771 MR. WATT: It is a different fund.
6772 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You indicate on page 6 of your presentation this afternoon that you have a free set‑top box program for customers who are visually impaired.
6773 How successful is that program today? How many have you given out? How do you promote it? Who knows about it?
6774 MR. KOVACS: We launched the program on July 29th of this year and so it is very recently deployed and admittedly it's early days.
6775 You heard earlier this week Chris and Marie Stark had made mention that they received a free set‑top box from us under this program. So we have one at this stage.
6776 With respect to promotion, to date what we have done is on the date that we launched the program we issued a bulletin to all our front line staff, to our customer service representatives and our technical service reps to explain what DVS is, how it is supported both on analog and on digital, and as well explain the box program. In addition, we provided to them instructions on a customer can access the DVS stream through the remote control.
6777 We also issued an article to all of our employees across the country in an internal news bulletin that is issued daily and this provided detail to everyone about the program, which we thought would be of great benefit to employees who may know of friends or family members who could benefit from this program. We have a number of employees who are visually impaired, so certainly they themselves could take advantage of this program and can tell others as well.
6778 At the same time that we launched the program in July we advised the CNIB and NBRS of the program, and what we wanted to do over the course of the summer was take some time to verify all the channels that have DVS programming and had made it available to us. We wanted to verify that everything was properly configured within our network before we were to get back to both organizations with a more fulsome package of material.
6779 We have now verified that all channels that have DVS passed to us are, in fact, configured properly and passed on to our customer.
6780 So that is what we have done to date.
6781 THE CHAIRPERSON: You no doubt are contemplating sending out either a press release or an email to all disability groups in Canada, letting them know that in your territory that unit is available?
6782 I mean telling your employees is fine if someone calls but why wouldn't you tell those people that are closest to the people that actually need it?
6783 MR. KOVACS: I definitely agree that it makes a lot of sense to get that information out to the organizations and to their members that could benefit from it directly.
6784 We also have a number of other initiatives that we will be launching before the end of this year. We intend to run promotional spots on our barker channel, which is called "Your World This Week," which is both available on our analog and our digital service, available to all 2.3 million customers. So we will have regular promotional spots that way.
6785 We will also put a reference to our free box program on our website online. So it will be available there and eventually onto the microsite as well.
6786 And ‑‑
6787 THE CHAIRPERSON: That part of the site is W3C‑compatible that you are putting it on?
6788 MR. KOVACS: Yes, that is right.
6789 And again, we will be coming back with a more fulsome promotional package for the CNIB and for NBRS as well, which will include not only the FAQs about the program but we also have developed materials such as instructions for customers on how to access DVS through their remotes, self‑installation guides for the digital service as well as a listing of the specific channels that have DVS.
6790 We will prepare that material and also make it available to the broader community in alternative formats.
6791 THE CHAIRPERSON: You mentioned NBRS. In reading over their material and yours, it seems as though there is a very close relationship.
6792 Do you have an equity position in NBRS at all? Because there is a $2 million funding or financing that I believe the record indicates that Rogers provided to them.
6793 MR. KOVACS: We did several years ago as part ‑‑ it was not an equity position but as part of benefit spending for previous cable acquisitions. There was some operating funding that was provided on a yearly basis for a period of five years, I believe.
6794 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Again, if I look at page 9 of your presentation, just above the conclusion, you indicate that you are exploring the idea of setting up a special needs centre.
6795 Can you elaborate on what it will contain, where it will be and how close to fruition is it or is this simply in the exploratory stages and may not happen?
6796 MS DINSMORE: Okay. I am happy to do that.
6797 It is in the exploratory stages and it is fair to say that this particular proceeding has been extremely helpful in helping us to focus on the needs of the disabled and to look back at Rogers and determine whether or not we can make improvements that might better serve those needs.
6798 So it was really in the context of that, having recognized that some of the ILECs offer this kind of thing and have been doing so for some time, that we decided to undertake sort of a project to determine what are the options and what do they cost in terms of setting up some sort of way for people who are disabled to contact Rogers and get, you know, the kind of service from sensitized and sensitive customer care people, techs, that would help to better resolve their problems more quickly.
