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Please note that the Official Languages Act requires that government publications be available in both official languages.

In order to meet some of the requirements under this Act, the Commission's transcripts will therefore be bilingual as to their covers, the listing of CRTC members and staff attending the hearings, and the table of contents.

However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded verbatim transcript and, as such, is transcribed in either of the official languages, depending on the language spoken by the participant at the hearing.




















                      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 26, 2008                     Le 26 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

               Telecommunications Commission


            Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des

               télécommunications canadiennes



                 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






Leonard Katz                      Chairperson / Président

Elizabeth Duncan                  Commissioner / Conseillère

Timothy Denton                    Commissioner / Conseiller

Suzanne Lamarre                   Commissioner / Conseillère

Candice Molnar                    Commissioner / Conseillère

Stephen Simpson                   Commissioner / Conseiller





Sylvie Bouffard                   Secretary / Secretaire

Kathleen Taylor                   Hearing Manager /

                                  Gérante de l'audience

Martine Vallée                    Director, Social Policy /

                                  Directrice, Politiques

Sheila Perron                     Hearing Officer /

                                  Agente d'audiences

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 26, 2008                 Le 26 novembre 2008

- iv -





                                                 PAGE / PARA





Canadian Council of the Blind                    1531 / 9292


RQST                                             1571 / 9516


Shaw Communications / Star Choice                1640 / 9895


The Companies (Bell Canada/Bell Aliant/Télébec)  1726 /10476











Gatineau, Quebec / Gatineau (Québec)

‑‑‑ Upon resuming on Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    at 1000 / L'audience reprend le mercredi

    26 novembre 2008 à 1000

9275             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Order, please.  Good morning.  Bonjour, and welcome to what will likely be the last day of the accessibility hearing.  We will play it by ear and see if we can conclude today.  Hopefully we can.

9276             I look to Madam Secretary for any opening remarks.

9277             THE SECRETARY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

9278             For the benefit of Mr. Pigeon, I will name the Panel Members.

9279             Here in Gatineau, from the left to the right, is Mr. Timothy Denton, Mr. Leonard Katz, Madam Suzanne Lamarre.

9280             In our regional offices, in the east we have Elizabeth Duncan and in the west we have Candice Molnar and Stephen Simpson.

9281             I will begin with a few housekeeping matters.

9282             We ask that when you are in the hearing room you completely turn off your cell phones and BlackBerrys as they are an unwelcome distraction and as they cause interference on the internal communications systems used by our translators and interpreters.  Please note that if you leave them on vibration mode, they will still cause interference.  We would appreciate your cooperation in this regard throughout the hearing.

9283             Also note that ASL and LSQ sign language interpretation services will be made available throughout the hearing if needed.

9284             Furthermore, English and French captioning of the hearing is available on the screens to my left, as well as on the CRTC's Web home page.

9285             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.

9286             I would like to note that we have prepared a summary of the 21 November undertakings.  This summary will be added to the public examination file and posted on the Commission's website shortly.

9287             I note this document to be CRTC Exhibit No. 3.

9288             We have also revised the 19 November undertakings to reflect the Ryerson Centre for Learning Technology undertakings which were not reflected on a previous version.  This will be Revised CRTC Exhibit No. 3.

9289             We will now begin our presentations for today.

9290             I call on the Canadian Council of the Blind.  Appearing for the Canadian Council of the Blind is Mr. Sean Pigeon.

9291             Please introduce yourself for the record and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.


9292             MR. PIGEON:  Good morning.  My name is Sean Pigeon and I am representing the Canadian Council of the Blind.

9293             The Council is a voluntary membership driven organization.  We are here presenting today to request that the CRTC implement and enforce legislation to implement greater use of technologies that are already in existence, that are newer technologies and emerging technologies.

9294             One of these technologies is called descriptive video.

9295             Descriptive video is to the blind what closed captioning is to the deaf.  It is an auditory description of actions and things that are only seen and thus is important to the blind or visually impaired because it gives us a fuller detail of the pictures and actions that are going on in any broadcast.

9296             Currently the statistics show that only 4 per cent of all broadcasts are in descriptive video.  We are requesting that rather than allow the market to regulate accessibility ‑‑ because it won't and it hasn't and it doesn't ‑‑ that specific legislation be created with guidelines forcing broadcasters to use descriptive video much more enhanced.

9297             In a perfect world we would hope for 100 per cent, but at the moment we recognize that only 4 per cent.  Any increase would be greatly improved.

9298             One of the areas that is a key strategic area that is very important is in the area or the arena of emergency broadcasts.  Information by broadcasters ‑‑ and we say all broadcasters, whether it be telecommunications or television ‑‑ should be done in a fashion that is descriptive video or descriptive auditory signal, because those with visual impairments and those who are completely blind, such as myself, lose the information completely.

9299             I can hear the auditory beep to tell me that there is a weather warning or an emergency broadcast, but when I'm by myself I can't read it.  And when it's just a screen text scrolling across the screen, that poses a very serious problem and actually can at some point endanger my health or others in my community.

9300             A prime example of this would have been during the ice storm.  There were many, many, many weather warnings, et cetera.  I was clueless.  I had no idea what any of those conditions were.  I had no way of finding out.  When the power went out, that was all I could do, was to try and contact relatives to remedy the situation.

9301             So in that regard emergency broadcasts are critical in terms of equality and accessibility.

9302             The advent of new technologies has been a great boon to the telecommunications sector, and telecoms and broadcasting corporations have easily gone into promoting and implementing new technologies where it is the mainstream base.

9303             My cell phone is not on.  I own one because I use it for emergency purposes because it's a necessity.  The problem is that I have to pay for a service that I only receive less than 5 per cent benefit from.  I have to pay for the phone.  I have to pay for service for that phone, but I can't even use the auto dial features.

9304             But the companies that make these and the company that promotes them and provides service, they can provide a voice input on one of these, but they won't give me a voice to access the menus to access all the other gadgets that are in it, such as text messaging.

9305             There are no regulations at this point forcing wireless communications to provide accessible opportunities for persons with disabilities.  The problem is that everybody has taken to using cell phones and with that there is a great decline in the use of pay phones, public pay phones.  Privatization of pay phones has also occurred, whereby the cost has been doubled in more recent times, and in some places I have seen them even quadrupled without the access of telephone books, which would be useless to me anyway, but for some people with low vision they can be useful.

9306             And trying to find a pay phone in this day and age that is actually active is very difficult.

9307             That leaves persons with visual impairment or blindness to be at risk in emergency situations once again.

9308             So again, we call upon actions which have been clearly thought out with clearly defined parameters to go along with the guidelines in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms about equality and accessibility and we don't feel that this is out of line in terms of the Telecommunications Act itself, whereby no party or group is supposed to be left in a deficit, whether by accident or intentionally, and that the cost of implementing technologies that will remedy the situation is deemed not to be an excuse.

9309             We, the Council, representing over 600,000 individuals who use broadcasting services, have been subsidizing the cost of regular programming because we can't get anything that is remotely accessible to us currently, but we live in a world where there is reams and reams of information that is presented via television, via digital satellite, via cell phones, telecommunications.

9310             A lot of the main advances that came with disability access in the last 20 years have been undone in the last five.

9311             With the advent again of cell phones, large buttons is somewhat of a redundancy, being that the cell phones are so small.  So that access is gone.

9312             Without having access to the menus and the screen potentials of the cell phone, very few cell phones are accessible.  Only one company that I know of in Canada provides an accessible cell phone and they force you to sign a three‑year contract and they make you pay for that phone, whereas the regular subscriber can sign a three‑year contract and get the phone free.

9313             This seems a little bit harsh in that the cell phones are a regular cell phone product that the company carries and promotes, but they are trying to offset the cost of the software package.  Unfortunately, the software package is not all that expensive, but they are relaying the cost on to the user who has been subsidizing it for "X" number of years already.

9314             We are requesting that these kinds of actions stop because it puts the disability community in a distinct disadvantage and, unfortunately, the visually impaired community is a community that is the least employed in Canada and has the least income resources to provide themselves with these kind of tools to be able to function independently within the society.

9315             So once again, we are requesting that a greater amount of descriptive video be legislated and governed and that changes to the legislation in terms of telecommunications itself to allow for or to insist upon accessibility options, with consultation of the community itself through the focal lens of the disability community, is the only way to go about this.

9316             We have provided information to the ILECs and to broadcasting corporations, and the response has been that if we do not speak in engineering terms ‑‑ which very few of our Association's members are qualified to do, because we are a voluntary organization ‑‑ we are often dismissed.

9317             I can't tell you how to build a synthesized telephone, but I know it can be done and I know that I need it.  Just because I can't give the technical statistics on how to do it and the specifications doesn't mean that I'm wrong.

9318             This has been the approach of the larger corporations in terms of dealing with disabilities.  We are not asking for anything other than full access to what is being offered to everyone else.

9319             The long‑term goal for some of the funds that have been set aside, we would like to see a disability center or disability access center created with the input of the disability community.

9320             Now, at this point I am speaking in terms of more than just the CCB.  I have sat with other agencies and have ‑‑ we have all sat down and agreed that a disability access agency which is guided by individuals from the community that are affected, governed by and with tangible results set as target goals is what is needed, with an annual review in the long term.

9321             We recognize that that would not be a creation that would happen overnight and we ask that sooner than later.

9322             We have been living, like I said, with some advances in technologies, and unfortunately to the rapid pace of changing technology we have been once again thrown backwards into a disability state.

9323             Barriers have gone up because of technologies and the unwillingness to use what is already existing to conquer the accessibility issues.

9324             So once again we ask that the provisions that are in the Telecommunications Act regarding accessibility and regarding disadvantaged publics be enforced with specific and tangible legislation and that the long term perspective be a center of joint cooperation between broadcasting and communication corporations and the disability community to provide what is needed in a multitier, multilevel accessibility plan for the long term.

9325             Thank you.

9326             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

9327             We are now going to test high technology and I'm going to ask Commissioner Candice Molnar from Saskatchewan to begin an offer any questions or additions that she feels are required for the record.

9328             Commissioner Molnar, are you there?

9329             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I am.

9330             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Excellent.

9331             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Hello, Mr. Pigeon.  I am Candice and I am speaking to you from Regina.

9332             Can you hear me?

9333             MR. PIGEON:  Yes, I can.

9334             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Excellent.

9335             Thank you for your presentation today.  I did read your submission and I heard what you said today.  Much of it, if you followed this proceeding, is information and are issues that have been brought to our attention over the past week.

9336             So in the interests of time I am going to limit my questions so that you are able to make your appointment as well.

9337             As I said, I did read your full submission and I understand the points you have made.  I did want to just clarify a couple of points from your submission.

9338             In your submission ‑‑ and you spoke about it this morning as well ‑‑ you spoke about the need for the CRTC to mandate broadcasters to reach a targeted number of hours of described video.  You noted today as well that you are not expecting all, and I appreciate that.

9339             I think that if we take into account the cost to broadcasters and balance that with the needs of people with vision loss and we look at the economic situation in front of us today, I wondered if you could tell me what you would view to be a reasonable amount of increase to the amount of described video?

9340             MR. PIGEON:  Well, I think for starters any emergency broadcasts, any community information such as community calendars, things that are of day‑to‑day importance, I think all of that should be done with descriptive video.

9341             As for entertainment programs, I think, you know, in an initial state I think anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent would be a dramatic increase and I think that's a good place to start with, you know, provisions saying that we would like to see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, taking into consideration economic factors, technology, et cetera.

9342             I would leave the provision open in terms of, you know, in the most expeditious time frame as possible.

9343             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay, thank you for that.

9344             I would like to turn to your comments at the end of your presentation where you spoke about insisting upon accessible options for telecom services and your challenges in consultation with the telephone companies in being able to define your requirements.

9345             The question I have, Mr. Pigeon, is to what extent ‑‑ because Canada of course is part of a global market, certainly for terminals and adaptive devices.  We are part of a global market versus a market that manufactures much ourselves as it relates to terminal equipment.

9346             To what extent do you have available information related to what terminal devices and adaptive devices are available on an international basis that may assist you in making your communications services more valuable?

9347             MR. PIGEON:  Well, in the last year and a half, two years, I have done a lot of research in terms of this.  There are several countries which are leaders in telecommunications in the world, the United States and Britain being two to name.  But countries such as South Africa also have accessible products.

9348             It was South Africa that we used to call upon one of the broadcasting corporations to actually provide one.  They didn't quite listen to what we were trying to say to them at the time.

9349             I'm aware that there are multiple different hardware sets available through the United States because in the United States telecommunications are regulated to provide accessible options within a reasonable amount of time.  So most of the wireless communications and telephone communications companies within the United States have accessible hardware.

9350             It is not that the technology doesn't exist; it is not that it can't be brought in.  The problem is that when we have approached the corporations to do so, they don't exactly respond to our request.  They say it is not a large enough market.  They give us all kinds of reasons why it can't be done.

9351             Furthermore, there are Canadian companies which have created accessibility options which have been petitioning telecoms in this country and they have been turned aside as well.

9352             Again, there is an existing reasonable cost technology sector that can overcome these challenges but is being disregarded.

9353             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Do you happen to have an example of a Canadian manufacturer who has been turned away?

9354             MR. PIGEON:  Yes.  The company's name is Curo Interactive.  The company is owned by, believe it or not, he was the President of the Cellular Telephone Providers Association, I believe, and they created ‑‑ first in their drafts they created a fully accessible cell phone that would be accessible to the blind, to the deaf, to the physically challenged and to the mentally challenged or cognitively challenged, to be more specific.

9355             They could not get any of the cell manufacturers to pick up this particular design, and because of that they changed their tactic and they created a software package that works in any GSM phone.

9356             Again, Bell Cellular, all the wireless companies within Canada refused to accept them and refused to even look at the implementation of it.

9357             The only provision that this company was asking for was that they wanted some specific specs on several different specific GSM telephones so that they could better tailor the software package to be able to be more responsive to the needs of the community they were trying to service.  Again they were turned down.

9358             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Well, thank you for that information.

9359             One final question, Mr. Pigeon.

9360             You have identified through your submission and here today a number of different issues that you feel are important that they be addressed:  increases to described video, improving emergency alerts, improving audio description, terminal access.

9361             Could you tell me what you view to be the number one priority for the group that you are representing?

9362             MR. PIGEON:  I would say that the number one priority would be the visual description, or descriptive video, because that is, basically, audio description.  It would encompass any of the broadcasters.

9363             In terms of telecommunications, that would be our secondary goal, in terms of having accessible cell phones, accessible telephones, et cetera.

9364             Again, the long‑term goal of a joint facility to facilitate accessibility with the broadcasters and the telecoms would be a long‑term goal.

9365             But I think the primary one would definitely be descriptive video, and specifically for emergency broadcasting.

9366             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you very much.  Those are my questions.

9367             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.

9368             I have a few questions, and then maybe some other folks on the panel will have some questions, as well.

9369             My first question ‑‑ I think it is a follow‑up to Commissioner Molnar's, and it has to do with technology already in existence that may not necessarily be networked and provided by the network providers, but provided by software or technology designers, like Microsoft and Sisco.

9370             To your knowledge, are there any products that are available today in the marketplace that would allow people with disabilities easier access and more freedom with regard to the utilization of ‑‑ whether it's the internet or any other technology, without necessarily requiring software modifications or network interfaces to the products?

9371             I am thinking here of voice synthesis and those types of things, which are either off‑the‑shelf or readily available as an adjunct to existing technology.

9372             MR. PIGEON:  The problem that I have seen so far, in terms of off‑the‑shelf technologies, is that a lot of the services provided by telephones and computer services run into the arena of JavaScript, and JavaScript, typically, interferes with a lot of the voice synthesis programming that is out there.

9373             But there are a lot of programs that do function.  There is one called The Talks Program, which is already available by one of the broadcasters, as I have said.  It took an arm and a leg to get it to come, and it is available off the shelf through disability access suppliers.

9374             As for other voice packages, Microsoft has created some SAPI5 voices.  They have created, or are in the process of improving their Text‑to‑Speech.

9375             There is a program called JAWS, which is "Job Access With Speech", which is considered to be the mainstay, or the main leader, in terms of voice synthesis.

9376             I happen to be a trainer in that software package.

9377             There are others, such as Window‑Eyes, et cetera.

9378             Now, most of these are based for computer communications, but certainly can be adapted.

9379             The JAWS program itself has a secondary, universally accepted voice program called "Eloquence", which is used worldwide, all across the world, in different countries, in different arenas of technology, and it has the ability to speak in multiple languages, et cetera.

9380             The trick here is, basically, because we are talking about optical character reading, or graphical reading, to basically know the program codes of the manufacturing phones.

9381             We are not asking for every phone to be accessible.  That is an unrealistic goal.  We are asking for one or two options, because right now we don't have one or two options.  We barely have one.

9382             In terms of competition and in terms of having variety or options, like I said, there is only one, and you are basically railroaded.  I personally do not like the service that is provided by the one company that has accessibility, and therefore I don't use it.

9383             But, as I mentioned, I have a cell phone, where 90 percent of the capabilities of that phone are unreachable to me ‑‑ but I am paying for it anyway.

9384             THE CHAIRPERSON:  To your knowledge, to what extent has Industry Canada been involved in researching and developing some of these stand‑alone adaptive technologies?

9385             I understand that Industry Canada has a department or a sector that looks at these types of initiatives, and I am just wondering to what extent they have been involved in this area, and whether there is either a need for cooperation between various sectors of industry and this group, or whether this group can actually perfect and deliver some of the solutions that a lot of people are looking for.

9386             MR. PIGEON:  In the long‑term, or the big picture, I would say that Industry Canada would be essential to incorporate, but in terms of the telecommunications and broadcasting side of things, I think that the technology is well within their ability to accommodate at the current time.

9387             The reason I suggest that Industry Canada would be essential to add at a later date is because ‑‑

9388             For example, there is a company that provides a descriptive video channel.  They petitioned for it through the CRTC, and it is now made available.  The problem is, the technology that it runs on is a standard television, but to get to SAP audio programming, the visual menus are inaccessible to the blind.

9389             That's a hardware issue, and that comes under the jurisdiction of Industry Canada, in terms of requiring industries to provide accessible electronics.

9390             It goes further than electronics, though, because nowadays we have perfectly flat‑topped stoves with digital screens, which have put visually impaired people behind the times again, in terms of accessibility in being able to use a stove.

9391             Every gadget on the market these days has a display screen.

9392             The technology is available.  The technology is there.

9393             In more recent times ‑‑ as a matter of fact, it is in process right now.  One of the schools for the blind in the United States petitioned Apple Computer Corp. to change access to iPods.  Their argument was that blind people enjoy music and audio too; as a matter of fact, probably more so than the average person.

9394             Apple agreed, and they are now producing an interface that will work completely through their iPod series, and it is supposed to be released sometime in the new year.

9395             It can be done, it's just a matter of ‑‑ we are talking about, I think, a larger picture, and in the larger picture, if the devices were already geared toward that kind of accessibility, then it would be that much easier for the telecoms and the broadcasters, but it is not critical for the telecoms and the broadcasters to be able to accommodate at this point in time.

9396             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you for that answer.

9397             My next question has to do with what I thought I heard you say early on in your presentation, that is, that there have been certain capabilities that have been lost due to more recent technological improvements and innovations.

9398             Maybe I misunderstood, but has there been, through this evolution of new technology, capabilities and services that were available that have sort of disappeared completely with a new generation of products introduced, or has what I will call backward compatibility been respected to allow for whatever capabilities were there before to continue in the new derivation or generation of product?

9399             MR. PIGEON:  I don't believe that any of the previous services have been completely wiped out.  I would concur with a backward process, using the pay telephone as an example.

9400             There are many, many, many locations where there are pay telephones, but because of the lack of users, compared to the way things used to be, they are not being maintained, or they are being removed completely.

9401             So it is hit‑or‑miss whether it is functioning, and it is a situation where, if, say, the telephone book is damaged or vandalized, it is not being replaced.

9402             Again, privatization has sort of made it difficult, as well.  I can account from a personal experience, where I was in a shopping mall and I was trying to contact my wife, and I went to the pay phone, and I was shocked and surprised that suddenly I had to pay a dollar just to use 411, which previously was free.

9403             Now, I am aware that that's not on every pay phone, but I don't know which ones are which.  I can't tell.  Whatever phone happens to be there I am sort of stuck with.

9404             The fact that, at that point in time, I did not have a cell phone, I was stuck, no matter what I did.

9405             Being that visual impairment and low incomes are very closely associated, the problem lies in that a portion of our community is unable or incapable of affording the telecommunications that would provide them a safety net, such as cell phones.

9406             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

9407             My last question goes to the comment you made about the fact that there is a three‑year contract required for some of these wireless devices, yet there is a charge for hardware.  I am just trying to understand the distinction you are trying to make.

9408             My understanding is that the wireless companies provide regular phones, at subsidized prices, not necessarily always zero.  Depending on the features and the functionality, there is a charge, notwithstanding the fact that people have to get involved in a contract of X term ‑‑ three years, two years, one year.

9409             I thought I heard the Rogers group last week indicate that the one particular phone they were talking about was still subsidized, but if you wanted it for three years, the cost would be less than if you wanted it on a month‑to‑month basis.

9410             The price of the hardware went up if you went from a three‑year to a two‑year to a one‑year to a month‑to‑month contract.

9411             I think I heard you say that that's unfair, to the extent that one still has to pay for the hardware, even though they are signing a three‑year contract.  Yet, I believe, depending on the hardware you get, like a BlackBerry Bold or whatever, there is a charge for the hardware, notwithstanding the fact that the customer has to sign a three‑year contract.

9412             I am trying to understand, is there a distinction here that I am missing, or is there an equivalency, if I could call it that, between how subsidies are affected?

9413             MR. PIGEON:  I was a little unclear in my description of that.  I will clarify.

9414             It is not that I expect, or that we as an association or a group expect free hardware, it is that, one, the particular phone ‑‑ and I excluded using the Rogers' group name, just so that we could remain anonymous, so that we weren't singling out any particular broadcasters or any particular telecom, but that is the one group that I was referring to as having the accessible phone.

9415             The accessible phone has been a phone available on the market, without the accessibility features, for some time.  It is a late‑model phone and, to my knowledge, in terms of packages, yes, when you sign on there is a variance based on the duration of the contract, but what I am getting at is, I don't have an option.

9416             When I go to another provider, I can go to a two‑year or a one‑year, I can pick a package that includes a subsidized phone or does not include a subsidized phone, based on the functions and features I want.

9417             The problem is, I can't use any of those functions and features.  The only phone that provides it I am being, basically, forced to use, if I want to have full accessibility, and then I am being charged that much more for it, when I know for a fact that they were offering those phones at a greatly reduced price from what they are now.

9418             I also know that the whole program and the whole set‑up came about because I was the one who initiated it personally.  I called them up and said, "I know about this software package.  I know where it came from.  I can give you the manufacturer.  I can give you this.  We, as a disadvantaged community, would like to see one or two of these particular phones made available, so that individuals could have, one, some choice, based on what their personal needs are, and we would like to see it in a fashion where our agency could work with your agency, so that it can be economically viable for our community."

9419             The problem is, that side of the affair was not calculated.

9420             Again, the phones that they are referring to are at least four years in date.

9421             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Initiate it again, Mr. Pigeon.  I am sure that the Rogers folks are listening and will respond in due course with regard to this issue, as well.

9422             Those are my questions.  I thought I would start by polling our commissioners out in the regions.

9423             For those who are listening on webcast, we actually have an innovative technology going for us.  We have three commissioners in the regions ‑‑ Commissioner Duncan in Halifax, Commissioner Molnar in Saskatchewan, who you heard briefly, and Commissioner Simpson in Vancouver ‑‑ all participating through video conferencing links, and the associated support.

9424             Here, at Gatineau, it is myself, Commissioner Denton on my right, and Commissioner Lamarre on my left.

9425             Let me start by asking Commissioner Duncan if she has any questions in Halifax.

9426             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Yes, Mr. Chairman, I have two quick questions.

9427             Mr. Pigeon, when you were speaking to Commissioner Molnar about your priorities, you listed your second priority as accessible cell phones and telephones.

9428             I am wondering, regular land line telephones ‑‑ are you not able to get accessible land lines phones?

9429             MR. PIGEON:  There are accessible land line phones, but there are a lot of features that are difficult.  They require some visual display.

9430             They are more accessible, granted, than the wireless variety.

9431             I was just encompassing it as telecommunications.  I was trying to incorporate all forms of telecommunications on that particular issue.

9432             The primary one, though, I think, would be cell phones, because they are the least accessible out of the batch.

9433             Now, on that, I would also like to give some praise to the Rogers group for actually having provided an accessible phone.

9434             As much as I am here presenting, saying that it's not good enough that there is only one, the Rogers group was brave enough, to use a short term, to put it out there in the first place.

9435             So I give them kudos for that, but at the same end, we have other issues that are affecting the scenario.

9436             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  That actually leads into my next question.  When you spoke about that phone being the only one that is accessible ‑‑ and you have gone on since to talk about Rogers, but you said that you don't like the service.

9437             I was wondering, is the issue related to the pricing alone, or is it some aspect of the quality of the service that you don't like?

9438             MR. PIGEON:  It is a little of both.  I previously did have a Rogers cell phone, and I had issues with what I would call the quality of the hardware.  I had issues with the quality of the transmission, and, on occasion, the quality of customer service.

9439             I don't hold customer service as what I would call a corporate issue, in that individuals ‑‑ people who work have good days and bad days, and things don't always work the way we want them to, so patience, as a customer, is required in that regard.

9440             But, definitely, in terms of transmission quality and quality of the phone, that was definitely an issue at that time.

9441             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you for the clarification.

9442             Those are my questions.  Thank you, Mr. Pigeon.

9443             Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

9444             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Duncan.

9445             Over to the far west coast ‑‑ Commissioner Simpson, any questions?

9446             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Yes, Mr. Chair, I have a few, thank you.

9447             Good morning.  Greetings from the west coast.  This is an exciting process, being involved in this video conferencing for a hearing.  It's nice to see the CRTC at the vanguard of technology.

9448             My questions, first of all, Mr. Pigeon, are concerning described video.  My impression from your presentation is that you have a fairly high command of software technology.  I am wondering if that knowledge base, either with you or your organization, extends into the television production area, particularly as it pertains to described video.

9449             MR. PIGEON:  I have some knowledge in that area.  I have only been blind for the last 20 years.

9450             In terms of television production, it is actually a fairly simple process.  It is, basically, just an audio remix.

9451             It is basically a sound overlay, which they do already.

9452             Many, many times they will be broadcasting images from a blue screen behind an announcer, and they will be overlaying a voice input.

9453             A secondary voice input, which speaks when there are gaps in communications that are verbally being done by the announcer or the host, is how the visual description works, and VoicePrint is currently the Canadian leader in descriptive video.  They have offered their services to local television, and are hoping to offer it to a larger framework, but they are experts in the field, and it is ready to go, and they have the capacity to do it.

9454             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much for that.

9455             We have had a presentation from VoicePrint, as you know, and a very good presentation from Messrs. Rothschild and John Stubbs on the broader issues of described video.  From your organization's viewpoint, what do you feel is the largest barrier to seeing more described video occur strictly within ‑‑ my focus here is in the cost of production, not the distribution issues with the broadcaster and the BDUs.

9456             It has been my distinct impression that the described video process is a costly one, on a per‑hour basis right now, and I am wondering if your organization, or those that you confer with, have been looking at this issue with respect to having some opinions on removing those barriers.

9457             MR. PIGEON:  In discussions, roughly a year ago, with local VoicePrint staff, we were actually looking at getting voluntary staff to come in to do the voiceovers and to actually provide most of the technical assistance at no cost.

9458             The strongest barrier is time constraint.  News broadcasts and emergency broadcasts are on specific time schedules and to slow it down to be able to produce an audio descriptor to go with it slows down the usual pace, and that seems to be the greatest barrier.

9459             Cost again is not so much.  Again, you are talking about an audio technician basically overlaying a sound.  And if the finished product is ready to go and staff or experienced personnel from VoicePrint, or any other agency that is going to provide this service, can get their hands on it within 20 minutes to half an hour, they can provide that particular sound overlay to go in and to be in the gaps where there is either graphical interfaces or music background.

9460             It's no different than when they mix sound to a movie or they mix sound to even the actual news broadcasts when they add music.  It is a fade‑in process.

9461             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Yes.  I think we are pretty familiar with the process itself, Mr. Pigeon.  I'm just most curious as to ‑‑ if you are saying that there is a volunteer base out there to help defray the production costs, I was just curious as to what barriers were still in front of you toward getting more described video actually produced for Canadian distribution.

9462             I hear you saying that the cost of labour is not an issue.

9463             Have there been any issues with respect to copyright or altering of formats or anything else on a legal basis that have been in your way?

9464             MR. PIGEON:  Not particularly that I know of.  Most of it is a resistance to change the status quo.  If it is for, you know, the larger base, like I said, it is amazing how fast new technologies are introduced.  But when it comes to we'll say catching up for a specific public that is going to be receiving this, it tends to be a lot slower.

9465             Again, I see it more as a mindset.  The Council sees it as a mindset because when descriptive video first hit Ottawa, for example, I know for a fact that the head of VoicePrint here in Ottawa offered to do the 6 o'clock news for free and they were turned down.

9466             It's not a matter of cost.  I just can't see that.

9467             I think it is a barrier of willingness and that's why we are requiring specific legislation, because up to this point it has not happened.

9468             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I think just to close off this part of the discussion, before an organization like ours wants to contemplate regulatory means, we have to understand the cost impacts and it has been repeatedly brought to our attention that the cost issues of described video are the barrier.

9469             This we have been hearing from the professional broadcasters, program producers and others who are saying that it is about $1,500 to $1,700 an hour.  I hear you saying that a lot of those barriers can be eliminated.

9470             I'm just trying to determine in my mind where we really are at with respect to those costs.  It is something that I guess we will have to pursue at a later date.

9471             I hear you saying that you feel there is a sufficiently robust volunteer force out there to help to defray those costs, but that still isn't enough to create a general willingness to relook at more described video.

9472             Is that correct?

9473             MR. PIGEON:  I would agree with that and I would say that, you know, the Telecommunications Act has a provision for this saying that, regardless of cost, no specific group should be basically disabled or disadvantaged.

9474             In terms of the descriptive video for emergency broadcasting, I would say that is critical and essential.  The cost will reduce the more it happens.

9475             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Okay.  One final question and it goes over to the cable company product offerings to the visually impaired community.

9476             Could you very quickly, because I'm sure that we have dealt with this before, but I would like you to revisit the issue of the type of equipment that is available to you now, or to your community across the country, and whether you feel there is a need for a greater standardization of set‑top boxes and controllers.

9477             And could you comment on the training presently available by the cable companies with respect to the use of the controllers?

9478             MR. PIGEON:  Well, my personal experience is that remote control systems for the digital cable is ‑‑ well, it is completely inaccessible.  It is a matter of having to memorize each button and that only gets you to the one functionality, the initial functionality.  Most buttons have more than one or drop‑down menu systems that appear on your screen, and that is completely inaccessible to the visually impaired and blind community.

9479             One of the technologies that is available that VoicePrint advocates for, which is now probably going to be out of date, is a VCR that has an automatic switch to SAP so that individuals with visual impairments just have to press a single button to get into the secondary audio programming.

9480             As for learning the technologies that the cable providers or broadcasters are providing, if there was a synthesized or audio instruction coinciding with the actions that are done with the boxes, I think that that would very easily solve the problem.

9481             It is a lot easier, though, to make the TVs or the hardware more adaptive than it is to adapt on‑screen programming in a random basis.

9482             So the technology that is out there unfortunately is very challenging for the visually impaired community.  To meet that challenge, like I said, would require Industry Canada's involvement because we are getting down to the core of all base electronics.

9483             Technology can make a wristwatch talk in several languages and give you time zones and timers, et cetera, et cetera.  There is no reason why it can't adapt to other forms of electronics such as television, such as digital cable boxes.

9484             One of the things that we would like to see which would be very helpful from broadcasters is that their TV Guide channels be descriptive video, because they list off all their channels but I can't hear them, can't see them.

9485             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Mr. Pigeon.

9486             I am going to interrupt your questioning, Mr. Simpson.  I promised the party here that he would be out by 11 o'clock to catch another appointment, and I believe Mr. Denton and Suzanne Lamarre, Commissioner Lamarre, have a question.

9487             So I will give them each an opportunity to ask one question.

9488             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Hi, it's Tim Denton.

9489             You spoke of disability access providers.  How are they found?  Where do they exist?  And how do the disabled get access to them?

9490             MR. PIGEON:  Well, unfortunately in Canada the governance of disabilities is handled through the provinces and so each province deals with it in a different fashion.

9491             In Ontario we have a program called Assisted Devices Program which provides accessible materials or accessible equipment which is subsidized by the province's health department.  Because of that, they have specific vendors that are trusted and tried and they provide these disability access equipment.

9492             Now, the main one in Canada is Frontier Computing out of Toronto and they have offices across North America.  They have some in B.C., they have some here in Ontario and others in the States.  They deal in all manner of electronic devices and adaptive equipment that are electronic in base for the use of persons with visual impairments.

9493             As for physical adaptive equipment, again it depends on the province in terms of who is providing it, whether it be ‑‑ you know, in Ontario again it's Ontario Medical Supply or something of that nature.

9494             But a good example of a situation where Industry Canada should be involved is the leading cause of blindness in Canada is because of diabetes.  Well, the health manufacturers of insulin pumps know this, but they do not provide a talking insulin pump.  They have been presented ‑‑ they have had the argument presented to them for years and years and years by the hospitals, by ‑‑ and not just in Ontario but across the country, and they still don't do it.

9495             That leaves individuals such as myself ‑‑ because I am a diabetic ‑‑ requiring to use other methodology that is not nearly as capable of managing the disease because there is a technology barrier.  The barrier is not that it is all that difficult to solve.  It is that the willingness to do the effort is not there.

9496             So, like I said, accessibility to these particular departments usually can be reached through organizations such as the Canadian Council of the Blind.  We are certainly aware of the predominant agencies, so is the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the CNIB.  They certainly have a well‑documented list of providers in this area.  The Independent Living Resource Centers across the country would also have access to this.

9497             COMMISSIONER. DENTON:  Thank you.

9498             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Denton.

9499             Commissioner Lamarre, one final question?

9500             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Merci, Monsieur le Président.

9501             Good morning, Mr. Pigeon, this is Suzanne Lamarre speaking.

9502             In replying to Commissioner Molnar regarding the increase of descriptive video material from broadcasters, you mentioned that indeed you think that if everything were described it would be a perfect world, but in the meantime, before we get there, an increase of between 10 and 20 per cent would be substantial.

9503             Now, were you referring to an increase of 10 or 20 per cent compared to what is currently done or 10 or 20 per cent compared to the overall schedule of broadcasters?

9504             MR. PIGEON:  I was referring to the overall, up to 20 per cent versus the 4 per cent that is now available.

9505             I recognize, you know, to go 25 per cent, that's one‑quarter of all broadcast.  That is a little steep in terms of the associated costs, we will say the logistics of making it happen.

9506             What I was saying is that we would like to see it increase, even if it was 10 per cent, which would rise it to 14, but with a proviso that the ball keeps rolling in that direction, not that it go to 14 and stop; that they provide funding or find means of funding over the long term goal to bring the numbers up so that the product that we pay for is accessible to us.

9507             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.  That was my question.

9508             Merci, Monsieur le Président.

9509             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. Pigeon, for joining us today.

9510             We will move on to the next party.

9511             It is 11:03, so hopefully we haven't kept you too long.

9512             MR. PIGEON:  No, thank you.  Thank you for the opportunity to present.

9513             THE SECRETARY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

9514             J'inviterais maintenant RQST à procéder à la table de présentation, s'il vous plaît.

‑‑‑ Pause

9515             LA SECRÉTAIRE :  Veuillez vous présenter et votre collègue, et vous avez 15 minutes pour faire votre présentation.


9516             M. MCNICOLL:  Alors bonjour, je suis Richard McNicoll.  Je suis le président et fondateur de la compagnie du RQST Conseil‑expert et j'ai à ma gauche monsieur Pierre Dumouchel, un scientifique qui va un peu élaborer toutes les technologies possibles pour adapter nos besoins autant pour les aveugles, autant pour nous.

9517             Avant de commencer, j'ai un point important à faire, suite à une rencontre avec l'Association canadienne des radiodiffuseurs, hier.  On demande de faire des groupes de décisions pour le 8 décembre.  Le 8 décembre, au Québec, c'est journée d'élections; ce n'est pas possible de faire le sondage le 8.

9518             Et, en même temps, comme vous savez, c'est très très difficile de communiquer avec une personne sourde, ça peut prendre 15, 20 minutes de téléphone.  Avant de convoquer 40 personnes de cette façon‑là, on a besoin de beaucoup de temps, puis si c'est à la dernière minute, on ne peut pas inviter tout le monde.

9519             On demande au CRTC de reporter ça au plus tard le 15 janvier, O.K., pour permettre à tout le monde qui sont intéressés au sondage de participer.

9520             Ça, c'est hors contexte, mais je vous demande, c'est très important pour nous à cause de la façon d'élaborer toute la stratégie.  Inviter les gens, former les animateurs, former les interprètes, former la compagnie qui va faire le sondage, parce qu'elle ne connaît pas c'est quoi une personne sourde.  C'est tout un contexte qui prend du temps.

9521             Ça va?

9522             LE PRÉSIDENT:   On va le considérer et on va faire une décision l'après‑midi.

9523             M. MCNICOLL:  D'accord.  Puis, je pense que nos confrères anglophones ont le même problème.

9524             Alors chers commissaires, je me présente pour la vingt‑cinquième année en tant que représentant de la communauté sourde et malentendante.  Pour ceux qui m'ont suivi, vous savez que la cause du sous‑titrage des émissions de télévision a été au coeur de mes activités.

9525             Certains pourraient croire qu'après 27 ans, le problème du sous‑titrage serait résolu.  Malheureusement non; vous devez encore m'endurer aujourd'hui et, malheureusement, pour plusieurs années encore.

9526             J'ai amené ici, un exemple, l'horaire de Super Écran de décembre 2000, O.K.?  Je paye... moi‑même, je paye 100 pour‑cent de la tarification demandée, mais j'ai accès à 50 pour‑cent des films seulement.  On est en 2008, décembre; ça fait 27 ans que je me bats...  Comme ça, c'est pas normal aujourd'hui que je revienne encore ici.

9527             Alors, par contre, il faut reconnaître qu'il y a eu des avancements.  L'avancement le plus marquant a été celui résultant d'un bénéfice tangible du Groupe TVA qui a été versé au RQST.  Avec cet argent, j'ai demandé au CRIM de développer une technologie basée sur la reconnaissance automatique de la parole pour sous‑titrer en français et en temps réel les bulletins de nouvelles.

9528             Non seulement ce projet fut couronné de succès, mais il est aussi utilisé au Parlement canadien, à CPAQ, à TQS, à RDS et TFO.  Je tiens à féliciter le CRTC d'offrir... de nous avoir aidés dans cette démarche d'offrir l'accessibilité de l'information télévisuelle après de ma communauté.

9529             Après ces fleurs que je viens d'offrir au CRTC, il faut que je lance le pot.  Ne vous inquiétez pas, je réserve le pot pour la Société Radio‑Canada, qui s'acharne à faire un développement à l'interne avec des produits américains ou français, à vivre en vase clos,  technologiquement et à ne pas partager leurs outils avec la communauté comme elle l'a fait avec le développement de Mediatex.