6799 So we looked at a number of models and the model, I think, that is probably the most attractive is the one where it is effectively ‑‑ because we are looking at it across cable and wireless, it is not a bricks and mortar building or room where a bunch of people are co‑located. It is actually existing people who are in existing parts of the operations of the company but who would be specially trained to be particularly sensitive to the needs of the disabled community, whatever those needs may be.
6800 So we are looking at the area of tech support, customer care, field support in all of our different ‑‑ we call them CBUs ‑‑ customer business units. So there is a CBU ‑‑ Robin runs the CBU in Ottawa, where we have had a lot of interface with the Starks, obviously. We have another person running Toronto, another person running Southwest Ontario, out in New Brunswick, out in Newfoundland.
6801 So we would have specific people, field reps, techs, in those particular CBUs who would be specifically trained up. Equally, some sort of mentor person who could actually go to the home of the person who is having the install or whatever, to sort of help the whole process along.
6802 And you know, this is the model we are looking at. There would be initial training costs in the first year. So we have looked at the costing of it and we have basically costed it out on this virtual idea of about $1 million in year one.
6803 And there would be, you know, a recurring cost of training, because the fact is that it is unlikely there would be a massive demand for these people to service the disabled community just because of the volume and the numbers. If there was, fine, but if there wasn't, there is a sense that they really would need refresher training every year in order to keep their skill set at the forefront.
6804 And so, effectively, a $75,000 (sic) recurring cost annually and a $1 million start‑up cost, that is what we are looking at right now.
6805 THE CHAIRPERSON: You think it would be a good way of promoting your business and, for that small sum of money, it may yield an awful lot of not just business but good business as well, loyalty business?
6806 MS DINSMORE: I totally agree.
6807 THE CHAIRPERSON: Rogers is in the broadcasting business. You are an owner of Citytv?
6808 MS DINSMORE: Mm‑hmm.
6809 THE CHAIRPERSON: Described video. Can you tell us how much described video you are passing through ‑‑ you are creating today and where you stand with it?
6810 MS DINSMORE: As we noted in our opening remarks, we are here representing the cable and the wireless companies. We had our Rogers Media regulatory person on the CAB panel on Monday.
6811 We would be very happy to take any undertakings you wish in respect of the Media company and get back to you with those responses but we are not equipped today to respond to questions for the Media company.
6812 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Can you provide us with a submission or filing as to how much you are creating today and what the impact would be financially if you had to adhere to the RAAQ proposal, which I believe was 14 hours growing to 28 over a seven‑year licence term?
6813 MS DINSMORE: We would be happy to do that. I just need, I think, to make a correction. I think on the virtual needs centre, I may have misspoke myself.
6814 It would be $75,000 (sic) recurring costs, not $750,000 ‑‑ sorry, the other way around, I got it wrong again.
6815 Just for the record, it is $750,000 recurring costs, not $75,000. Sorry about that.
6816 THE CHAIRPERSON: $75,000 is someone's bonus over at Rogers, I would imagine.
6817 I wanted to talk a bit about, I guess, captioning as well but captioning from the perspective of stuff going over the internet.
6818 To the extent that there is broadcasting that is moving into the internet space, does Rogers carry forth the closed captioning onto the internet?
6819 MS DINSMORE: Do you mean Rogers as an ISP or Rogers as a media company?
6820 THE CHAIRPERSON: If you can answer both, I would appreciate both. If you can't, then give me one and take an undertaking on the other.
6821 MS DINSMORE: Rogers as an ISP, of course, we don't have any content. We don't have a walled garden on our Rogers high speed internet service. So it is not really ‑‑ it is sort of not really relevant, I guess, because we don't have that video content as part of our ISP service.
6822 As a media company, of course, we have a number of websites related to our media properties, and again, we would be happy to come back, take an undertaking and get back to you on any questions around the content, the closed captioning on any of the video on our Rogers Media sites.
6823 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Does Rogers broadcast anything off of City onto your website? Is there programming on your website at all, live programming, clips?
6824 MR. WATT: It would be programmed on to the Citytv website, so not onto our corporate websites.
6825 THE CHAIRPERSON: But onto your Citytv?
6826 MR. WATT: Onto the Citytv website.
6827 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So to the extent that you are broadcasting something on Citytv on linear broadcasting and I access the Citytv website, if it is close captioned on TV, will I see it closed captioned on the Citytv website?