9530             Je m'excuse auprès d'eux, mais l'année passée, ils ont investi comme 1 300 000 $ pour un logiciel américain qui n'a pas fonctionné.  C'est dire c'est déplorable pour nous.

9531             Je tiens toutefois à féliciter le CRIM, dont monsieur Pierre Dumouchel qui est à mes côtés, d'avoir mis tous ses efforts pour arriver à une solution technologique économique et de continuer inlassablement à chercher du financement et à faire de la recherche dans le domaine du sous‑titrage et aussi au niveau de la vidéodescription avec le projet eInclusion.

9532             Il y a eu aussi des avancements au niveau de l'âge à laquelle vous venez joindre ma communauté sourde et malentendante.  Comme l'a noté Louise Getty, directrice de l'école d'orthophonie et d'audiologie et spécialiste de la surdité, avec la venue du iPod, ce n'est plus à 75 ans que l'on devient dur d'oreille.  Elle a vu des gens de 45 ans et même de 31 ans durs d'oreille.

9533             Soyez donc prévoyant, vous pouvez déjà commencer à devenir membre de nos associations comme l'ASC, la CQDA, l'AMEC ou le RQST.

9534             En passant, je voudrais corriger un propos erroné du Centre québécois de la déficience auditive, plus précisément de madame Therrien, qui disait que le RQST n'existait plus depuis plusieurs années et que c'est un organisme impartial.

9535             Premièrement, le RQST existe toujours et, en plus, j'ai aussi créé une deuxième entreprise qui est le RQST Conseil‑expert, qui est une entreprise de consultation.  Est‑ce que le RQST est impartial?  J'ai fait le pari que la solution à l'accès à l'information sera technologiquement, que cette technologie n'est pas parfaite et qu'il faut faire des représentations pour trouver du financement pour l'améliorer.

9536             Si c'est cela être partial, alors je suis partial.  J'ai toujours invité le CQDA aux audiences et aux comités sur les normes du sous‑titrage.  L'année passée, ils étaient avec nous... ils étaient avec nous.  Je devrai discuter avec eux pour clarifier le tout.  Je trouve les propos de madame Therrien malheureux, peut‑être, ces propos dépassaient sa pensée.

9537             Revenons à ma présentation.  Pour cette audience, le RQST voudrait encore insister sur les technologies d'aide.  Mon intervention va aussi mettre l'accent sur la téléphonie et, évidemment, sur la télévision et ses nouveaux médias, notamment le Web et le téléphone cellulaire intelligent.

9538             Débutons avec la téléphonie.  Le service de relais vidéo est désirable notamment pour les sourds et les malentendants qui connaissent leur langage signé.  Il est présentement inaccessible à la fois pour le contexte en mode sédentaire et pour le contexte en mode mobilité.

9539             Nous croyons que les téléphones intelligents offrent une solution pour les sourds et les malentendants maîtrisant le langage signé en mobilité.  Nous suggérons donc l'utilisation de cette nouvelle technologie.  Par contre, il faudra non seulement que ces outils offrent l'accessibilité au niveau technologique, puisque notre... mais aussi au niveau économique, puisque notre communauté est plus pauvre que la moyenne et puisque notre déficience fait en sorte que le temps d'utilisation est plus grand que pour une personne entendante.

9540             Pour la téléscription, nous constatons que les outils employés par les téléscripteurs émanent des technologies obsolètes qui datent des années 70.  Elles présentent les inconvénients suivants :

9541                Non mobile;

9542                Qui ne répond pas au besoin universel des sourds;

9543                Nécessiter des protocoles de télécommunications non standard;

9544                Ne fonctionne pas sous IP;

9545                Mauvaise qualité des services;

9546                Coûts élevés d'opération à la fois pour l'achat du produit pour les sourds ou les malentendants que pour les opérateurs téléphoniques (coût d'opération du service);

9547                Présente une lenteur d'utilisation sept fois plus grande qu'une communication entre entendants.

9548             Le service de téléscripteur est aussi essentiel qu'auparavant, compte tenu du taux d'alphabétisation fonctionnelle de la communauté sourde et malentendante.  Toutefois, il faut améliorer la qualité de ce service afin d'éliminer les inconvénients qui n'ont plus de raison d'être avec la technologie actuelle.

9549             Nous recommandons l'emploi de la technologie de la reconnaissance de la parole pour les opérateurs téléphoniques.  Non seulement le service serait plus rapide, mais les avancées faites pour cette application pourraient être réutilisées pour le sous‑titrage et vice versa.

9550             Parlons maintenant de la télévision et du sous‑titrage.  Le sous‑titrage présente deux problématiques différentes selon que l'on traite de la diffusion en différé, comme pour les films, les téléromans et les documentaires, ou la diffusion en direct ou le quasi direct, comme pour les sports, les bulletins de nouvelles et les talk‑shows.

9551             Pour le différé, le temps à la disposition des transcripteurs fait en sorte que la qualité de l'écrit est adéquate et que l'intelligibilité des sous‑titres excellente.  Jusqu'à présent, chaque radiodiffuseur et entreprise de sous‑titrage a ses propres normes stylistiques.  Une normalisation de ces normes serait souhaitable.

9552             Suite à votre recommandation, le RQST s'est associé avec l'Association canadienne des radiodiffuseurs afin d'élaborer de nouvelles normes stylistiques.

9553             Je dois vous avouer qu'hier après‑midi, on a fini notre brouillon, puis on va déposer sous peu le « propre ».

9554             Il serait important que les télédiffuseurs respectent ces nouvelles normes.  Une recommandation du CRTC en ce sens serait souhaitable.

9555             Pour le direct, les contraintes de production des sous‑titres en trois secondes font en sorte que la qualité de l'écrit et le pourcentage des mots correctement transcrits ou de concepts sous‑titrés par rapport au verbatim et l'intelligibilité des sous‑titres laissent place à beaucoup d'amélioration.

9556             L'évaluation de la qualité des services de la production des sous‑titres constituera sans contredit le sujet de discussion le plus important au cours des prochaines années.  Ça sera d'ailleurs en 2009 un sujet d'étude de l'OFCOM (qui est l'équivalent du CRTC de l'Angleterre) et un sujet d'intérêt chez nos voisins, nos collègues américains, notamment au WGBH (c'est une firme bâtie à Boston).

9557             Chez les télédiffuseurs canadiens francophones et anglophones, nous constatons qu'ils mesurent très rarement la qualité des sous‑titres, qu'ils ont des réticences à le faire voir qu'ils ne savent pas comment le mesurer.

9558             Nous recommandons donc que le CRTC propose l'adoption d'une mesure commune d'évaluation de la qualité des sous‑titres.  Le CRIM, par son expertise, est selon moi le centre de recherche le plus approprié pour proposer une mesure.  Il faudrait aussi déterminer les seuils minima de performance qui assurent l'intelligibilité pour les sourds et les malentendants.  La détermination de ces seuils ne peut se faire que par une étude scientifique auprès de la communauté sourde et malentendante.

9559             Le RQST est prêt à être le maître d'oeuvre d'une telle étude, autant pour le français que pour l'anglais.

9560             Nous recommandons aussi la mise en place d'un centre de surveillance de la qualité des sous‑titres.  Ce centre effectuerait des évaluations de la qualité d'échantillons d'émissions, rédigerait des rapports aux radiodiffuseurs afin que ces derniers puissent mettre en place des solutions aux problèmes relevés.  Le RQST est aussi prêt à être le maître d'oeuvre de cette surveillance.

9561             Il est évident que les outils de sous‑titrage en direct nécessitent encore beaucoup d'amélioration émanant de la recherche universitaire.  Il est aussi évident que les coûts de la recherche seraient moindres si les radiodiffuseurs se regroupaient pour le développement d'outils communs et pour l'amélioration constante des performances de ceux‑ci.

9562             Il faut réglementer afin que tous les radiodiffuseurs se regroupent pour le financement de la recherche.  L'objectif de cette recherche serait à la fois d'améliorer la qualité du sous‑titrage et la réduction des coûts de production pour les radiodiffuseurs.

9563             Mais mon expérience et mes efforts des 27 dernières années m'ont appris que sans contrainte réglementaire et financière, rien ne sera fait, rien n'avancera.  (Ça va être la même chose pour les malvoyants puis les aveugles.)

9564             Je suggère que le CRTC impose une taxe sur le revenu des radiodiffuseurs afin de dégager une somme d'argent nécessaire au financement de ces activités autant à un niveau de centre de surveillance que du financement de la recherche.  (Je rouvre un bémol, les compagnies de téléphone doivent soumettre un montant d'argent pour payer les centres de service relais Bell, alors on pourrait peut‑être le faire avec les cablôdistributions et les télédiffuseurs.)

9565             Permettez‑moi de rêver.  Pourquoi pas créer un centre de recherche spécifiquement voué au développement d'outils d'aide pour les sourds, les malentendants, les aveugles et les malvoyants.

9566             Finalement, avec la convergence des communications, l'Internet devient un médium qui véhicule de plus en plus l'information audiovisuelle des télédiffuseurs.

9567             Malheureusement, les sous‑titres sont rarement présents et leur absence n'est pas due à des raisons technologiques.  Au contraire, le consortium de recherche québécois de eInclusion a même mis en place un système d'édition de sous‑titres collaboratif qui permet d'ajouter et d'éditer des sous‑titres pour des vidéos se trouvant sur des sites d'hébergement tels que YouTube.  Une réglementation est toutefois nécessaire afin que les sites Web des télédiffuseurs soient 100 pour‑cent accessibles pour les sourds et les malentendants.

9568             Dans mon mémoire, j'ai parlé d'autres points qui sont aussi importants, par exemple, au niveau du service et au soutien à la clientèle, au service d'urgence et à la représentation et à l'emploi des personnes handicapées.  Je veux aussi parler de mon inquiétude sur votre autorisation à un nouveau canal, Ciné‑pop qui, encore aujourd'hui, au moment que je vous parle, il n'a aucune programmation sous‑titrée; sans contrainte au niveau du sous‑titrage.

9569             Je ne voudrais pas minimiser ces points, mais pour respecter mon temps puis permettre à mon invité de parler, je demanderais à votre comité de lire et de prendre... et de le prendre en considération.

9570             Je laisse donc maintenant la parole à Pierre Dumouchel, vice‑président scientifique du CRIM et professeur à l'École de technologie supérieure.  Pierre nous présentera l'état de la situation scientifique en 2008.

9571             Pierre, à toi la parole.

9572             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Bonjour, Monsieur le Président, bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs les Conseillères et les Conseillers.

9573             Richard m'a demandé de faire le point de la situation scientifique en 2008.  Premièrement, je vais vous parler brièvement de la situation en Europe et aux États‑Unis.  Après, je vais vous parler des progrès faits au Canada.  Je vais conclure en parlant des défis à venir.

9574             En Europe, le pays qui semble prendre le leadership au niveau de la production des sous‑titres est sans contredit la Grande‑Bretagne.  Pourquoi?  Tout simplement parce que la direction de la BBC a décidé d'elle‑même en 1999 que 100 pour‑cent de ses émissions sous‑titrées.

9575             La BBC ne sous‑titre pas elle‑même, elle sous‑contracte à des firmes externes.  Le sous‑titrage par reconnaissance vocale domine en Europe.  Certaines firmes emploient plus de 70 sous‑titreurs vocaux et des universités commencent à offrir des cours de formation des sous‑titreurs par reconnaissance vocale.

9576             En 2009, BBC a décidé que 5 pour‑cent de ses émissions seraient offertes avec le langage des signes et que 10% seraient en audiovision (ce qu'on appelle ici la vidéodescription).

9577             Toujours en Angleterre, l'OFCOM a mentionné qu'elle revisiterait le code en 2009 afin de tenir compte de la qualité.  BBC a déjà pris les devants en engageant une personne responsable de la qualité.

9578             Aux États‑Unis, maintenant.  Aux États‑Unis, le centre le plus avant‑gardiste est le NCAM, centre de recherche associé au WGBH.  L'imposition en 2006 de sous‑titrer toutes les émissions de télévision (à quelques exceptions près) a résulté selon les dires de son directeur, Larry Goldberg, que j'ai rencontré l'an dernier, en une baisse de la qualité des sous‑titres.  Plusieurs personnes y voyant une opportunité de faire de l'argent se sont improvisées sous‑titreurs.  NCAM a demandé des fonds de recherche pour démarrer une activité de la mesure de la qualité des sous‑titres.

9579             Au Canada, maintenant.  En 2002, nous avons, au CRIM, commencé le développement d'une technologie à partir de la reconnaissance de la voix pour produire les sous‑titres en temps réel des bulletins de nouvelles du Groupe TVA.  Dès le départ, et encore de nos jours, la stratégie déployée par le CRIM a été de développer des technologies qui permettent à la fois de réduire les coûts de production pour les télédiffuseurs tout en augmentant la qualité et la quantité d'information pour les utilisateurs qui sont les sourds et les malentendants.

9580             En 2008, nous utilisons cette technologie pour produire les sous‑titres des émissions de sports comme le hockey et le football et même les derniers jeux olympiques, des débats politiques, en passant par des émissions d'affaires économiques et des émissions pour enfants.  GTVA, TQS, RDS, CPAC, le Parlement canadien et TFO sont des utilisateurs de notre produit et de nos services de sous‑titrage.

9581             Au niveau technologique, nous avons fait plusieurs autres développements, permettant, entre autres, le sous‑titrage à distance, le sous‑titrage en quasi direct, la correction assistée et le sous‑titrage en différé.

9582             En 2005, nous avons créé un réseau de chercheurs de l'École de technologie supérieure de l'Université Laval, de l'Université McGill, de l'Université de Montréal, du CRIM avec des associations de sourds, le RQST, CQDA, l'AMEC, l'Institut Raymond‑Dewar; des associations aussi, d'aveugles et de malvoyants, l'INCA, l'Institut Nazareth et Louis‑Braille et le RAAQ.  Et dans ce réseau‑là, il y a aussi des industriels et des télédiffuseurs.  La liste serait trop longue de tous vous les nommer, donc je vais passer outre.

9583             L'objectif visé par ce réseau est de développer des outils de production du sous‑titrage et de la vidéodescription selon les spécifications des télédiffuseurs et selon les besoins des utilisateurs qui sont, dans ce cas, les sourds, les malentendants, les aveugles et les malvoyants.

9584             Ce projet traite de la télévision, du film, mais aussi du problème d'accès à l'Internet.  Par exemple, pour la vidéodescription, le CRIM a développé un outil pour la sélection du type et du niveau de vidéodescription lors de la lecture d'un film selon les préférences de l'usager.  C'est le Vidéo Description Player.

9585             Il est aussi en train de compléter le développement d'un prototype d'un outil appelé le VidéoDescription Manager qui servira à la génération assistée par ordinateur de vidéodescription.

9586             Ce projet a aussi permis de faire de la rechercher en sous‑titrage par reconnaissance de la voix, à expérimenter le sous‑titrage à distance dans un contexte de conférence et même à un projet de sous‑titrage collaboratif de documents audiovisuels sur l'Internet, notamment des documents de YouTube.

9587             Et je passe aussi sous silence plusieurs autres projets de recherche que nos partenaires étudient et qui vont de la prise de notes par reconnaissance dans un contexte de salles de classes, la reconnaissance des gestes d'une personne, le développement des normes en vidéodescription et la reconnaissance des émotions à partir de l'audio.

9588             Ce projet est financé en partie par le Patrimoine canadien.  En mars 2009, je devrai dire que ce projet était financé par Patrimoine canadien.  Malheureusement, nous faisons partie des programmes que Patrimoine canadien a décidé de ne plus reconduire.  Le réseau risque donc de cesser ses activités.

9589             Pour conclure, je vais parler des défis qui nous attendent.  Je vais me concentrer ici sur le problème du sous‑titrage.

9590             Le premier défi est d'améliorer la qualité du sous‑titrage.  Le Canada a la chance d'avoir l'expertise pour résoudre ce problème.  Il manque un ingrédient :  l'argent.  Il faut trouver une façon de financer la recherche universitaire et des centres de recherche dans ce domaine.

9591             Il faut aussi mesurer la qualité du sous‑titrage.  C'est essentiel.  Comment s'améliorer si nous n'analysons pas les sous‑titres produits?  Comment s'améliorer si nous ne tentons pas de classifier les erreurs afin de trouver des solutions particulières à chacune de ces classes d'erreurs?

9592             Mes discussions avec les télédiffuseurs autour de la table sur les normes de l'ACR m'ont enseigné que les télédiffuseurs désirent la qualité, mais qu'ils ne savent pas comment la mesurer, qu'ils n'ont pas les moyens financiers de la mesurer et qu'ils n'ont pas, aussi, les moyens financiers pour faire de la recherche afin d'améliorer leurs outils de production.

9593             Un autre défi est de continuer le dialogue entre les télédiffuseurs, les associations de sourds et malentendants et les développeurs de technologie.  Nous l'avons fait maintenant avec la table du ACR et je suggère de continuer cet exercice‑là.  Ce que j'ai vécu autour de cette table‑là, c'est que le dialogue est difficile, mais comment bénéfique à long terme.

9594             Je prends, par exemple, Richard.  Richard McNicoll, le Richard McNicoll de 2002, revendiquait le verbatim.  Aujourd'hui, il comprend que c'est impossible et c'est non seulement impossible, c'est non désirable pour la communauté.  Aujourd'hui, il promulgue plutôt l'intelligibilité et non le verbatim.

9595             Une dernière petite demande (toute simple) :  Peut‑on demander aux télédiffuseurs de transmettre le signal audio aux sous‑titreurs sept secondes avant de le télédiffuser?  Technologiquement, c'est possible.  Les cas Don Cherry et Janet Jackson le démontrent.  Avec ce délai, nous pourrions augmenter la qualité des sous‑titres en éliminant les erreurs de type homophonique.

9596             J'en ai fait la demande auprès des télédiffuseurs aux deux tables rondes de l'ACR, la table anglophone et la table francophone.  Ils la refusent.  En passant, en Hollande, ce délai est de plus de vingt secondes.

9597             LE PRÉSIDENT:  Merci beaucoup.  Je demanderais à la conseillère Lamarre de commencer nos questions.

9598             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Merci, Monsieur le Président.  Bonjour monsieur McNicoll, bonjour monsieur Dumouchel.  Merci de prendre le temps d'être ici avec nous, ce matin.

9599             Monsieur McNicoll, moi, je ne pense pas du tout que j'ai à vous endurer ce matin.  Je pense que j'ai à bénéficier de votre expérience et je suis très heureuse que vous soyez aussi persistant...

9600             Alors, mes questions, ce matin, vont porter sur le sous‑titrage, incluant la proposition que vous avez faite sur la mesure de qualité, sur la vidéodescription, sur les modes de consultation, sur les services de télécommunication.

9601             Monsieur Dumouchel, vous avez bien décrit l'état des lieux en ce qui concerne le développement technologique ici et ailleurs, ce qui ne m'empêchera pas nécessairement de poser peut‑être quelques question de clarification.  Et tout ça ne sera pas nécessairement dans cet ordre, mais ça devrait être pas mal conforme.

9602             J'aimerais commencer quand même par quelque chose que je n'ai pas annoncé et c'est seulement quelques points de clarification pour le dossier.  Dans la présentation, vous faites référence à des organisations par leurs acronymes, alors, je veux seulement être certaine que je comprends très bien à quelles organisations on fait référence.

9603             Quand vous faites référence à l'ASC, c'est l'Association des Sourds du Canada?

9604             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Oui.

9605             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  CQDA, c'est le Centre québécois de la déficience auditive; l'AMEC c'est l'Association des malentendants...

9606             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Des malentendants.

9607             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  ...du Canada.  Maintenant, il y en a une que je vais vous avouer que je n'ai pas trouvé, c'est NCAM.

9608             M. DUMOUCHEL:  C'est le Centre de recherche qui est associé au WGBH, à Boston.  Et c'est pour National Access of...  Le « AM », c'est pour Access Multimedia, but le « C », je ne pourrais pas dire qu'est‑ce que c'est, le « C ».

9609             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Et « W »... WGBH, c'est une station de télé de Boston qui est membre du réseau PBS?

9610             M. DUMOUCHEL:  PBS, c'est ça?

9611             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Merci.  Maintenant, en ce qui concerne RQST, on m'a fait le reproche la semaine dernière d'avoir utilisé le terme « Regroupement québécois en sous‑titrage », on m'a dit que c'était plutôt « Ressource québécoise en sous‑titrage ».  Monsieur McNicoll, pouvez‑vous me donner des précisions, s'il vous plaît?

9612             M. MCNICOLL:  Ça... Ce sont seulement des acronymes.  RQST c'est acronyme, maintenant, c'est pour le Regroupement québécois pour le sous‑titrage.  Et l'objectif de cette entreprise, c'est une entreprise à but lucratif qui vise à développer et à améliorer, faire des recherches pour les nouvelles technologies de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion.

9613             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Et RQST, à ce moment‑là, en tant qu'organisme à but lucratif, vous regroupez des membres ou des actionnaires ou...?  Quel est le mode de fonctionnement de l'entreprise?

9614             M. MCNICOLL:  L'organisme, actuellement, a été reconnu comme organisme à but lucratif et elle a sa charte.  Et sa mise en place va se faire après les audiences parce qu'on a besoin de quelques... quelques choses à regarder dans (inaudible) qu'est‑ce qui va arriver dans le futur.

9615             Le RQST Conseil‑expert, elle, c'est une entreprise privée, c'est une entreprise de travailleurs autonomes qui vise aussi à faire de la recherche et de la consultation spécialisée pour les besoins des personnes sourdes et malentendantes via tous les intervenants.

9616             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Merci.  Alors, là, on va sauter dans le sous‑titrage, maintenant, après ces précisions.

9617             Vous avez souligné que CPAC, TVS, TQS et TFO, présentement utilisent la reconnaissance vocale pour le sous‑titrage.  Télé‑Québec, savez‑vous qu'est‑ce qu'ils utilisent?

9618             M. MCNICOLL:  Télé‑Québec n'utilise aucune émission en direct sauf une (je pense que c'est « Bonjour » ou quelque chose comme ça).  Actuellement, c'est toutes des émissions en différé.

9619             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Et pour leur émission en direct, vous ne savez pas qu'est‑ce qu'ils utilisent ou s'ils le font?

9620             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Ils ne le font pas.

9621             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Ils ne le font pas.

9622             Est‑ce que CPAC utilise la technologie de reconnaissance vocale pour le volet français ou volet français et anglais?

9623             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Ils utilisent pour le français la reconnaissance vocale sous forme de service.

9624             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Oui.

9625             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Et en anglais, c'est la sténotypie, sous forme de service aussi.

9626             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Et savez‑vous s'ils ont l'intention d'utiliser la reconnaissance vocale à court, moyen ou long terme pour l'anglais aussi?

9627             Non, vous n'êtes pas au courant.  Non, mais je vous pose la question; des fois vous auriez pu le savoir.

9628             Vous avez mentionné que lors des derniers jeux olympiques (ceux d'été 2008), il y avait eu du sous‑titrage qui avait été fait par reconnaissance vocale pour ces jeux olympiques‑là.  Est‑ce que ça avait été fait par le CRIM ou une entreprise associée au CRIM?

9629             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Ça a été fait par le CRIM, à distance, pour RDS.

9630             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Pour RDS?

9631             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Oui.

9632             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Est‑ce que, et là...   Bien, je vais faire ma question en deux volets.

9633             D'abord, j'aimerais savoir si vous savez...  À votre connaissance, est‑ce qu'il y a des diffuseurs anglophones qui utilisent la reconnaissance vocale, telle qu'elle a été développée au CRIM et est‑ce que cette technologie...  Cette technologie que vous avez développée au CRIM, est‑ce qu'elle s'adapte bien à l'anglais aussi?

9634             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui, elle s'adapte très bien à l'anglais.  D'ailleurs, le système a été développé, en premier lieu, pour l'anglais.

9635             Dans un projet qu'on a eu, financé par CANARIE, on a fait une expérience avec l'assemblée législative de la Colombie‑Britannique, à distance aussi.

9636             Donc, oui, c'est possible de le faire pour l'anglais, et ceux qui l'utilisent pour l'anglais, je ne suis pas très, très au fait, mais je crois qu'il y a une chaîne de sports à Toronto qui utilise un système commercial, puis je crois que c'est un fiasco, par contre, comme qualité.

9637             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Donc, il reste une période de rodage; c'est ce que vous êtes en train de dire.

9638             Bon, je crois qu'on peut se mettre d'accord, comme vous l'avez souligné, Monsieur McNicoll, que le gros défi, c'est pour le direct, ce n'est pas pour le différé.

9639             Maintenant, la semaine dernière, on a reçu plusieurs commentaires qui ont été faits au Conseil à l'effet que la qualité du sous‑titrage par reconnaissance vocale était inférieure à celle du sous‑titrage fait par sténotypie.

9640             Est‑ce que vous pourriez commenter ces constats‑là qui ont été faits et, plus particulièrement, peut‑être nous dire à quoi tiendrait la différence et aussi quelles sont les forces et les faiblesses des deux systèmes par rapport à l'autre, la sténotypie et la reconnaissance vocale?

9641             M. McNICOLL : La sténotypie, c'est une institution, si vous voulez.  Il n'y a plus de formation ici au Canada français, O.K.  Il n'y a plus de formation.  Les écoles sont fermées au complet.

9642             Il y a eu un essai à Ottawa pour une école, supportée par le sénateur Gauthier, de sténotypie, puis ça été un échec total.

9643             La différence qu'il y a, c'est que les sténotypistes, c'est une formation très longue qui prend environ cinq ans, dont trois ans de formation au niveau du Cégep, puis deux ans au niveau de la formation à l'interne.  C'est cinq ans.

9644             Le coût est beaucoup plus onéreux parce que, actuellement, pour donner un exemple, je pense qu'à Radio‑Canada, ce sont des employés syndiqués qui coûtent très chers.

9645             Pour le côté locuteur.  Le côté locuteur, c'est que la formation se fait très rapidement, moins de deux semaines, trois semaines.  Les coûts sont beaucoup moins onéreux.

9646             Et j'ai oublié de vous dire, c'est que le reconnaisseur, tu peux toujours l'améliorer, le nourrir par tous les nouveaux termes, nouveaux mots et des choses comme ça.

9647             Le problème actuellement qu'on encoure avec le locuteur, je ne pense pas que c'est moins bon que la sténotypie.  Le problème qu'on encoure avec le locuteur, c'est l'entraînement, O.K.  Les gens, il faut qu'ils s'entraînent à prononcer d'une façon claire et nette, les ponctuations.  La langue française a des particularités un peu plus difficiles.

9648             Mais quand c'est bien fait... moi, je vois le hockey, je vois le football par RDS, que c'est fait par RDS, puis, je dois vous dire que c'est surprenant la qualité qui sort.  Pourtant, c'est quelque chose qui a beaucoup de vocabulaire.

9649             À RDS aussi, il y avait un très beau... une très belle sortie des sous‑titres en direct.  Là, maintenant, il n'y a plus de bulletin de nouvelles.  C'est malheureux.  C'est des émissions matinales puis de fin d'après‑midi qui prennent la relève, et la personne, je l'ai vue hier, ça donne quand même un bon rendement.

9650             Le problème quand il y a beaucoup d'erreurs, c'est que c'est les débits.  C'est un des problèmes majeurs du sous‑titrage.  On ne peut pas vous dire jusqu'à combien de débits/minute qu'on peut comprendre pour avoir une belle qualité de sortie.  C'est pour ça qu'on a besoin de faire cette recherche‑là.  Est‑ce qu'on doit s'en tenir à 140 mots/minute... à 180 mots/minute quand la parole est à 200‑250 mots/minute?  Alors, plus vous avez de débits, plus vous causez des erreurs.

9651             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Donc, si je résume ce que vous m'avez expliqué, c'est que l'avantage important de la méthode par reconnaissance vocale par rapport à la méthode de sténotypie, c'est l'investissement à faire pour la formation des professionnels, et présentement, l'inconvénient, c'est l'ajustement du débit du sous‑titrage?

9652             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui, c'est son résumé, puis il y a peut‑être une chose à rajouter.

9653             Il parlait de trois à cinq ans pour le temps de formation d'un sténotypiste, mais il y a une personne sur 10 qui arrive à le faire en temps réel aussi.  Donc, effectivement, c'est le coût de la ressource humaine qui est plus grand, comparativement à 35 heures pour former un sous‑titreur vocal.

9654             En termes de qualité, on n'a pas fait ces évaluations‑là.  Donc, c'est difficile de dire qu'est‑ce qui est mieux.  Donc, on ne peut que se baser sur les impressions de gens qui l'ont vu, d'où le but de vraiment mesurer la qualité du sous‑titrage.

9655             L'avantage qu'on a... et pour essayer d'évaluer la qualité, parce qu'il y a une personne humaine dans la boucle là pour produire, que ça soit la sténotypiste, et il y a le système aussi.  Donc, pour évaluer ça, il faut évaluer deux choses en même temps, la personne humaine et le système.

9656             Et le système qu'on a développé pour TVA et tous les télédiffuseurs a une particularité que les systèmes commerciaux n'ont pas, donc, si on achète des systèmes comme Dragon et ainsi de suite là.  Nous, on va tous les soirs sur le site web aller chercher les nouveaux mots, on recompile les probabilités, et le système s'adapte de façon entièrement automatique.

9657             Je prends des exemples.  Si on parle de politique internationale, Barack Obama, il y a deux ans, sa probabilité était très faible, et présentement, sa probabilité augmente continuellement parce qu'on voit de plus en plus souvent son nom sur le site web, et le système va chercher cette information‑là.

9658             Donc, c'est les avantages qu'on a faits.  On a eu la chance de déployer un système pour un télédiffuseur, puis on l'a développé spécifiquement pour eux, pour ce contexte‑là.

9659             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Venons‑en justement là à l'établissement d'une méthode de surveillance de la qualité du sous‑titrage, parce que dans votre proposition, Monsieur McNicoll, je crois comprendre que c'est quand même un élément clé de ce que vous proposez, qu'on voudrait réussir à trouver une méthode de surveillance qui serait objective.

9660             Est‑ce que vous pouvez nous expliquer comment, dans un tel système, on définirait une erreur et comment on identifierait cette erreur?

9661             M. McNICOLL : Je vais le transmettre à mon confrère scientifique parce que c'est vraiment scientifique, mais ça peut se faire.

9662             M. DUMOUCHEL : Étant donné le débit de paroles, si on prend... par exemple, on sait que 145 mots/minute, c'est confortable la lecture pour un sourd ou un malentendant, et quand on arrive à 180 mots/minute, c'est déjà difficile pour lire.  Et ça, c'est dans des constatations de pop‑on.  Donc, le texte est fixe.

9663             Dans le scroll‑up, il n'y a pas eu d'étude scientifique pour savoir c'est quoi le débit confortable.

9664             Par contre, il y a des contextes là qu'on est 300 mots/minute.  Un match de hockey, des fois, ça peut aller jusqu'à 300 mots/minute.  Donc, c'est impossible de lire.  Donc, il faut que le sous‑titreur résume le contexte... résume le texte.

9665             Donc, c'est impossible de le faire de façon entièrement automatique, trouver le pourcentage de reconnaissance, et la façon que j'ai proposée dans un article que je viens de soumettre et que j'ai présenté aussi au NCAM, au PBS, WGPH, c'est de transcrire le verbatim et d'avoir la sortie du système de reconnaissance ou la sortie du système de sténotypie et d'aligner les deux textes et de demander à un sourd ou un malentendant de voir s'il comprend les concepts, est‑ce que c'est les mêmes concepts qui sont véhiculés.  Vous comprenez?

9666             Et après, on va cumuler le nombre d'erreurs, le nombre d'omissions, le nombre de... on peut même rajouter de l'information qui est non pertinente, et en additionnant tous ces types d'erreurs là, qui sont des erreurs de ‑‑ je vais arriver dans les termes techniques ‑‑ il peut avoir des erreurs de substitution, des erreurs d'élision, puis des erreurs d'insertion.  On additionne toutes ces erreurs‑là, et on calcule un pourcentage par rapport au nombre de mots qui a été produit.

9667             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Donc, je comprends le principe qui pourrait permettre d'établir un système de surveillance.

9668             Mais au niveau de la surveillance elle‑même, si je comprends bien, ce n'est pas une surveillance... une fois que le système a été établi, ce n'est pas une surveillance qu'on pourrait faire en temps réel, à ce moment‑là?

9669             M. DUMOUCHEL : Non, on ne pourrait pas faire une...  Il y a certaines qualités qu'on pourrait... certains facteurs qu'on pourrait le faire en temps réel, à savoir s'il y a des sous‑titrages ou il n'y en a pas, mesurer la quantité.  Oui, il y des caractéristiques qu'on pourrait mesurer en temps réel, mais mesurer la qualité du texte, du sous‑titre, on ne pourra pas le faire en temps réel, et il y a un travail manuel qui devrait se faire là.

9670             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Donc, il pourrait être possible, à ce moment‑là... comme vous dites, il y a certains éléments qui peuvent être surveillés en temps réel.

9671             Et ce qui ne peut pas être surveillé en temps réel pourrait faire l'objet, par exemple, d'une vérification annuelle sur une petite portion de la programmation; est‑ce que ça serait possible?

9672             M. DUMOUCHEL : C'est ça que je suggérerais de faire, oui, d'aller chercher des échantillons là.

9673             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : L'article auquel vous faisiez référence un peu plus tôt, est‑ce que c'est un article que vous pourriez déposer avec le Conseil pour l'instance publique?

9674             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui.

9675             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Merci.

9676             Alors, vous avez répondu à plusieurs de mes questions avant que je les pose.

9677             Selon vous, quelles ressources seraient nécessaires, d'une part, pour arriver à établir un système de surveillance, et d'autre part, le mettre en place chez les radiodiffuseurs?

9678             M. DUMOUCHEL : Le mettre en place.  Je ne sais pas si ça serait une bonne option de le mettre en place chez un radiodiffuseur parce que qu'est‑ce que ça serait important de faire, c'est qu'il faut faire une validation à la fin, à savoir...

9679             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Monsieur Dumouchel, je révise ma question.  Le mettre en place, peu importe où.

9680             M. DUMOUCHEL : O.K.  Parce qu'il faut que la vérification finale soit faite par un sourd, parce qu'on a bien beau dire qu'on fait des substitutions, mais est‑ce que cette substitution‑là est intelligible pour un sourd?

9681             Par exemple, si le système, au lieu du mot " université ", a proposé " une ver si té " en quatre mots, peut‑être pour un entendant, il va comprendre, ah! c'est cette erreur‑là, il va pouvoir la corriger, et cette erreur‑là est moins néfaste.  Mais pour un sourd qui n'a aucune notion d'audio, pour lui, ça serait irrécupérable ce type d'erreur là.  Donc, ça prend un sourd qui va le faire.

9682             Et qu'est‑ce qu'on aurait de besoin comme ressources?  Je crois que, premièrement, il faudrait développer des outils de vérification automatique, entre autres, pour savoir s'il y a des sous‑titres ou il n'y a pas des sous‑titres, et après, développer des outils pour accélérer la rédaction du verbatim et des outils aussi pour aligner un texte avec... le texte verbatim avec le texte qui a été... le sous‑titre proprement dit.

9683             Ces outils‑là, on a déjà développé une partie de ces outils‑là avec le parlement canadien, qui, eux, voulaient avoir la qualité.  Donc, on a déjà commencé à expérimenter à ce niveau‑là avec le parlement canadien.

9684             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Bien, avec CPAC?

9685             M. DUMOUCHEL : Avec le Bureau de la traduction.

9686             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Le Bureau de la traduction.

9687             Je reviens encore sur CPAC parce que, Monsieur McNicoll, peut‑être que j'ai mal compris, dans votre soumission, j'ai cru comprendre que vous citiez CPAC en exemple pour la surveillance de la qualité du sous‑titrage.

9688             Si j'ai mal compris, corrigez‑moi, ou pouvez‑vous me préciser à quoi vous faites référence exactement?

9689             M. McNICOLL : CPAC, mais disons le Bureau de la traduction...

9690             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : O.K.

9691             M. McNICOLL : ...a travaillé très fort pour avoir la meilleure qualité possible.  Eux doivent utiliser le verbatim pour une raison évidente : C'est que les ministres, les députés qui prennent la parole, puis il ne faudrait pas un peu contourner ou abréger qu'est‑ce qu'ils viennent de dire.

9692             Sauf au niveau des répétitions comme monsieur le président, monsieur le président, on va dire la première fois, monsieur le président, puis après ça, ça reste passé.  C'est la même chose pour les députés.

9693             Mais ils ont une qualité de surveillance parce qu'ils sont capables de faire des corrections puis tout mettre ça, comme on appelle, en index... tout mettre ça dans l'index.  Comme ça, ils ont des outils particuliers.

9694             Dans le cas de la télévision, on s'en va dans un domaine inconnu.  La variété d'émissions, c'est des films, des télé‑romans policiers, amour, n'importe quoi.  On ne peut pas, en direct, deviner c'est quel sujet qu'on va discuter.  Alors, ça fait que c'est plus difficile.  C'est là la raison de la norme... la raison de surveillance, le monitoring que j'appelle.  Avec la surveillance, on va voir c'est quel mot qui complique la situation et essayer d'améliorer cette situation.

9695             Je vais vous donner un exemple.  Le hockey à RDS, vous savez combien il y a de joueurs anglophones, européens, je le sais pas, de hockey.  Les noms propres ont deux...  Le CRIM a réglé cette situation‑là en ramassant tous les noms.  Les locuteurs se sont pratiqués à parler... je veux dire à dire leurs noms d'une façon particulière, pas nécessairement sur le phonétique mais d'une façon particulière, et le taux d'erreur est très bas.

9696             Alors, c'est ça que... le monitoring va permettre de régler beaucoup de situations où ça échappe, où ça marche pas.  En même temps, ça va éviter certaines frustrations que les personnes sourdes ou malentendantes ont.

9697             Un exemple : Une émission de télévision annoncée sous‑titrée qui n'est pas sous‑titrée.  Alors, ça va pouvoir intervenir directement peut‑être sur le télédiffuseur, t'avais oublié le sous‑titrage parce que, des fois, il n'y a pas de sous‑titrage.  Je ne suis pas convaincu que les télédiffuseurs s'occupent de la qualité chez eux.

9698             Comme j'ai longtemps pleuré pour Radio‑Canada qui disait qu'ils avaient un taux de 95 pour cent de compréhension à la sortie du sous‑titrage.  J'ai jamais vu ça, O.K.  Mais eux, ils continuent, ils persistent à dire que c'est 95 pour cent.  Alors, ils n'ont jamais élaboré ce que la personne sourde voit.  Alors, c'est très important qu'on fasse l'équipe.

9699             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Et quand vous parlez, justement, d'un système de surveillance, est‑ce qu'on peut, à prime abord, être d'accord que c'est surtout pertinent en ce qui concerne le direct?  Est‑ce qu'on aurait aussi besoin, selon vous, d'un système de surveillance pour le différé?

9700             M. McNICOLL : Effectivement, parce que dans le différé, il y aussi des problèmes.  Le quasi‑direct, souvent, il va y avoir un problème.