6828 MR. WATT: Okay. That was Pam's second answer. We are going to undertake to find out the answer to that question. As I understand it, that is the undertaking, for us to go and look at our ‑‑ what we have described as our media website, which is exactly that, the Citytv website, the Fan 590 website, on the website, et cetera, and come back to you with an answer.
6829 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Mr. Watt, you spent some time, and we appreciate it, talking about the talk phone, the wireless phone. There were suggestions made here earlier today and throughout the week about requiring each of the wireless companies to carry two products that would cater to each of the individual groups representing the disabled.
6830 Can you elaborate on how many products you do have in this regard?
6831 You may have covered it or touched on it earlier, but I just can't recall.
6832 MR. WATT: I think that we certainly exceed the number of 2.
6833 If I start with the hearing aid phones, I think we have 15 models that we actually sell directly ourselves, which are compatible for hearing improvement.
6834 The talking cell phone is one individual model mentioned, the Nokia N‑95, which we sell today directly, which has an operating system that would allow the Nuance talk software to be loaded.
6835 So that's two.
6836 We have an E‑series phone coming out sometime in the near future, but on the broader point ‑‑
6837 THE CHAIRPERSON: And "E" means "Enhanced"?
6838 MR. WATT: I am not actually sure. It could well mean ‑‑ it's in the Nokia line of phones. It could well be "Enhanced".
6839 The broader point, as well, is that the additional GSM handsets, which people can acquire anywhere, they can buy them, and then they can take a plan from us and put that SIM card in, and our service will work. Then, whatever application they are able to load onto that phone, by virtue of the operating system inherent in that phone, will work.
6840 I think that we have a wide range of alternatives for people.
6841 THE CHAIRPERSON: As I understood the arguments this week, there are two issues with that. One is, in order to get that phone, they have to go to the United States, presumably, and buy the phone retail, and pay an exorbitant amount of money, or subscribe to a service in the U.S. with a locked phone, come here and find someone to unlock the phone, which is, presumably, illegal, and you wouldn't condone it; and secondly, it is still very expensive to do.
6842 What they are saying is, why wouldn't some of the carriers in Canada package in some of these phones, whereby, for the same $59 or $99 three‑year contract, you get that phone with that level of capability to it.
6843 MR. WATT: As I say, we have done that with the one Nokia model.
6844 The second Nokia model allows that to be added on.
6845 I should add that, with the first phone, we have subsidized ‑‑ we have paid for the Nuance talk software. So a person can come in, they can buy that phone for the same price as anyone else, and that phone, if they want it loaded with the Nuance talk software, we sell it for the same price.
6846 So we bear the $300 cost of that software program in that case.
6847 With respect to the proliferation of other devices, first off, unlocking is not illegal, the unlocking of the handset. You don't actually have to go to the United States to get some alternative handsets. In Toronto you can go to Pacific Mall, in Markham, and you can find, literally, every handset made in the world, I think, both GSM, CDMA ‑‑ you name it, it's there.
6848 You can then come to us, and you will get the same price as anyone else for our service plans, and you can then go and load the software that you wish.
6849 So we are offering a package solution, what I would call a semi‑package solution, through our own stores, and then we have a third party, sort of wild west approach to it as well.
6850 THE CHAIRPERSON: The Nokia‑6682, or whatever it is, a subscriber can come in and buy that phone packaged with a three‑year deal, and the phone is, like, $59 or $99?
6851 MR. WATT: For a three‑year term it's $199; two‑year, $279; three is $370, monthly $4.50.
6852 THE CHAIRPERSON: Could you repeat that slowly?
6853 MR. WATT: For a three‑year term, $199; $279 for a two‑year term. A three‑year term is $370, and the monthly rate is $4.50.
6854 I think the follow‑up question is: I see many of your phones for $20 or $25.
6855 In order to have a Symbian operating system ‑‑ the Symbian operating system is a sophisticated piece of software. It is loaded, and it is a mid‑range to a higher range phone.
6856 The cheaper phones do not have the same intelligence built into them, they simply cost more.
6857 THE CHAIRPERSON: Did you say that the monthly rate is $4.50 ‑‑ $450 or ‑‑
6858 MR. WATT: That is if you are on a monthly plan, essentially. You are not willing to sign a one‑year contract, a two‑year contract or a three‑year contract for the service plan. You just want to go month‑to‑month, so you have no commitment, and you could switch over to another carrier the next month.