9701             Le direct, le matin... un exemple : Le direct du matin, on va dire le bulletin de nouvelles de 10 heures est sous‑titré avec plein d'erreurs.  À midi, le même bulletin de nouvelles est repris, les erreurs sont toujours là.  À 17 heures, les erreurs sont toujours là, puis à 22 heures, les erreurs sont encore là.  Comme ça, on a bien le droit de taper sur la tête un petit peu des télédiffuseurs pour améliorer cette situation‑là.

9702             Le monitoring, peut‑être il va être là pour un bout de temps, mais moi, je me donne actuellement au moins deux ans pour me permettre de faire de la recherche scientifique.  Puis le monitoring, on verra si le besoin se fait sentir pour essayer d'améliorer la qualité du sous‑titrage dans un temps un peu plus élaboré.  Mais pour le moment, j'ai besoin d'au moins deux ans, avec le financement nécessaire, pour faire ce développement.

9703             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Monsieur Dumouchel, êtes‑vous d'accord avec monsieur McNicoll que, effectivement, à l'intérieur de deux ans, le système de surveillance peut se... les paramètres d'un système de surveillance puissent être établis?

9704             M. DUMOUCHEL : Ils pourraient être établis beaucoup plus rapidement que ça.  Il y a déjà des choses qu'on pourrait déjà valider tout de suite, qui pourraient se faire dans un délai d'un mois, somme toute, et commencer aussi le développement d'outils pour automatiser certains points.

9705             Vous parliez du différé aussi, est‑ce qu'on doit valider le différé.  Je pense que la quantité, on pourrait la vérifier.  Est‑ce que les sous‑titres, ils sont présents ou ils sont pas présents?  Donc, même pour le différé, on pourrait vérifier quelque chose.

9706             Mais je suis d'accord avec vous qu'il y a moins de... normalement, le différé, vu que c'est un travail manuel, est de très bonne qualité, et c'est ce qu'on voit présentement.

9707             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Monsieur McNicoll, vous avez aussi fait référence aux normes, entre autres, de stylistique qui seront éventuellement proposées par l'ACR, des normes qu'on voudra ‑‑ selon les commentaires que vous avez faits et que d'autres aussi ont faits ‑‑ qu'on voudra universelles.

9708             Alors, j'ai deux questions.

9709             La première, c'est : S'il était décidé que ces normes, effectivement, devaient être adoptées, est‑ce que vous croyez que cette adoption‑là devrait se faire de manière volontaire par les radiodiffuseurs ou qu'elles doivent être imposées par le Conseil par condition de licence?

9710             M. McNICOLL : Elles devraient être imposées avec la licence pour éviter un petit peu qu'est‑ce qui se passe aux États‑Unis, que n'importe quelle compagnie de sous‑titrage apparaisse puis envoie un produit de mauvaise qualité aux télédiffuseurs.

9711             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Maintenant, en ce qui concerne les normes stylistiques elles‑mêmes, ça fait déjà plusieurs mois, un peu plus d'un an là que les groupes de travail de l'ACR en discutent, et si on vient à adopter une norme, bon, le propre d'une norme, c'est qu'on l'applique, mais, par la suite, elle doit évoluer.

9712             La semaine dernière, on a eu une présentation, que je qualifierais, moi‑même, d'un petit peu surprenante, de la part du Collège Ryerson ou de l'université Ryerson ‑‑ je m'excuse si je n'ai pas le bon terme ‑‑ qui montrait du sous‑titrage que moi, je qualifierais de créatif, dans lesquels on retrouvait non seulement des différences de normes stylistiques, mais dans lesquels on retrouvait aussi l'atmosphère de l'émission, qu'on retrouvait l'émotion des participants à l'émission, des protagonistes.

9713             Alors, j'aimerais savoir si, selon vous, on pourra se contenter de normes stylistiques imposées et comment est‑ce qu'on pourrait faire pour, justement, encourager le développement de sous‑titrage créatif.

9714             M. McNICOLL : Je le sais de quoi vous parlez.  J'ai déjà assisté à une sorte de démonstration.

9715             Le problème majeur, il faut se poser la question : Le sous‑titrage, c'est pourquoi?  Pour lire ce que vous entendez.

9716             Il ne faut pas aussi camoufler toute l'information visuelle, imagée, par toute sorte de choses courant à l'écran, avec des lettres qui sautent, des notes de musique qui flottent partout ou des choses comme ça.

9717             L'important en ce moment, c'est de se centrer sur la compréhension et la qualité du sous‑titrage.  Le développement va se faire avec le numérique.  Un moment donné, les gens vont avoir le choix de choisir le genre de sous‑titrage qu'ils veulent.

9718             Alors, sur cette technologie‑là, la plus grande peur que la RQST a, et ses membres qui avaient été consultés en 2000 ‑‑ c'est 1 200 personnes que nous avons consultées ‑‑ la couleur ‑‑ c'est qu'il y a des personnes qui ne voient pas les couleurs.  Il y a des personnes qui ont des confusions de couleur.  Il y a des couleurs qui sont criardes.  Il y a des couleurs qui font que les gens paniquent.

9719             Alors, je pense que ça, c'est vraiment un domaine particulier qui devrait être étudié dans l'avenir, mais pas aujourd'hui, pas demain.

9720             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Donc, ce que je comprends bien, c'est que les lettres noires sur fond blanc ont toujours du mérite.

9721             Oui, Monsieur Dumouchel.

9722             M. DUMOUCHEL : Si je peux ajouter aussi.

9723             Cette présentation‑là mentionnait aussi qu'on faisait les sous‑titres lors de la production et que tout le monde était réuni.  Il y a une difficulté supplémentaire pour les films qui sont traduits.  Donc, on ne peut pas se réunir à ce moment‑là.  On est dans cette impossibilité‑là.

9724             Et le dialecte, on n'a pas la chance d'avoir toute cette information‑là aussi.  Donc, ça ne serait pas possible pour le direct.

9725             Donc, ces difficultés‑là, puis on sait que quand on fait de la production aussi, on a souvent ça à la dernière minute, puis même pour faire le différé.  Donc, ce serait difficile avec le contexte.  Il faudrait changer la culture, la manière qu'on produit des films ou des émissions.

9726             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Oui, tout à fait.  Ça avait été soutenu aussi la semaine dernière que ça demandait un changement de culture, mais je voulais, justement, savoir ce que vous en pensiez.

9727             M. McNICOLL : Madame Lamarre, je peux‑tu intervenir?

9728             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Oui.

9729             M. McNICOLL : Je voudrais expliquer une situation.

9730             De plus en plus, les gens s'achètent une télévision numérique.  O.K., ça va jusque là.  Vidéotron a développé un appareil de reconnaissance numérique par câblodistribution.

9731             Actuellement, au moment où on se parle, le sous‑tirage sort d'une façon anormale en numérique.  O.K.  On n'est pas capable de le lire, ça va trop vite, ça saute, ça disparaît, les caractères sont plus petits, on a des... au lieu d'avoir des lignes normales.

9732             Alors, ça leur donne une frustration.  Le produit est sorti mais jamais été analysé par des personnes sourdes et malentendantes.  Le monitoring permettrait de faire valider si l'appareil est vraiment adapté.

9733             Vous savez qu'au niveau de la téléphonie IP, Vidéotron a battu un record de plaintes au cours des deux dernières années en ce qui concerne la télécommunication en distance, en ce qui concerne le service relais Bell par TELUS.

9734             Et TELUS, aujourd'hui, au moment où je vous parle, je ne suis plus capable de les sentir.  Malheureusement, leur système ne fonctionne pas.  C'est anormal.  O.K.  Ça aussi, c'est très important de réaliser, avant de sortir un produit, de faire un produit.

9735             Je ne veux pas des réunions trois fois ou deux fois par année avec un groupe de représentants de sourds et de la compagnie Bell.  Il n'y a rien qui sort.

9736             C'est important qu'on fasse un petit peu comme on vient de faire avec l'ACR.  C'est d'être les sourds, le CRTC, la compagnie Bell, pour régler les problèmes.

9737             Bell a un très bon service au moment où on se parle, mais les autres compagnies qui apparaissent au fur et à mesure, je vous dis, c'est l'enfer.

9738             Pour donner un exemple, pour avoir un service relais Bell par cellulaire, les filles qui répondent, c'est des filles de Saskatchewan ou Manitoba ou Alberta qui ne comprennent quasiment pas le français, que ça parle en français cassé.  Ça n'a pas d'allure.

9739             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Si je résume tout ce que vous venez de me dire, Monsieur McNicoll, c'est qu'il y a des choses à régler au niveau du service à la clientèle de tous les fournisseurs, qu'au niveau de la distribution du sous‑titrage, il faut aussi faire une surveillance, et que, en ce qui concerne la consultation avec les groupes d'intérêt et d'usagers, ce sont des consultations qui devraient avoir lieu pas uniquement une ou deux fois par année, mais poursuivre le processus et le développement des projets de la technologie, qui va permettre une meilleure accessibilité.

9740             M. DUMOUCHEL : Et peut‑être pour continuer sur ce point‑là, il y a un document que j'avais déposé à la table francophone de l'ACR qui mentionnait cette mise en place là d'un service de surveillance, et on voulait aussi... à la fin, la sortie du service de surveillance serait transmise aux télédiffuseurs pour qu'on puisse en discuter et essayer de trouver des solutions.

9741             Donc, il y avait un certain ‑‑ excusez le terme anglais ‑‑ un workflow de toute cette information‑là, parce que le but, c'est de s'améliorer continuellement là‑dedans.

9742             Et probablement, il y a des erreurs qui ont été très, très, très difficiles à corriger, ce serait pas possible, mais si tout le monde est conscient de ça, si les sourds sont conscients de ça, c'est plus acceptable ce type d'erreur là aussi.  Vous comprenez?

9743             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Oui.

9744             Je vais quitter le sous‑titrage pour parler ‑‑ bien, en fait, c'est un peu de sous‑titrage ‑‑ mais pour parler, plutôt, de la mise en ligne des émissions qui ont été produites par les radiodiffuseurs, parce que vous en parlez un peu dans votre soumission, et, Monsieur Dumouchel aussi, vous avez fait allusion au fait qu'il existait présentement des technologies, voire des logiciels, qui permettaient de mettre en ligne non seulement la vidéo et l'audio conventionnelles, mais, en plus, d'y associer soit le sous‑titre qui a déjà été produit ou la vidéodescription qui a déjà été produite.

9745             Est‑ce que vous pourriez nous donner un petit peu plus de détail, s'il vous plaît?

9746             M. DUMOUCHEL : Concernant le sous‑titrage, vous parlez en ligne là, vous parlez pour l'internet?

9747             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Sur internet.

9748             M. DUMOUCHEL : Sur internet.  O.K.

9749             Un des problèmes qu'il y avait pour le sous‑titrage, c'était les players, soit Windows Media Player et ainsi de suite.  C'était... on offre souvent la possibilité d'avoir le sous‑titre, mais ce n'est pas facile de le faire et ça ne fonctionne pas toujours.

9750             Nous, on a décidé de proposer quelque chose qui serait... une fenêtre qui serait rajoutée pardessus.  On ajoute une autre fenêtre.  Donc, peu importe l'ordinateur que vous avez, c'est comme ouvrir une autre fenêtre du browser là.

9751             Et ce qu'on a fait en sous‑titrage présentement, l'expérience ‑‑ on appelle ça un sous‑titrage collaboratif ‑‑ c'est de faire des outils pour que des gens, des bénévoles, puissent sous‑titrer manuellement et d'offrir ça à tout le monde, et le CRIM conserve ces sous‑titres là, et quand on veut voir un film de YouTube, on a les sous‑titres et on peut les afficher en même temps que la personne voit le...

9752             Donc, c'est une expérience qui a été financée en partie par le projet E‑Inclusion de Patrimoine canadien.

9753             Pour la vidéodescription, un des problèmes, c'était quand on a fait des sondages auprès des aveugles et des malvoyants, il y avait une caractéristique qu'ils recherchaient, ces gens‑là, c'est le niveau de vidéodescription.  Certains aimaient avoir beaucoup d'information, d'autres moins d'information.

9754             Donc, on a développé un outil que j'ai mentionné, Video Description Player, qui peut donner le niveau de vidéodescription qu'on veut avoir.  Et ça, comment on classifie ces niveaux‑là, c'est sous forme de thèmes, et ça, c'est par des études qu'on a faites.

9755             Quand je parlais tantôt d'une norme en vidéodescription, donc, on a fait des expériences, des sondages avec des aveugles, et on a trouvé une norme, puis on a déterminé certaines caractéristiques, puis on peut les afficher ou non ces caractéristiques selon notre volonté.

9756             L'autre produit qu'on est en train de finaliser ‑‑ puis en mars, ça sera terminé ‑‑ c'est... je vous mentionnais tantôt, la stratégie, c'est de développer les outils pour produire la vidéodescription à moindre coût.  Donc, on a développé un de ces produits‑là qui nous permet de localiser les endroits où on peut insérer la vidéodescription.  Il y a même un synthétiseur vocal pour faire la vidéodescription.

9757             On a même fait la vidéodescription entièrement automatisée, mais c'est un produit de recherche.  Donc, ça ne pourrait pas être quelque chose qui... mais on a fait les premières expériences dans ce sens‑là.

9758             Mais là, l'outil qu'on propose, c'est quelque chose... c'est un outil pour accélérer, réduire les coûts, somme toute, de la production de la vidéodescription.

9759             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : J'ai deux questions de suivi.  On va commencer par la vidéodescription.

9760             Quand vous dites qu'il y aurait une réduction des coûts, présentement, ce qu'on nous cite régulièrement comme coûts de production de vidéodescription, c'est environ $1 750 de l'heure pour la production d'une oeuvre francophone.

9761             Quand vous parlez de réduction, vous parlez de quel ordre de réduction de coûts?

9762             M. DUMOUCHEL : On est un centre de recherche.  Ce n'est pas tellement les coûts que le temps de réduction qu'on regarde.  La règle du pouce dans ce milieu‑là, on parle pour une heure de film, ça prend 35 heures pour faire une vidéodescription, et on n'a pas encore évalué combien on pourrait réduire ça.

9763             On l'a fait, par contre, avec... je vous parlais du projet E‑Inclusion, on est des partenaires.  Et on est en train de le faire aussi avec l'ASET, qui pourrait expérimenter notre système.

9764             Donc, je n'ai pas la réponse actuellement pour ça, mais notre but, c'est de réduire la production... le temps de production.

9765             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Donc, le temps de production, qui, finalement, va réduire le coût total de la description d'une oeuvre?

9766             M. DUMOUCHEL : C'est ça.

9767             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Et au niveau du sous‑titrage sur internet, vous avez dit que c'était une deuxième fenêtre qui apparaissait.

9768             Est‑ce que c'est une fenêtre qui est superposée à la première ou c'est une fenêtre qui...

9769             M. DUMOUCHEL : C'est une fenêtre où on peut... on peut la placer où on veut.

9770             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : On peut la placer où on veut.  Parfait!

9771             Monsieur McNicoll, vous vouliez ajouter quelque chose.

9772             M. McNICOLL : J'ai perdu mon fil, je m'excuse.

9773             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Vous aurez l'occasion d'y revenir, je peux vous le garantir.

9774             Bon, encore une fois, Monsieur Dumouchel, vous avez devancé mes questions.

9775             Est‑ce que présentement, au CRIM... je reprends ma question.

9776             Vous avez fait des études, vous avez fait des recherches pour lesquelles vous avez eu des résultats au CRIM.

9777             Est‑ce qu'il y a certaines de ces études‑là et de ces résultats de recherche en sous‑titrage et en vidéodescription qui pourraient être déposés au dossier public du Conseil?

9778             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui, en public.  C'est public là.  C'est dans des... c'est peut‑être des articles qui sont peut‑être difficiles d'accessibilité là, mais...

9779             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : En termes scientifiques, vous voulez dire?

9780             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui.  Souvent, on va décrire comment le système fonctionne.  Donc, c'est comme... on rentre à l'intérieur de la boîte noire.  Donc, c'est peut‑être un peu plus difficile, mais oui, on est ouvert à ça.

9781             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Oui.  Bien, nous aussi, de notre côté, on aimerait bien si vous pouviez les déposer, on a du personnel qualifié.

9782             M. DUMOUCHEL : O.K.  Donc, ça me ferait plaisir.

9783             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Et est‑ce qu'il y a d'autres travaux et d'autres recherches, autres que ceux du CRIM, que vous pourriez nous recommander et qui pourraient être versés au dossier public de l'instance?

9784             M. DUMOUCHEL : Je vous mentionnais qu'en Europe, ils sont assez avancés, en Angleterre, au point de vue de la formation aussi.  En fait, peut‑être la meilleure façon, c'est de vous citer quelques conférences, et vous pouvez peut‑être aller chercher cette information‑là.

9785             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Oui, si vous pouviez, s'il vous plaît.

9786             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui.

9787             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Maintenant...

9788             Oui, Monsieur McNicoll.

9789             M. McNICOLL : O.K.  Je voulais revenir sur la téléphonie.  Je m'excuse parce que vous ne posez pas beaucoup de questions au niveau de la téléphonie.

9790             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : J'arrive.  Attendez que j'arrive à mes questions.

9791             M. McNICOLL : O.K.

9792             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Je vais y venir, et si je ne touche pas le sujet dont vous vouliez me parler, vous pourrez élaborer.

9793             Au niveau des processus de consultation, pouvez‑vous m'expliquer, autant le RQST que le CRIM, comment est‑ce que vous vous y prenez justement pour faire vos consultations avec les groupes d'intérêt lorsque vous développez la technologie pour vous assurer que le produit est conforme aux attentes et aux besoins des gens?

9794             M. McNICOLL : En premier, je consulte les associations.  Eux m'invitent à faire une conférence dans leur région, et dans leur région, j'essaie de ramasser les informations, par exemple, sur leurs problèmes.

9795             Comme vous savez, le sous‑titrage par satellite est un problème majeur pour les régions éloignées parce que le signal se perd.  O.K.  Alors, les gens pensent que c'est Radio‑Canada ou TVA qui sous‑titrent mal.  Alors, moi, je ramasse ces données‑là.

9796             Je leur donne aussi de l'information comment procéder à une plainte, à un développement ou des choses comme ça.

9797             Aussi, je ramasse les frustrations causées par les types de sous‑titrage qui ne sont pas adaptés quoi que ce soit.

9798             Ensuite, jusqu'à l'année dernière, je travaillais avec chaque télédiffuseur, puis je discutais du problème.  Je me suis aperçu que c'était un disque qui tournait dans le vide, comme ça, j'ai arrêté.

9799             Maintenant, je voudrais... pour savoir si c'est vraiment un problème technique, c'est‑tu vraiment un problème qui est hors du contrôle des télédiffuseurs, puis tout ça, j'explique la situation au CRIM, et CRIM développe des outils qui permettent de corriger la problématique.  Et moi, j'évalue si le problème est réglé ou s'il y a d'autre chose à développer.

9800             Un exemple.  Le sous‑titrage en direct, on m'a posé beaucoup de questions : comment... où est le sous‑titrage, combien de mots/minute qu'on devrait faire, puis tout ça.  Alors, c'est une consultation constante avec la demande des associations et de tous les individus, mais je travaille toujours en équipe.

9801             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE : Et est‑ce que vous pourriez nous soumettre la liste des associations que vous contactez comme ça sur une base régulière et avec qui vous donnez des présentations, des conférences?

9802             M. McNICOLL : Il n'y a pas de problème.

9803             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Merci beaucoup.

9804             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Pour le CRIM, pour mon projet dans le réseau de recherche, on a engagé deux personnes ressources.  Il y a Richard qui est dans le projet et qui peut valider nos travaux.  Pour la vidéodescription, c'est Anne Joly, qui était avant à l'INCA, qui fait partie du projet aussi, comme employée dans le projet.

9805             Et une fois par année, on présente nos résultats devant toute la communauté et on invite le CQDA, on invite l'AMEC...  L'an passé, il y avait même deux personnes du CRTC qui est venu présenter... madame Noël puis (inaudible) qui sont venus présenter...

9806             On essaie de réunir tout le monde qui sont intéressés dans ce milieu‑là, les télédiffuseurs, les... aussi le CRTC et les chercheurs de plusieurs universités.  Et il y avait même madame Debbie Fels du Centre Ryerson que vous avez mentionnée tantôt, qui est venue présenter aussi ses travaux.

9807             On essaie de stimuler ça, l'échange entre chercheurs et industriels et on va le refaire cette année, au mois de mars.

9808             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Et est‑ce que c'est l'occasion à ce moment‑là non seulement d'évaluer le progrès qui a été fait jusqu'à ce moment, au moment des consultations, mais est‑ce que c'est aussi une opportunité pour vous de sonder le terrain et de voir ce qui serait nécessaire...

9809             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Oui.

9810             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: ... pour le futur?

9811             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Oui.

9812             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Oui.

9813             M. DUMOUCHEL:  Oui.  Et ça n'empêche pas que, comme le prototype qu'on fait pour la vidéodescription, que de travailler de concert avec des gens du milieu comme la SETTE, dans ce milieu, dans ce contexte‑là.

9814             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Alors, je vous remercie.

9815             La téléphonie...  Monsieur McNicoll, je vais commencer la discussion avec une question qui fait référence à une mention que vous avez faite.  Vous avez parlé des téléscripteurs qui ne fonctionnaient pas sous IP... sous IP.

9816             Moi, ce que j'aimerais savoir, c'est si, du même souffle, vous proposez la mise en oeuvre d'un service relais par IP...  Où est‑ce que vous voulez en venir, là, avec ce commentaire‑là?

9817             M. MCNICOLL:  Écoutez, je regardais tantôt mes confrères aveugles, malvoyants qui avaient la même situation avec le téléphone.  C'est que les entreprises adaptent plein de choses, mais ne développent pas.

9818             L'ATS :  qu'est‑ce qui est arrivé avec l'appareil téléphonique pour les sourds...?  Qu'est‑ce qui est arrivé, c'était un produit qui vient d'un outil de guerre pour les sous‑marins.  C'est le télex, O.K.?

9819             Le télex, là, ils ont développé l'ATS sur la forme des Touchtone(ph), O.K.?  Alors, l'alphabet qui est sur le téléscripteur, c'est un peu comme si tu taperais sur un téléphone, O.K.?

9820             Et cet outil‑là n'a jamais évolué pendant 25, 30 ans.  Cet outil‑là, c'est comme si on dirait:  On n'a pas besoin de développer, ça fonctionne.  Mais le problème avec cet outil‑là, c'est qu'il faut toujours communiquer avec un téléscripteur, O.K.?  Téléscripteur/téléscripteur, téléscripteur/service relais Bell, t'as jamais d'autonomie.

9821             C'est pour ça qu'on dit que l'appareil est désuet.  C'est que moi, si je suis pris dans le trafic, puis je veux avertir ma femme que je vais être en retard, ou ma femme est en train... elle est à la veille d'accoucher, elle veut m'appeler d'urgence, qu'est‑ce qui arrive?  On n'a rien pour ça, O.K.?

9822             C'est pour ça que moi, je veux que dans le futur, il faut absolument développer la même chose que tout le monde a, sauf les sourds puis les aveugles, O.K.?

9823             Parce que moi, le niveau de développement qui se fait actuellement, le service relais vidéo, je suis plus ou moins d'accord avec ce système‑là.  Pourquoi?  C'est que ça prend un ordinateur, puis que l'ordinateur, tu ne peux pas le promener n'importe où.  Encore là, on va être à la merci d'un ordinateur qu'on va garder pendant 25 ans.

9824             Ça n'a pas d'allure, madame. C'est que l'autonomie entière d'une personne handicapée c'est la même chose que vous.  Je ne veux pas de privilège, je ne veux pas d'avantages, mais je veux que la réalité soit faite.

9825             Actuellement on parle de 3G.  Le 3G, c'est ce qui permet aussi l'information d'image accélérée.  Alors, vu que l'image devient accélérée, c'est très très intéressant pour les personnes sourdes, parce qu'ils peuvent mettre leur cellulaire, parler en signes ou parler puis faire sous‑titrer, des choses comme ça.  L'outil leur permet de faire ça.  Pierre est d'accord avec ça.  Alors, pourquoi s'en tenir à hier quand qu'on peut aller à demain?  O.K.?

9826             IP... IP, comme Vidéotron, je disais quand ils ont sorti le service IP à Vidéotron, il n'y avait pas de service relais Bell.  Il a fallu leur taper sur la tête pour leur dire que c'était obligatoire.  La deuxième chose, c'est (inaudible) mais déjà tout le monde... vous payez tout le monde pour le service relais Bell, pour les handicapés ici.  Bien, vous payez un frais mensuel de 0.16 $, je pense, par mois obligatoire, O.K., que tu aies un cellulaire ou un téléphone ou n'importe quoi, (inaudible) avoir du service.

9827             Ensuite quand on expliquait un petit peu à Vidéotron, c'est parce que je le sais pas si c'est... vous êtes au courant, il y a des sourds qui recevaient des comptes mensuels de 400 $ par mois, 350 $ par mois, juste pour utiliser le service à IP(ph).  Alors, les compagnies de câblodistributeurs sont très mal informées des règles de la téléphonie.

9828             Alors il y a eu des chicanes mémorables, il y a eu des pleurs, des gens qui ont été forcés de payer.  Il y en a qui ont été remboursés, finalement, mais ça a pris quasiment un an et demi avant que Vidéotron reconnaisse son erreur.

9829             Là, asteure, Vidéotron, il est obligé de nous donner un service de relais Bell.  Comme ça, le IP, c'est une téléphonie qui se développe très rapidement, sauf que le service, lui, il ne suit pas.

9830             Moi, j'appelle des fois, des gens importants, comme le 9‑1‑1, quand des gens que je m'occupe sont malades puis tout ça.  T'appelles à 9‑1‑1 puis ça prend 10 minutes pour me répondre, madame.  Bien, c'est frustrant, O.K.?  Là, il y a quelque chose qui ne fonctionne pas.

9831             Vous savez que le service 9‑1‑1 par (inaudible) n'est pas disponible partout, O.K.?  C'est juste les grands centres qui offrent le service 9‑1‑1.  Alors, à Montréal, il y a le 9‑1‑1; moi, je demeure en banlieue.

9832             À Châteauguay, à Laval, à Saint‑Hubert, toutes les villes de banlieue n'ont aucun service 9‑1‑1 par téléscripteur.  Alors, à Châteauguay, quand j'ai besoin du 9‑1‑1, j'appelle la téléphoniste puis je demande le 9‑1‑1 de Montréal...  C'est pas normal, tu sais?  C'est... il y a quelque chose qui n'est pas logique.

9833             Alors, moi, je vous dis que pour qu'une personne handicapée soit vraiment autonome, à part égale, il faut avoir la même chose que vous.

9834             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Donc, si je résume, au niveau des problèmes qu'il y a présentement en téléphonie que vous avez identifiés, au fur et...

9835             Le premier, ça serait qu'au fur et à mesure que les entreprises de câblodistribution se lancent dans la téléphonie, il faudrait qu'elles soient très bien au courant de leurs obligations et dès le départ.

9836             Ensuite, au niveau des services d'urgence, l'utilisation des téléscripteurs par les agences de services d'urgence publics, vous semblez me dire que parfois ça fait défaut.

9837             Et finalement, au niveau de l'autonomie des télécommunications, vous êtes d'avis qu'on ne peut pas s'en tenir à une ancienne technologie et qu'au fur et à mesure du développement des nouveaux appareils, que ça soit mobile ou fixe, que les questions d'accessibilité devraient être considérées dès le départ.

9838             M. MCNICOLL:  Effectivement, c'est la clé du succès.  O.K.?  Je ne comprends pas que les compagnies qui développent des produits les testent pas avant.

9839             Puis tu sais, les personnes handicapées, on est une grosse population, on est à peu près 11 pour‑cent des Canadiens qui sont handicapés, puis il y a rien qui se développe.  Il faut toujours chialer, crier après eux autres pour développer.  Et souvent, ils (inaudible) dans un coin, (inaudible) on peut te donner des technologies désuètes qui... on peut pas... qu'on est capable d'utiliser, mais que c'est non compatible avec les autres technologies.

9840             CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE:  Je vous remercie monsieur McNicoll et monsieur Dumouchel.

9841             Monsieur le Président, je n'ai plus d'autre question.

9842             LE PRÉSIDENT:  Merci.

9843             Est‑ce qu'il y a des questions dans les régions?  Conseillère Duncan?

9844             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Mr. Chairman, yes, I have a question.

9845             I wanted to refer back to your comment, Mr. McNicoll, about the internet, and what I understood you to say was that ‑‑ obviously captioning is not present at the moment and that there's no technical limitation that you're aware of preventing it.

9846             I'm wondering, I think we heard from the broadcasters the other day that there was cost involved in getting services that are already captioned on linear broadcasting, carried on the internet with captions.

9847             I'm interested in your comments on that.

9848             M. MCNICOLL:  Écoutez, la technologie du sous‑titrage, ce n'est pas une technologie qui existe, qui est nouvelle.  Elle existe depuis longtemps.

9849             Un vidéo... une vidéo sur Internet, un exemple.  Je regarde à la télévision, le bulletin de nouvelles de RDS qui est sous‑titré transmis directement sur leur site Web pas sous‑titré.  Il est déjà sous‑titré, ce vidéo‑là.  Comme ça, c'est juste une... une question technique pour la faire démarrer ou quelque chose comme ça.

9850             Monsieur Dumouchel, tantôt, il a parlé de logiciels libres.  O.K., le CRIM, c'est vraiment un organisme qui se sert beaucoup beaucoup sur le logiciel libre.  Si les compagnies de télévision, ils auraient contacté le CRIM ou une autre compagnie, selon leur goût, je suis certain que le problème serait réglé immédiatement.

9851             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  So just to make sure that I understand, then, if the program is already captioned and has been aired, for example, by CTV or RDS, as you use in your example, you see no problem why that program couldn't be put on their website with captions.

9852             M. MCNICOLL:  Effectivement.

9853             Pierre?

9854             MR. DUMOUCHEL:  I might add something.  If it's a real‑time program on the internet, you will not want to put a thing with errors on there, so you will have to do corrections of the text.  So you could have an additional cost there, if you want to put real‑time programs forever on the internet.

9855             We have seen that thing and we have developed a tool to produce the perfect one ‑‑ perfect closed captioning, subtitling in that case, and it takes ‑‑ for one hour it takes one hour to produce it.

9856             So it has reduced the cost also of producing ‑‑ of collecting the former closed captioning.

9857             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay, thank you very much, both of you.

9858             That is my only question, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you.

9859             THE CHAIRMAN:  Thank you, Commissioner Duncan.

9860             Commissioner Molnar?

9861             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I have no questions, thank you.

9862             THE CHAIRMAN:  Thank you.

9863             Commissioner Simpson?

9864             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  No questions, thank you.

9865             THE CHAIRMAN:  Thank you.

9866             Commissioner Denton?

9867             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  No questions, thank you.

9868             THE CHAIRMAN:  Staff?  Legal?

9869             Me LEHOUX : Oui.  Merci, Monsieur le Président.

9870             Monsieur McNicoll, j'aimerais clarifier avec vous la demande préliminaire que vous avez faite au début de votre présentation.

9871             Donc, si on comprend bien, vous demandez au Conseil de reporter la date de dépôt du rapport final de l'ACR au 15 janvier, et vous avez soumis que vous n'aviez pas assez de temps afin d'organiser la séance de validation des nouvelles normes, laquelle est prévue pour le 8 décembre avec l'ACR, et on note bien que le 8 décembre est la date qui correspond à la journée d'élection au Québec.

9872             Est‑ce que c'est bien ça votre demande, première des choses?

9873             M. McNICOLL : En premier, en ce qui concerne le rapport de normes, même s'il n'est pas encore validé par les sourds, il est à peu près accepté à 99 pour cent.  C'est une réplique de ce qui a été fait en 2000, sauf que les télédiffuseurs veulent être assurés.

9874             Alors, ce n'est pas un problème pour moi si vous voulez avoir le rapport préliminaire ou quasiment fini, il va être déposé en temps et lieu.

9875             Sauf que pour les groupes de discussion, ce n'est pas un sondage qu'on fait, c'était des groupes de discussion.  Alors, j'ai besoin de temps.  La particularité des personnes sourdes, c'est de trouver des interprètes, de former des animateurs, de former en fait de sous‑titrage ou la façon de penser des personnes sourdes puis tout ça pour que le résultat soit confirmé et assuré pour le futur.

9876             C'est sûr que si vous ne faites pas ça, vous manquez encore le bateau parce que ça va être juste des questions et réponses.  On ne veut pas que ce soit des questions et réponses.  On veut absolument que les gens travaillent.  Ils sont payés pour travailler.  On va travailler.  Ça prend beaucoup plus de temps et d'organisation.

9877             Me LEHOUX : J'ai peut‑être juste une petite question pour bien comprendre encore.

9878             Donc, vous vous engagez maintenant à faire la validation des normes le 8 décembre, et donc, l'ACR sera en mesure de déposer le 15 décembre, mais, par contre, votre commentaire, c'est plus par rapport aux groupes de discussion dans le futur; c'est bien ça?

9879             M. McNICOLL : C'est juste pour confirmer la validité des normes, puis moi, comme je vous dis, j'ai 27 ans d'expérience de la situation.  J'ai déjà fait un sondage auprès de 1 200 personnes.  C'était à peu près la même chose.  Les petits changements sont mineurs.  C'est surtout qu'ils concernent l'interne.

9880             Alors, moi, ce que je veux faire le 15 décembre ou avant le 15 décembre, ce que je veux faire, c'est que les gens sont d'accord ou en désaccord sur certaines petites choses.  Mais je ne vois pas de problème, moi personnellement, mais c'est que les télédiffuseurs veulent s'assurer qu'ils sont sur le bon chemin.

9881             Me LEHOUX : O.K.  La deuxième des choses, je veux juste vérifier avec vous et monsieur Dumouchel que vous serez en mesure de déposer vos engagements pour le 3 décembre.

9882             M. DUMOUCHEL : Vous parlez d'engagements, les documents, ainsi de suite là?

9883             Me LEHOUX : Tout à fait, en réponse aux questions de madame Lamarre.

9884             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui.  Donc, le 3 décembre, ça nous reporte à mercredi prochain.

9885             Me LEHOUX : Oui.

9886             M. DUMOUCHEL : Oui.  Oui.

9887             Me LEHOUX : Parfait!  Merci beaucoup.

9888             LE PRÉSIDENT : Merci, Monsieur McNicoll et Monsieur Dumouchel, pour vos présentations ce matin.

9889             I am going to make a recommendation now that rather than breaking for lunch, we actually introduce Star Choice and Shaw Communications, allow them to make their presentation for 15 minutes and then take lunch break at 12:45, and that way we can move forward at 2 o'clock after the lunch break with questions from the Commission.

9890             THE SECRETARY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

9891             I would now call on Shaw Communications/Star Choice to approach the presentation table.

‑‑‑ Pause

9892             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Madam Secretary, do you want to introduce the next panel.

9893             THE SECRETARY:  Yes.  Our next panel is Shaw Communications/Star Choice.

9894             Please introduce yourselves and your colleagues and you will have 15 minutes for your presentation.


9895             M. BRAZEAU:  Thank you.

9896             Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and commissioners.  My name is Jean Brazeau.  I am Vice‑President of Telecommunications Regulatory Affairs at Shaw Communications Inc.

9897             With me here today are Michael Ferras, Vice‑President of Regulatory Affairs for Shaw, and Cynthia Rathwell, Vice‑President of Regulatory Affairs and Programming at Star Choice.

9898             Also here on my right is Dean Shaikh, Director of Regulatory Affairs.

9899             We certainly appreciate the opportunity to take part in this very important proceeding.

9900             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Has Ms Rathwell disassociated herself from you because there is a seat in the middle?

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

9901             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Are you trying to draw a wedge here between Star Choice ‑‑

9902             MS RATHWELL:  It is a function of structural separation.

9903             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

9904             MR. BRAZEAU:  We abide by all your rules and regulations.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

9905             MR. BRAZEAU:  Shaw is certainly dedicated to providing all our customers with access to the best choice, value and quality of service.  It is an integral part of the company's DNA.

9906             Responding to the unique demands of our customers with disabilities is therefore very important to us.  As such, Shaw fully supports the objectives of this proceeding.

9907             We have already learned a lot from this proceeding.  This public hearing is a critical step towards increasing collaboration that will lead to new initiatives.  We are confident that this process will result in the implementation of effective solutions to address accessibility within the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.

9908             As we consider new proposals to increase accessibility, we suggest that the Commission should be guided by the relevant policy objectives under the Broadcasting Act, which specifies that, and I quote:

"Programming accessible to disabled persons should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system as resources become available for the purpose." (As read)

9909             We suggest that the principle should be an important consideration for any new proposal or initiatives for both broadcasting and telecommunications services.

9910             The issues of implementing new proposals as resources become available is especially important to both the service provider and customer in considerations of today's economic climate.

9911             We suggest that the Commission must be careful not to impose substantial new costs or obligations on licensees or force BDU customers to assume substantial additional financial burdens.

9912             We agree that the industry and the Commission should be continually working towards addressing accessibility concerns and the Commission has recently taken significant steps to increase access to telecommunications and broadcasting services for persons with disabilities.

9913             For example, in May 2007, the Commission introduced a policy requiring broadcasters to increase closed captioning to 100 percent of the broadcast day and called on the industry to establish working groups to develop and implement measures to improve the quality of captioning.

9914             In July 2007, the Commission licensed The Accessible Channel, with mandatory digital basic distribution.

9915             In September 2007, the Commission introduced a policy governing the distribution of video description by cable, DTH and SRDU distribution undertakings.

9916             In January 2008, the Commission also approved the use of deferral account funds for certain initiatives to improve access to telecommunications services for persons with disabilities.

9917             MR. FERRAS:  In addition to fulfilling our regulatory requirements, Shaw and Star Choice have also taken further steps, and we are exploring new initiatives to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities.

9918             For example, Shaw Cable is able to pass through described video to analog and digital customers.  Shaw currently provides descriptive video services on 26 channels.

9919             We will ensure that a Shaw or Star Choice technician installs the set‑top box and demonstrates how to access described video programming, at no charge, for customers who are visually impaired.

9920             Shaw Cable and Star Choice deliver 100 percent of all closed captioning on an unedited basis on both standard and high‑definition video.

9921             Since March 2007, Star Choice has offered customers an alternative satellite receiver remote control, which is helpful to customers with visual and mobility impairments.  This special remote features over‑sized buttons, back‑lighting, wide button spacing, and a centred ergonomic design.

9922             Customers with disabilities are provided with exceptional customer service at Shaw and Star Choice.  All CSRs, or customer service representatives, are trained to answer questions concerning closed captioning and described video.  Initiatives are under way to train CSRs to answer concerns with respect to accessibility to Shaw telecom services.

9923             CSRs are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

9924             In 2005, Shaw became one of the first cable companies to provide monthly bills in Braille or large‑format printing, and to provide online billing, using a variety of technologies, including Text‑to‑Speech software.

9925             Our websites are under continuous maintenance to ensure accessibility for our customers, and recently we added a special needs support/customer care section on

9926             As a direct result of this process, we are developing spots to run on the local avails that will promote the accessibility features of our services.

9927             Shaw also provides directory assistance to all telephony customers, and free call‑completion to all customers who identify themselves as persons requiring assistance.