6859 As you know, the model in the Canadian wireless industry is to sell the phones at a subsidized rate, basically in return for monthly recurring charges. So you sign a contract, and the longer you are willing to sign the contract for ‑‑ with a three‑year term, we know that we are getting 36 months of monthly revenue. We will provide the phone at a lower rate, because we then recoup that subsidization over the following 36 months.
6860 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for that.
6861 We heard during the week some of the parties saying that all they need is a data‑only product, and there are limited, if any, data‑only packages available, where they consume data only by sending e‑mail back and forth, and don't need all of the other values that come with the phone.
6862 Do you have unique packages to deal with that type of user?
6863 MR. WATT: We do have a data‑only plan. It starts, however, at $25 per month.
6864 So you don't have to take the voice service, but it does have a minimum ‑‑ well, it is actually $32 with the SAF.
6865 THE CHAIRPERSON: The old SAF.
6866 And 911, and the MRS, and whatever else ‑‑
6867 MR. WATT: As I said, the MRS isn't an additional charge. There is a charge for 911.
6868 I would just circle back quickly, and then I will come back to this question.
6869 I was talking about low‑end phones and the additional cost that the software imposes on the mid and high‑range phones. We do have a Nokia‑6086, and you can acquire that for $20 on a three‑year term.
6870 Now, I know that this isn't the answer for all individuals, but this particular phone does provide voice dialling, voice commands, voice recording, speakerphone ‑‑ that type of thing.
6871 It does not have the sophistication of the Nuance talk software, which reads out every menu step and has beeps, and you can speed up the instructions coming out, et cetera, but, as a lower end alternative, that is a cheaper handset that is available.
6872 Coming back to the person who only wants a simple short‑message service, text service, subject to check ‑‑ and I will check ‑‑ I believe that you do have to take a voice package with that, as it currently stands.
6873 So you would, at a minimum, have to take ‑‑ I believe we have the low‑end $10 voice package, and then you would pay additionally for text messages, which range from ‑‑
6874 We have plans from ‑‑
6875 MS SCHELL: We have text message plans that range from $3 up to $20.
6876 THE CHAIRPERSON: Could you come back and file with us the lowest possible, all‑you‑can‑eat, data‑only plan that Rogers offers?
6877 Unless you have it readily available.
6878 MR. WATT: For the all‑you‑can‑eat ‑‑ and that's, literally, all‑you‑can‑eat ‑‑ everything ‑‑ so no limit, it is a $72 plan, including the SAF.
6879 THE CHAIRPERSON: $72 for everything.
6880 MR. WATT: Yes.
6881 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you provide any discounts for people with disabilities, to recognize their limitations with regard to the time they need to use some of these services?
6882 MR. WATT: In terms of explicit discounts, our explicit discounts are similar to the offers that the ILECs ‑‑ obligations that the ILECs have. So there would be discounts on MRS, long distance, and free directory assistance, and free directory assistance call completion, et cetera.
6883 With respect to our normal commercial plans, no, we do not have discounts. As I say, we subsidize that one talking phone.
6884 Frankly, the way we have treated this, the cost to us is the same, cold as it is to say, to provide the service to somebody who has a disability as to somebody who does not have a disability.
6885 I would note that people have spoken earlier this week of some of the government support. The Government of Ontario provides funds for the acquisition of equipment, computers and other equipment. I believe it's every five years, and it's $12,000 or $15,000.
6886 There are support deductions with Revenue Canada, again, for the purchase and acquisition of tele‑typewriters, so TTY devices are a tax deduction. I realize that it requires a certain level of income for that to be of great assistance, but other devices, as well.
6887 Again, I don't know the full ins and outs of this. There is a page. Whether some of these other devices qualify for those deductions as well, I do not know, but I think it is an avenue that should be pursued.
6888 MS SCHELL: If I could add, I think it's important to note that, on a voluntary basis, there are some areas where Rogers actually does exceed the ILEC obligations.
6889 For instance, for our wireless services, for TTY users who are making long distance calls, we actually do provide free long distance, and that includes Canadian, U.S. and international calls.