9928             MS RATHWELL:  Through the efforts of the Commission, as well as industry initiatives, Canada is a world leader in providing services to persons with disabilities.

9929             We would like to reiterate the comments of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters that, as a result of the entire industry's investments in closed captioning and described video, only the publicly funded BBC in the U.K. compares to Canada.  We are far ahead of the rest of Europe, the United States, and Australia.  Canada should be proud of its accomplishments.

9930             We agree, however, that the entire industry can and should do even more.  Going forward, the best means by which to further increase accessibility is through greater consultation.

9931             Throughout this proceeding one recurring theme has been the need for increased cooperation and coordination through working groups.  We believe that a working group approach is preferable to other proposals, such as new regulations, new legislation, or the establishment of a national fund administered by a new bureaucracy, which may be expensive and difficult to administer.

9932             We share the view expressed by others in this proceeding that any new initiatives must strike a balance among four factors ‑‑ the demonstrated needs of persons with disabilities, the impact on service providers, the availability of technology, and the cost of implementation.

9933             We would add that, with today's growing economic uncertainty, the financial impact on all customers must be a fundamental consideration in satisfying the diverse needs of customers with accessibility issues.

9934             MR. BRAZEAU:  Finally, Mr. Chairman, Shaw is committed to meeting the accessibility needs for persons with disabilities.  The creation of working groups, with Commission participation, we believe, will lead to the development of meaningful action plans that will address real needs, with targeted and effective solutions.

9935             Thank you for your attention.  We look forward to answering your questions.

9936             THE CHAIRPERSON:  After lunch.  We will take a lunch break now until 2:00 p.m.  Thank you.

9937             THE SECRETARY:  I would like to note one small correction.  The list of 21 November undertakings is CRTC Exhibit No. 5, not No. 3, as I mentioned this morning.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1240 / Suspension à 1240

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1402 / Reprise à 1402

9938             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Order please.  We will begin the afternoon session.

9939             Madam Secretary, are there any opening comments?

9940             THE SECRETARY:  I have no comments at this time.

9941             THE CHAIRPERSON:  All right.  We will start the questioning of this panel with Commissioner Simpson.

9942             Are you there, Commissioner Simpson?

9943             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I am present and accounted for, Mr. Commissioner ‑‑ or Vice‑Chair, rather.

9944             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Excellent.

9945             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much, first of all, for coming back and participating in this extended hearing.

9946             I would like to start my questioning on the wider side of the scale and deal with issues of governance, and the issue of working groups, and what is presently being applied by Shaw with respect to its participation in working groups.

9947             Then, later in my questioning, we will get into some of the finer points of technical.

9948             In your opening comments you very eloquently suggested that Shaw's preference would be for organizations such as yours to participate in working groups, either regional or national working groups.  I was wondering if you could tell this hearing what working groups you are presently involved in.

9949             I should imagine that one of them is the working group involved in closed captioning, but I would like a bit of a top‑down view as to what groups you currently participate in on an ongoing basis.

9950             MR. FERRAS:  Perhaps I could start.

9951             One of the things we are saying is that, as we get involved with this hearing and as we all become sensitized to the issues ‑‑ and it has been an excellent process in that regard ‑‑ Shaw is really looking forward to participating in whatever working groups, as an industry and as a sector, come forward and are suggested ‑‑ particular suggestions from the groups.

9952             Up to this point we have been involved with the CNIB.  We have a relationship there, based out of Calgary, where they have been working with Shaw since 2005, when we first introduced our bills and our invoices in alternative formats, such as Braille and a larger sized font.

9953             So we have an ongoing relationship there.

9954             As well, whenever we need something from the CNIB with respect to some of the things that we are developing and thinking about, our customer care group in Calgary has a good relationship there, and we intend to expand on that.

9955             I am just talking about that one particular group.

9956             That is one example of what we have done to date.

9957             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much.

9958             If I were to go to your website or to your annual report, or other corporate documents, would I find anywhere evidence of Shaw's commitment, specifically with respect to the disability community?

9959             I ask this because, in corporate governance today, many corporations are making commitments, utterances, with respect to their commitment to going green, with respect to First Nations, and I am wondering if this is an avenue that Shaw has stepped forward in.

9960             MR. BRAZEAU:  On corporate governance, I don't think that we explicitly make any commitment, but I think, generally, as we indicated, Shaw is certainly committed to its customers, and this hearing has certainly made us aware of some of the challenges that some customers have, and we are committed to ensuring that all customers have accessibility to our services.

9961             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.

9962             In your opening comments you indicated, as did many, if not most groups that we talked to on the supplier side of the equation, that working group relationships, self‑motivated efforts by corporations in working groups and the like, would be far more preferable than for the CRTC, or any government organization, to have to resort to legislation.

9963             With respect to the point that regulation is not a preferred means, I was curious as to how many people in your organization you have on the regulatory side dealing with regulation, versus those dealing with issues of disability.

9964             MR. BRAZEAU:  I think you are looking at the regulatory team here, so that answers your first question.

9965             As to persons dealing with the issues of people with disabilities, it is hard to come up with one specific number.

9966             We have all of our customer service people trained in responding to the needs of customers with disabilities.  We have a number of people on the technical side who also deal with these issues.

9967             So it would be difficult to come up with one specific number that compares those ‑‑

9968             Mike may have ‑‑

9969             MR. FERRAS:  I think it sort of lends itself to a customer care response.

9970             Our approach has been, as Jean mentioned earlier, that the customer is always first, and every customer is always first with Shaw.  Our approach on the customer service side is that every CSR that we have receives training in these areas, and is made aware of the products and the services that we have.

9971             We do not have, sort of, a special needs person or group of people.  We expect all of our front‑line people to be able to respond to these kinds of questions or issues.

9972             When we do have problems, it is a very quick chain of command, all the way up to the Vice‑President of Customer Care ‑‑ to the President, actually ‑‑ and these issues are dealt with.

9973             Most recently, we have implemented, as you heard in our opening remarks, a special needs section under the customer care section of our website, and that is a very useful tool.

9974             We had that internally, that our CSRs would ‑‑ if someone called and they wanted to know, for example, how to access described video, they would be able to respond to that, because we had a data system and a screen that the customer service representative would refer to and be able to walk the customer through.

9975             Again, as a result of this hearing, we have made that information ‑‑ it probably should have been there, but we put that information onto our website, and it tells our customers what we have in terms of accessibility services, whether it's closed captioning ‑‑ what it is, and how do you access it.

9976             It's the same with described video ‑‑ what it is, and how do you access it ‑‑ as well as some of the other services that we offer.

9977             So we are moving in steps toward making sure that we are doing a more comprehensive job.

9978             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you, Mr. Ferras.

9979             The regulatory group that is in front of me is an organization that reports to whom?

9980             What is your direct reporting line within the organization?

9981             Is it to a peer group, department heads, or to the executive committee?

9982             How does that work?

9983             MR. FERRAS:  We would report to our Senior Vice‑President of Regulatory Affairs, and then, from the Senior Vice‑President, to the CEO and the Board.

9984             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.  I will tell you where I am going with this.  What I have been seeing ‑‑ and, again, I can't speak for the other commissioners ‑‑ is a very laudable collection of efforts at the customer service and support level by organizations, and I mean that very sincerely.

9985             What I am finding, however ‑‑ and it is concerning to me ‑‑ is that the initiatives for a lot of disability services, to my mind, are not starting at a level high enough up in the organization that they can percolate laterally, and then down into the operating divisions, which may be part of the causal circumstance that I am seeing, where the penny is not dropping to the delivery level of service.

9986             I have seen this for the last week and a half, and I am curious, moving over to the individuals that you have working on issues of disability, whether they have a forum within your organization to bring the needs of the disability customers that you have to the attention of the operating managers, for example, in procurement and in website design.

9987             I am wondering if you could explain to me how, in your organization, it works that these needs get built into the specs of your workaday business, and maybe some areas that you might suggest would be improvements.

9988             MR. FERRAS:  I could start, and I could give you one example, but before I do, I think that, in terms of the structure of the company, with our vice‑presidents of the various operations, and customer care, and marketing, that is a very close group.  They are in constant contact with each other.  They meet on a regular basis, and they are constantly reviewing the issues that they experience in the field.

9989             So I think that there is a pretty good flow of information, and it really is true when we say that this whole process ‑‑ we feel, as a company, that we have actually been mindful of accessibility issues.

9990             For example, back in the eighties, Shaw was one of the very first contributing founders to the National Broadcast Reading Service, to get that service up and going.

9991             In the nineties, we used to provide closed captioned converters to people who didn't have a television that had the MTS/SAP option.

9992             More recently there was a software upgrade to the Motorola box, which was finally implemented this fall.  That was a problem with the labelling.  We felt that it was difficult ‑‑

9993             Our managers and our front‑line people brought this issue to us, and they said, "Look, this is a problem.  When the person goes to put on the described video, they have to go through numerous steps," and at the end of the steps a tag came up and it said "Portuguese".  When you hit "Portuguese", that's when you got your described video.

9994             It wasn't a great situation.

9995             That was brought to our attention by our customers, to our front‑line people, and our engineering group and our customer care group worked for about three years, trying to get that problem fixed with our set‑top suppliers, and that was finally resolved this fall.  I think it was early November.

9996             That's important, because that fix fixes not just the Shaw situation, but it applies to just about anyone in the industry who uses that Motorola box.

9997             I just use that as one example of where an issue came to us, and we set out to resolve it, and did.

9998             MR. BRAZEAU:  To add, Commissioner Simpson, we certainly understand, for example, at Shaw, the demands that we have, and we have very few complaints, and there have been no real requests for some of these services.  So it is difficult to get the attention of the company.

9999             We still need to respond to a lot of other demands from all of our customers, and sometimes it's the squeaky wheel that gets all of the attention, and, unfortunately, sometimes these issues do not get the attention that they certainly deserve.

10000            This proceeding has certainly made a lot of the issues ‑‑ we have been made aware of some of these issues, and we went back to some of our senior people, and they are now looking at how we provide service to all of our customers.

10001            MS RATHWELL:  On the Star Choice side ‑‑ I thought I would add one thing, in terms of the senior level involvement in dealing with any customer issues.

10002            As I think we have pointed out many times to the Commission, and also in our remarks, customers are the central focus of the organization, even for the regulatory groups.  We don't consider regulatory to be divorced from everyday customer service needs.

10003            At Star Choice, for example, our website has an immediate e‑mail link to the VP who is in charge of the everyday operations at Star Choice.  At the moment that he receives an e‑mail that he believes concerns regulatory, or any issue that has to do with a different department, whether it's customer service or whatever, at the highest VP level, we immediately are asked to respond to those directly.

10004            So although our CSRs and TSRs, like Shaw's, are similarly trained to deal with complaints they receive at the ground level, there is also very high‑level access by any individual customer to any vice‑president at Star Choice, and we respond to them within a day or two, usually directly to their issue.

10005            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you, Ms Rathwell.

10006            In the area of equipment procurement, is there a protocol?

10007            I heard from your submission and other information that I have that you are actively working on certain solutions ‑‑ I am thinking of controllers for set‑top boxes and so on, but ‑‑

10008            Still staying at the broad level for one last question, is there a disability protocol that is built into your procurement process, so that it's one of the checklist items that is always automatically considered as you get into a new product or service?

10009            MR. FERRAS:  I think I would hesitate to say that there is a formal ‑‑ to date, that there has been a formal protocol that would go that way.  I think it is fair to say that, historically, we have been mindful of accessibility.

10010            A couple of examples are our involvement with NBRS, and we were the first company to offer alternative billing formats.

10011            As customer issues come forward, they get dealt with, but I think ‑‑ and we have all said this ‑‑ what this hearing has done is made sure now that every time there is an issue, in terms of moving forward with boxes and software, accessibility issues will be front and centre.

10012            I think we have been mindful, but I don't want to suggest that we have had a formal process where we tick the box off, and every time we make sure that we have been thinking of those issues.

10013            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.  I am very happy to hear you say that, because I think that some of the take‑aways from this exercise that I am going to be very happy with are in exactly what you pointed out, Mr. Ferras, which is moving mindsets, and getting the awareness for these types of issues moved a little higher up the food chain in terms of the decisioning, which can go a long way toward getting us out of what I see today, which are fixes, as you indicated, where the ball drops right to the floor, and when it bounces back up, you find yourself in a software fix, or a remedial measure to handle a customer ‑‑ I don't want to say complaint, but a customer need that was not previously planned for.

10014            That would be a huge step forward for us all.

10015            May I ask a question to see if there is corroboration here from what we have been hearing previously.

10016            A lot of the telcos and BDUs have been telling us that, as big or as small as they are relative to their peers within the country, Canada is not a big player in the equipment manufacturing world, and it has been tough to get the attention of your trusted suppliers on matters that even just support your commercial business case, let alone the issues of disability.

10017            Is this a correct statement?

10018            MR. BRAZEAU:  That would certainly be a correct statement.

10019            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  In other areas of best practices in your business, where you are looking for something unique from a commercial standpoint, have you found it valuable, or do you apply the methodology of trying to gang up on your supplier by forming buying groups or interest groups that have proved successful, which could also be applied to the issue of disability products?

10020            MR. BRAZEAU:  I am not aware of buying groups, or even discussions of forming buying groups.

10021            I think if you looked at the various technologies that the different cable companies are using, a lot of them would be very different.

10022            For example, we are very much a Motorola‑based company, and I think it would be different for the other cable companies, or for the other telephone companies.

10023            So I think that makes it very challenging to form any kind of alliance in order to gang up on a vendor and force the vendor to comply with some of the requirements that we think are worthwhile.

10024            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  But, at least, if we can put the question out and, as I said earlier, elevate the question and the decisioning.

10025            I am going to ask a few questions now about your website.

10026            One of the other areas that we are moving into is in the area where we are satisfying some of the needs of the disability community.  There have been several presenters that have indicated that what has been done for them hasn't been effectively communicated and the first area is to do with your website.

10027            We have asked many questions in this last week and a half about the relative costs that have been experienced by the presenters with respect to becoming fully compliant with W3C WCAG standards, and I was wondering if you could share with us the kind of costs that you have been incurring that will help us understand what burdens may be placed on other organizations in this country if those standards were more broadly met.

10028            MR. BRAZEAU:  We have certainly assessed how we compare on the W3C compliance level and it has been our conclusion that, like Rogers, we are close to meeting most of the compliance requirements.

10029            However, making that extra step to have 100 per cent compliance would be challenging and would be expensive.  I could not give you a number right now as to what would be the cost, but I know that any time you ask any IT guy for a cost estimate, you know it's a big number.  I think this would not be any different here.

10030            But also W3C is also, in our view, really about best practices and I think carriers need flexibility.  These standards will change and I would be a little concerned of tying us into a certain protocol or a certain standard that may or may not be the best standard going forward or in the near future.

10031            I think that as best practices as guidelines, very, very important.  I think we have to adhere to many of those.  But again, buying into that specific standard I would be very concerned about it.

10032            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.

10033            Also on the theme of better communication, with respect to usability training, Mr. Ferras had explained earlier that Shaw has a very robust and active training program for CSRs.

10034            Do you or are you contemplating or has it ever been considered the use of additional ‑‑ I'm thinking new media materials to support the information that the CSR has so that there could be more tools placed into the hands of the consumer?

10035            I'm thinking in the instance of additions to the website of new media that may contain instructions on the services you provide that are available in ASL, LSQ, signing by way of a small movie, or that perhaps could even be deployed on mobile devices as well and whether you are looking at any growth of the use of these kinds of tools and any of the other customer contact material that you put out?

10036            MR. FERRAS:  Well, I guess a couple of things.

10037            I guess our first tangible step that we have taken recently is the establishment of a special needs section on our web page under the customer care banner, which is a first step and it basically tells the customer what we have in terms of accessibility service:  like VoicePrint, what it is, how to get it; closed captioning, what it is, how to get it, for example, whether you are an analog customer, whether you are a digital customer; our online chat service where it is a real‑time text relationship with the CSR.

10038            That is something that we have done and that is just a first step.

10039            The other thing is that we are moving closer with groups like the CNIB to do sort of an accessibility audit of our website to see how functional it is.

10040            As Jean says, what we have been trying to do with our website is to have ‑‑ we know it is never going to be perfect and never going to be completely compliant because you are always behind the standard, even when you are trying to implement it, but to make sure that there is a high degree of workability and functionability in terms of the key components of that website, so that the key parts of it work with a text reader so that we have confidence that it is doing what it is supposed to be doing in most cases.

10041            In terms of some of our manuals that we have for our equipment, that will be able to be read with a text reader as well, and some of it is on our website for persons to access.

10042            The most recent thing as well ‑‑ and we mentioned this in our opening remarks; we are actually quite excited about this ‑‑ is we are building spots right now to use and run on our local avails, which are the spots that run on some of the U.S. specialty services.  That would be great.

10043            We are going to set out ‑‑ we are just doing the creative right now and we are hoping to have those up and running on both Star Choice and Shaw, hopefully in December, but it might be a bit ‑‑ it might be January.

10044            But those spots will be really important in presenting the information on not only the services that we have but filling that gap of we are doing these things but how do our customers find this out.  That is part of the gap we are trying to close.

10045            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much.  You just took away my best question, which was going to be the use of some of the avails because it seemed like such a logical thing to do.

10046            So my congratulations for taking that on.  I think it will be a big help.

10047            To finish off on the CSR training and tools, I am hearing that you are not going down that avenue right now with a lot of the options that are available to you, so you are placing a lot of the ‑‑ I may be putting words in your mouth here, but correct me if I'm wrong.  You are putting a lot of stock in the relationship between the CSR and the customer right now.

10048            Could you just tell me a little bit about what kind of training you do provide your CSRs and what you do to follow up on the issue of quality control of the information that they provide, just so that we have an understanding of how you mount the context and training for these CSRs.

10049            MS RATHWELL:  Well, at Star Choice the basic offerings for the disabled are described video functionality and closed captioning functionality.  Our CSRs and TSRs, as well as our third‑party installers, are all briefed on how to explain activation, the scope of the content available and any question that a customer may have in connection with that.

10050            We train them when they are first hired and we audit our own call center performance and customer service.

10051            But in addition it is notable that for three of the past four years Star Choice has won an award for the best customer call center service in the telecom industry in North America.  That is based on the findings of a large company, which is Service Quality Management, which surveys over the course of the year hundreds of users of a call center on the various ‑‑ you know, their rating of the various services that we provide.

10052            Granted, that is not a specific audit of those with special needs, but the fact that we won that award in our view validates the fact that we put an appropriate amount of both confidence and give an appropriate amount of credit to our customer service and technical representatives for the service that they give.

10053            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Does that answer apply to the whole organization or just to Star Choice?

10054            I'm sorry, I may have missed that in your answer.

10055            MR. FERRAS:  Well, Shaw hasn't been as fortunate as Star Choice in winning customer service awards, but we think we are right behind them.

10056            In terms of the training, as I say, it is ongoing.  There is an initial orientation.  I think a lot of our employees start off with ‑‑ they have to go to a training session called Shaw U., which stands for Shaw University, and as part of that they get a complete orientation of the company and what our mission and our vision is and from there the customer service training includes the accessibility dimension.

10057            Particularly now we are committed to doing refreshers, and as we expand the customer website and drill deeper into providing more information and closing that gap in terms of communicating the services, that is going to automatically require us to do a little more training and a little more refresher, refreshing of our customer service reps in that regard and that is something that we are committed to.

10058            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.

10059            Does Shaw presently have a TTY customer service number?

10060            MR. BRAZEAU:  Yes.

10061            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Is this number included on your customer contact literature, like billing, for example?

10062            MR. BRAZEAU:  Yes.

10063            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.