6890 THE CHAIRPERSON: You will be happy to know that I am on my last question.
6891 Let me try to frame this. There is a deferral account, and the deferral account has money earmarked for the accessibility segment. That money is basically ILEC‑created and collected money, as well.
6892 If we were to move into an environment where the Commission decided to use some of that money for the greater purpose of a national program, how do you see the BDUs participating financially in that consortium, if I could call it that, or group?
6893 MR. WATT: That is a very difficult question to answer; not to go into all of the ins and outs of the deferral account, but ‑‑
6894 This is pretty much thinking off the top of my head.
6895 Say, for example, that the Commission were to decide in another proceeding that the Video Relay Service or the IP Relay Service should be put in place in Canada, and it should be put in place on a national basis, and it should be put in place with the ability to use third party providers.
6896 It would seem to me that some deferral account funds could be ‑‑ they would be directed to pay for the operation of that third party, and then, to the extent that our customers used it, they would be receiving the same benefit as ILEC customers.
6897 We would be treated the same as ILECs in this regard, in that the funding of that operation would have come from the deferral account, and we would not be disadvantaged.
6898 I think we would be disadvantaged should the ILECs be permitted to put deferral account money toward the payment of those costs and we were required to pay directly ourselves. I don't think that would be competitively equitable.
6899 It is a knotty issue when you are talking about the deferral account. It is really knotty from our perspective. The most recent decision looked to rebates back to customers of the ILECs as of a particular date.
6900 We may well have customers who are with us today who were with the ILECs, who paid in over those four years, and they are not going to receive the rebate. This is a problem for us, because, of course, people always like to receive rebates, and they tell their neighbour that they got a nice rebate from their telephone company, and "What did you get from your cable telephony bill," and they won't be getting anything, yet those very same people paid into the fund.
6901 THE CHAIRPERSON: That is not the topic of this proceeding.
6902 MR. WATT: No, it isn't.
6903 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Those are my questions. I will ask my fellow commissioners if they have questions, starting from the East Coast, on my far right.
6904 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I do have a few questions.
6905 With respect to page 6 of your initial comments, you say, "If the cost of VRS over 10 years were to be $1 billion...," and you make the wise comment that it's a great deal of money. It sounds like a lot of money.
6906 But then you say that if you were forced to implement it, it would inevitably inhibit the implementation of other measures.
6907 I am just wondering what other measures would come anywhere near $1 billion.
6908 What backs up that statement? What did you have in mind?
6909 MR. WATT: I take your point. I am just trying to think. It probably is, by far, the largest ticket item that we have under discussion here today.
6910 The point we are simply trying to make is that there is a long list of initiatives that could be undertaken. To the extent that one initiative consumes a lot of dollars, there is less likelihood that others would be pursued.
6911 Moreover, at the end of the day, these costs will be passed on to the general body of consumers, so there are trade‑offs as to how far you go along that path, because rates will be going up, and you will be impacting, potentially, lower income people as well.
6912 That is the thought we were trying to convey there. Really, rather than consider it specifically, view it as a caution to consider everything in the broader context, that there will have to be trade‑offs, cost/benefits, and the very wide impact on everyone.
6913 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: It sounds from your presentation that you are doing a great deal, and you are certainly receptive. It is not that there are specific ‑‑
6914 I can't imagine what other items would come near that price.
6915 It is just a figure of speech, basically.
6916 MR. WATT: On straight, sheer magnitude, the website W3C is probably the next largest item.
6917 Pam went through our exploratory work in the Special Needs Unit, and we view that as incremental costs. When you consider the work that the people do, whether it's for an able‑bodied person or a person with a disability, that cost would be the same.
6918 This is purely the incremental training to make sure that it is done properly, to satisfy their needs. It is not an enormous ticket item.
6919 I can't give you anything else.
6920 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: That's fine.
6921 I see that you say that you are going to continue to work with equipment vendors to determine if the electronic programming guide could provide some form of audio signal.
6922 I have difficulty trying to imagine how that would work. Could you explain what you are looking at there?
6923 MR. KOVACS: I would be happy to.
6924 Today our IPG doesn't include an indication of whether a specific program has DVS or not.
6925 There are three things that we are looking at. The first thing, which we have done, is approached our data suppliers for the program guides to work with programmers to see if they can include in their program descriptions a one or two‑sentence description of a program, with the letters "DVS" right after, so that it is readily apparent in that description.
6926 The next step is, you may notice that when you look at your "Info" button you will get a bit more detail. There will be icons that appear, such as headphones, to indicate that there is stereo sound, or a closed captioning icon.
6927 We would like to see if we could get a DVS icon automated. What would be required is, behind the scenes, within the program guide application ‑‑ for each program there are a number of fields that have to be populated ‑‑ rating, you check off if there are captions, and you check off if it's stereo. Those fields then trigger these captions.
6928 Today there is no field for DVS, so if the guide developers could actually incorporate that field, instead of having the letters "DVS", it would trigger the icon.
6929 The third aspect is the audio tone, which we were alluding to. If the field is there, we have asked our guide developers to see if that could somehow be used to trigger a unique audio tone.
6930 If you are on the program grid and you are looking at 8 o'clock, and you are working down to your favourite channel, and you highlight Law & Order, if DVS is available and the field is checked off, perhaps a unique tone would sound, which would indicate, "Okay, I have found it on this particular channel."
6931 The first two initiatives are, admittedly, of limited benefit to our customers who are visually impaired. They are of more benefit to sighted family members. But the third initiative, if it is doable, would certainly be of some benefit.
6932 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I have a follow‑on question to that, because one of the things that we did here was ‑‑ there is a great deal of difficulty in finding out which programs are available with the DVS.
6933 Do you agree with that, that it is a problem, or do you regularly hear from the OTAs and specialty services which programs have it?
6934 MR. KOVACS: I like to talk about it as a bit of an evolutionary process.
6935 We definitely recognize the fact that it is very frustrating for customers who are visually impaired to know exactly when the program has DVS, and that is something that definitely needs to be improved upon today, and everybody within the industry has a part to play.
6936 The way we look at it is that it's kind of an evolutionary process, involving two aspects. There is access to DVS, that it is actually being passed through to the end user, and they can actually engage it effectively. Then, on the flip side is the promotion of the availability of a specific program.
6937 We have taken the time to put the necessary pieces in place to address both aspects.
6938 On the access side, as I mentioned before, we have taken the time to verify that each channel that has DVS, which is provided to us, we pass it through.
6939 And then we have put in place the free set‑top box program, and advised our frontline staff, and we will be working on promoting it more effectively to our customer base, as well.
6940 The other aspect of access is the remote control and the set‑top box interface. As others have mentioned earlier, right now with our remotes, whether it's a standard remote or a big‑button remote ‑‑
6941 If you don't mind, if the panel would like to take a look at the big‑button remote that we have talked about, I could ask Brenda to bring it up to you.
6942 For both of these remotes we have developed a four‑step process. The menu has to be activated, and then you have to do a couple of key strokes, and then you change the auto setting from the main setting to the stream that has DVS.
6943 As we mentioned in our opening remarks, we have actually approached the manufacturer of this particular remote. It is the Polaris remote, by Universal Electronics. We have been following comments over the last few months, in terms of the frustration of ‑‑ even though we simplified it with the four‑step process, there is frustration that is associated with still having to go through those steps.
6944 We have asked the question, "Could we program one button to enable and disable the DVS stream?"
6945 They have come back to us ‑‑ and you will see a button on the bottom‑left corner called "SWAP". That is a button that they feel would not be really needed, which could be re‑programmed to do this macro function, if you will, to run through the steps automatically.
6946 We will be introducing this, and it will be free as part of the set‑top box program.
6947 With all of these initiatives in place, as well as a listing of all the channels that have DVS specified for our customers, we feel that we have the access piece of it taken care of.
6948 Then, with respect to the promotional aspect, in terms of the availability of which channels or which programs have DVS, we have talked about the three steps to enhance the IPG ‑‑ first, from indicating DVS, all the way down to an audio tone.
6949 The other aspect that we made mention of is what Bell ExpressVu is doing today with an audio loop guide, which indicates: For today, on this channel, at this time, this program will be with DVS.
6950 We understand that is of some benefit to customers who are visually impaired, and that is something we are prepared to consider implementing as well.
6951 So we have both aspects covered, which will effectively meet the needs of our customers.