10064            Moving into the belly of the beast here, talking about service bundles for a second, a number of witnesses have expressed concerns that a lot of the packaging of services that are available to them haven't been done in contemplation of the fact that certain services provided to them that they are expected to pay for they can't avail themselves of.

10065            Does Shaw have any service bundle currently that has been geared to any or all disability groups?

10066            MR. BRAZEAU:  Not really.  Our service bundles or services, certainly on the telecom side, there are various plans; an all‑inclusive plan, you know, all‑you‑can‑eat, and there are two other plans that are less expensive.

10067            The big difference is that the LD minutes are less in those plans.

10068            So on the telecom side those are the plans we offer to all of our customers and they are not specifically geared towards persons with disabilities.

10069            On the cable side, I will let Michael respond to that.

10070            MR. FERRAS:  I would say no, there is no ‑‑ bundles are set and there is no differences or variations of those.

10071            MS RATHWELL:  That is the same on the satellite.

10072            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Do you have any type of an arbitration process, for lack of a better word, where if one of your disability customers was to contact a CSR and argue or present whatever bona fide is required that they can't avail themselves of certain services, that you would get creative in either the bundling or the unbundling or the re‑costing of certain services they couldn't take advantage of?

10073            MR. BRAZEAU:  That would be a hypothetical because we have never had that call.  I don't know what the response would be.

10074            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I'm sorry if I have introduced the possibility.

10075            I'm sorry if I have introduced that possibility ‑‑

10076            MR. BRAZEAU:  You may have.

10077            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: ‑‑ but it was something that struck me.

10078            MR. BRAZEAU:  You may have, and what's your number?

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

10079            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I'm right here in Vancouver.  I think we are almost neighbours.

10080            Moving into the area of services that are provided right now, you had indicated that Shaw currently is passing through 100 per cent ‑‑ or am I mistaken ‑‑ 100 per cent of the available closed captioning provided to it by the broadcasters?

10081            MR. FERRAS:  Yes.  For both Star Choice and for cable we would say yes.

10082            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Great.  CAB has weighed in a couple of times prior to this hearing and I think in this hearing, if my memory serves me correct, that on the whole issue of quality control of captioning, which is an issue that we have heard repeatedly, their view is that the BDUs have a role to play in ensuring captioning quality.

10083            Do you have any comments on that perspective they have?

10084            MS RATHWELL:  Well, I think that in terms of the content of the captioning quality, we would believe that that is properly the programmer's responsibility.  In terms of the delivery of the content that would, you know, be partly our responsibility.

10085            Star Choice, as Michael said, does pass through 100 per cent of the closed captioning it receives.

10086            A problem has recently arisen, a fairly minor one with a couple of our receiver models, for example, where there was the dropping of a couple of letters at the end of lines.  That would happen periodically, not in any consistent manner.  So we immediately engaged engineers to look at it and to develop a software fix for it and that will be implemented shortly.

10087            But that is a problem that has been minor and short term.  We got on it immediately.

10088            So yes, we do believe we have a role in quality on the side of delivering it, but not on the content side.

10089            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Great.  Thank you.

10090            Moving into the next subject, which is described video, before I get into some of the finer points of the questioning, I was wondering if you could confirm for me that Shaw is currently passing through all required DV programming on both an analog and digital basis with respect to your terrestrial undertaking?

10091            MR. FERRAS:  With respect to what, sorry?  Terrestrial...

10092            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Your terrestrial distribution undertaking.  In other words ‑‑

10093            MR. FERRAS:  On the cable side, in other words.

10094            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  ‑‑ are you passing through all current.  Is that correct?

10095            MR. FERRAS:  Yes.  As you saw in our remarks, the approach that we have taken is to develop a plan that would pass through the described video to both analog and to digital customers on the Shaw Cable side.

10096            This came about as a result of our decision a year ago or two years ago I guess to duplicate our existing lineups in digital.  As we go through that process of digitizing our networks, in the headends we use a piece of equipment called a simulcast edge processor.  I think SEP is the word that the engineers use, the acronym the engineers use.

10097            What that device does is it has an important side functionality with respect to described video.  It takes the analog feed and puts it out with the described video.  So we have a described video feed available to pass through in both analog and digital.

10098            This is a really important point because, as you probably may or may not know, cable systems were not built originally to pass through ‑‑ or the modulators that we use in the headend one analog basis were not built to pass through a described video stream.

10099            So that has always been a conundrum for the cable companies and for Shaw.  It was an expensive undertaking.

10100            We have 132 cable systems, so to replace the modulators for every signal on every one of those cable systems was a problem.

10101            This digital solution or digital approach to digitizing our networks has provided a solution not just to digitize the network and then pass through described video in that instance, but as well as to pass it through on the analog.

10102            If we pass it through, by the way, our plan would be to pass it through to every customer regardless of whether they are in an exempt system or Class 2 or Class 3 or Class 1.

10103            It's a long answer, but I hope ‑‑

10104            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  So many markets are in good shape then with respect to that.

10105            MR. FERRAS:  We have a ways to go with having so many systems, but I think we are about 80 per cent right now of our entire customer base.

10106            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  So February '09, where will you be?

10107            MR. FERRAS:  You must have read our submission this summer very carefully.

10108            I assume you are referring to the February '09 date comes from our submission over the summer?

10109            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Yes, sir.

10110            MR. FERRAS:  You have done your homework.  We were just talking about this.

10111            That February '09 date is way too optimistic.  We regret putting that in there.  It's probably a year from that date.  It may be even longer to get down to deliver that analog described video all the way through to some of our smallest of systems.

10112            I think we have ‑‑ I have forgotten the number, I can get it, but 80 or so exempt systems and some of those are, you know, 300, 400 customers.

10113            So February '09 is not realistic.  I'm not sure how that managed to get by us, but it is probably February 2010.

10114            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much for your candour on that.

10115            Let's reach for the stars and talk about Star Choice on that same matter.

10116            Currently Star Choice is passing through DV on all 26 services.  Is that correct?

10117            MS RATHWELL:  Yes, that is correct, with the exception of CanWest Atlantic which we no longer carry.  But the ones that we ‑‑

10118            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  And ‑‑ I'm sorry, go ahead.

10119            MS RATHWELL:  The list otherwise is the same.

10120            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  September 1, 2009 all programming services will have DV being passed through it?

10121            MS RATHWELL:  Yes, I think ‑‑

10122            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Is that still on the target?

10123            MS RATHWELL:  ‑‑ that we are still on track towards that objective, yes.

10124            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Terrific.

10125            I have about six more questions left, Mr. Chair.

10126            Getting down to some of the technology that sits in the hands of our customers ‑‑ your customers, our constituents ‑‑ we have been made aware over the last few weeks that certain products are available in the marketplace but not necessarily in this country.

10127            I'm thinking here in both the telephony and the STB arenas.

10128            FCC in the States has, I believe by now, put in a one‑button legislation which is a single button function to be able to access services such as DV and captioning.

10129            How far away are we in that with respect to Canadian BDUs and in particular yourself?  Is that a technology that you have on your radar?

10130            MS RATHWELL:  Sure, I will begin on that.

10131            Right now there are no current plans for developing what would be sort of I guess a second further generation of remote.  The next generation of remote has already basically been designed.  It hasn't been introduced yet but that has sort of been done.  So it would be several years away.

10132            Now, the way that we have developed the DVS implementation we believe is fairly straightforward.  You hit an option button and one number sequence and it is activated.

10133            So in fact we believe that it is readily accessible as it is and, as I said, we are happy to sort of guide our customers through that.

10134            To be honest, the development of a new remote with a one‑button alternative is not foreseeable today.

10135            MR. FERRAS:  If you would like, I can respond.

10136            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you, go ahead.

10137            MR. FERRAS:  Sorry, I was just going to respond from more of the cable side.

10138            As Cynthia says, we have made some changes recently to the software I was describing earlier which has simplified the process to access the described video.  The thing about it is that once it is turned on, it's on.  So you can set it up once and walk away.  And from that point any time you turn on the television and there is a channel that is carrying a program that has described video, you will get that described video feed.

10139            If the next program doesn't have described video, you simply obviously won't hear it, but it doesn't affect the main audio.

10140            That is how things sit now.

10141            The next step ‑‑ and there has been discussion at this hearing about that ‑‑ is well, what about a one‑button remote that turns it on and off as you need it.

10142            You know, we kind of ‑‑ you know, we think we have a solution right now that is quite functional, but if we were to go to a one‑button approach, it would be something that would require a lot of discussion.  Again, this isn't something that we would control.  We would have to work with our IPG providers, with Motorola, with the remote control firm that we use.  I think it is called Universal.  We would have to work with them and try to see what can be done.

10143            Another solution that is a possibility on the Shaw Cable side is that maybe we could come up with a macro button where we would take the existing commands ‑‑ and I think it is a four‑step process right now, menu, setup, audio and then described video; so it is a four‑step click through ‑‑ and put all of those commands on a single macro button.

10144            That is something that we are looking into right now.  That's another ‑‑ as a result of this hearing.

10145            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much for that.  That is exactly the kind of take‑away that makes my heart ping because it's a low‑cost, high‑value solution that I think goes a long way toward solving some of the frustrations that perhaps we are not as aware of as we should be.

10146            On the telephony side, the same conditions prevail where a lot of the hand‑held apparatus either have functions or are sold on the basis of having functions that certain people with disabilities can't use but they still have to pay a certain amount of money for that type of phone to get other features that they do want.

10147            We have been made aware of the fact that there is equipment out there that is more highly evolved ‑‑ which sounds completely counterintuitive ‑‑ to be simpler in its functionality.

10148            The same question again:  Are you looking at those kinds of devices for your telephony service; and, if not, would you be amenable or does your system allow for those types of devices being acquired where they are sold and making them operable on your system?

10149            MR. BRAZEAU:  I was trying to think on the landline side what kind of equipment that might be and none really comes to mind.  So we would certainly be amenable on the landline side to look at various equipment that could facilitate utilization.

10150            You know, our network is not very different than most of the other telephony companies, so I think the equipment would certainly work on our network.

10151            On the cellular side I think that is a bigger issue.  There has certainly been lots of discussion about cellular phones.  Shaw has certainly acquired a spectrum in the last auction but we are not offering any service yet.

10152            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  No, I understand that.  I was thinking more in the landline Internet phone arena, of course.  But again, something to think about as you are planning your equipment needs for your newly acquired spectrum.

10153            Two more questions and then I think I'm going to be done.

10154            With respect to VRS and IPRS, we had some of the presentations last week whetting the appetite for everyone's interest on the emerging technology of VRS and IPRS, which of course would use services such as yours on the IP side to be made available to Canadians.

10155            What is your overall view on what you have heard with respect to the model in the United States and how or whether it should be applied in a country like Canada?

10156            MR. BRAZEAU:  It's somewhat of a loaded question there.

10157            Certainly in looking at the service provided, obviously the service provided is a significant enhancement to what exists today.  Some of the concerns we have of course would be ‑‑ and I think you have had that discussion with the U.S. vendors.  It is a fairly pricey service.  We are looking in the neighbourhood of ‑‑ numbers that were thrown about was 80 or $100 million a year in order to provide that kind of message relay service.

10158            So we would be somewhat concerned that if a service like that was implemented in Canada that it be implemented in the most cost‑effective manner possible and that it would be competitively supplied.

10159            Today we offer message relay service.  We use Bell Canada as our vendor there.  But if video relay services were mandated then, you know, we would certainly implement that.

10160            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  So that's a big maybe.

10161            MR. BRAZEAU:  Well, again it is a question of in today's environment imposing more and more costs on service providers and, let's be honest, ultimately on consumers.

10162            So in today's environment those are significant costs.  Most of the carriers are facing some serious challenges out there in the marketplace, and any time more obligations are put on carriers, you know, the harder it becomes for them and the harder it becomes and the more expensive it becomes for their customers.

10163            So that would be the caveat that I would throw out there.

10164            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.

10165            The last question is on the subject of the VoIP aspect of telephony and predominantly 911 services.

10166            Could you tell the Commission for the record what Shaw has done with respect to the issue of caller identification, proximity identification and disclosures on any limitations with respect to the service for provision of their safety in the event of a 911 call that's incomplete?

10167            MR. BRAZEAU:  Well, for our digital phone customers we have E911 just like a normal ‑‑ or a normal, just like the incumbent telephone companies and customers have.

10168            For pure VoIP and wireless services, of course SISC is now reviewing whether to implement a similar type of service for VoIP services and we are participating in that proceeding.

10169            COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  That concludes my questioning, Mr. Chair.

10170            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Simpson.

10171            I have a couple of questions, both from your presentation this afternoon as well as some other questions, and perhaps some of my colleagues have some as well, but let me start.

10172            Let me refer you to the top of page 2 of your comments this afternoon where you, I gather, picked up on the issue in the Broadcasting Act with regard to programming being made accessible where resources become available for the purpose.

10173            You sort of highlighted it in the first paragraph and then you reinforced it in the second paragraph in quotation marks, saying "as resources become available".

10174            Then you continue in the next sentence, saying:

"We suggest the Commission must be careful not to impose substantial new costs or obligations..."  (As read)

10175            And then you continue.

10176            Are you suggesting that the only way new services can be implemented for people with disabilities is to use existing money as it becomes available rather than imposing additional monies to be used for development of these services?

10177            If so, basically you are saying as projects are completed ‑‑ and I will ask you which projects ‑‑ to reuse the money that was being used for those projects in order to implement some of these initiatives.

10178            MR. BRAZEAU:  Let me take the first crack at this.

10179            No, I don't think that we were suggesting that there was a limited pie and, you know, this pie could never grow and therefore you could only do new projects as one expires.

10180            I think what we were suggesting is that the operators have a number of obligations existing and new ones in the future and that when the Commission implements various requirements, the issue of cost is always, in our minds, of significant consideration, and especially so in today's economic environment.

10181            We were just highlighting the fact that those are issues that are absolutely of critical importance to us and should be to the Commission.

10182            A couple of the stakeholders that we have that haven't really been discussed at this proceeding are shareholders and the financial communities, and today they are very, very jittery about the performance of all the carriers.

10183            That is really the context of this.

10184            THE CHAIRPERSON:  So how do you think the Commission should interpret those four words "as resources become available", because one could say they might never be available because you always want them to flow to your shareholder as a return on their investment as opposed to making them available?

10185            MR. FERRAS:  Well, I don't think we intended it to be as a negative.  I think what we are saying in all of the commitments that we have talked about here today, on both the Shaw Cable and the Star Choice side in terms of what we plan to do with our website and what we plan to do with the CSRs and looking into what we can do with the remote control, these are all things that are on our agenda and we will be working towards.

10186            I think all we were trying to say here is that not withstanding that we are a customer focused company, we are totally committed to ensuring that the needs of the accessible groups and our customers are fully met.

10187            We are just mindful and cognizant that there are within ‑‑ how we approach everything, there are always limits in terms of priorities and what you can do.

10188            I think what we are saying is it is all positive.  We are going to be delivering and moving forward on these issues, but we are mindful that there are always priorities and decisions that have to be made.

10189            MS RATHWELL:  If I may add just on behalf of Star Choice, when we talk about the issues of costs, for example, we don't only think of it in terms of actual dollars.

10190            For example, I'm sure you are aware that Star Choice uses two satellites which are currently pretty much fully engaged.  So we have plans to move forward with, you know, described video on the basis of those existing satellites.

10191            In our view, "as resources become available" would demonstrate a sensitivity to our capacity situation such that not only would it not add dollar amounts on, but it would be mindful of our need to remain competitive within a constrained capacity environment right now.

10192            So that doesn't detract in any way from what we have said earlier to Commissioner Simpson.  It's just that is another perspective on "as resources become available" that would be relevant in a satellite context.

10193            THE CHAIRPERSON:  But what I still hear both Shaw and Star Choice saying is you have identified a number of initiatives that you will be going forward with and you are moving them as quickly as possible and you are making resources available.

10194            Some of the other initiatives that other parties have brought before us, a number of them, you are silent on completely in here.

10195            So do I interpret that to say resources aren't available for any of those and the only resources that are available are for these items that you have laid out in here?

10196            MR. BRAZEAU:  I don't think that is the conclusion that should be drawn there.

10197            I mean, we have taken our own initiatives and we will have additional initiatives going forward because of this proceeding and because of a real focus on ensuring that we satisfy all the needs of all of our customers.

10198            But if there are additional requirements and obligations, then we will meet those also.

10199            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  Thank you.

10200            I am going to perhaps revisit an item that was talked about by Commissioner Simpson and that is on page 3, the last bullet where you say:

"Shaw Cable is able to pass through described video to analog and digital customers."

10201            And then:

"Star Choice currently provides described videos to 26 channels."  (As read)

10202            It is probably obvious but I can't insert the word "all" in the first sentence.

"Shaw Cable is able to pass through all described video to all analog and digital customers."  (As read)

10203            I heard the discussion about it not even being 2009 I guess for the analog customers; it is more likely 2010.

10204            But do you pass through all described video today?

10205            MR. FERRAS:  Yes, we do on the digital side provided it is in the signal that we receive.  So we take it from whatever the source is, whether it is over the air or fibre or satellite and if the described video stream is in that program, we are able to pass it through.

10206            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  The issue of all analog and digital, you are basically saying yes to all digital but not to all analog?

10207            MR. FERRAS:  Yes.  That is a function of the timing of our rollout of digitizing our systems.  We haven't digitized every system yet.  Until we do, then some of the smaller centers will not have the full range of described video as the larger centers do.

10208            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  There was discussion last week with regard to the alternative of providing a digital box to customers pursuant to a CRTC order if you can't provide described video I guess it was on analog.

10209            MR. FERRAS:  Right.

10210            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Is that a program that you have implemented?

10211            MR. FERRAS:  No, because we are actually going at it we think in a bigger and a better way.  Instead of saying look, you can only get described video if you are a digital customer and you take a digital box, our approach is that if you decide to be an analog customer, you will still get described video.  So you don't have to be a digital customer.

10212            Commission policy is designed to relieve cable companies from the requirement of having to pass through the described video on analog and we chose not to go down that route and say no, no, the approach that we have developed has the dual benefit of providing described video on a digital basis as per the Commission's requirements and to analog without the requirement to have a digital box.

10213            So not only that, even if you are a digital customer and you get your described video on your main set in your living room ‑‑ sorry, you've got your set‑top box on your big TV in your living room and you go and you have a second or third TV somewhere else in the home, on an analog basis you will still be able to get the described video on analog.

10214            So we think it's a great solution, a great approach.

10215            THE CHAIRPERSON:  To make it simple for me anyways, you are in full compliance of the CRTC Order in 2006, or whatever date that was?

10216            MR. FERRAS:  I would say we are just about in full compliance.  As I say, we have to push this thing out and it requires going into every system and digitizing that system, which means rebuilding the headend and putting in these devices that I described earlier, these digital simulcast edge processors, and make sure that they are there.

10217            If there is a system that falls through the cracks, what we would do is go in and put in modulators by the old approach, which was to go in and replace the modulators that weren't capable of passing through the SAP and put in a new modulator that is capable of passing through the SAP.

10218            It's not a solution we like because eventually that will just get ripped out once we put in this digital simulcast solution.

10219            THE CHAIRPERSON:  I think I heard you say you are not in full compliance and I guess my concern is that the Commission issued an order.  There was a date certain on there.  There were questions asked about being able to provide described video through analog.  A lot of the parties came before us and said it's too expensive, can't be done; it will take a long time; it's not economically viable.

10220            And then in cooperation with the parties, we came up with a solution that we thought was a workable solution.  It was ordered and what you are telling me is notwithstanding you couldn't comply with the first order, you are not in compliance with the second because you have a better idea, but the better idea won't come to fruition for another two years at best.

10221            MR. FERRAS:  No, I don't think so.  I think we are saying that we have the digital solution in place.  Anything that we receive on digital that has the described video in the source you will receive.

10222            In other systems we have gone out and placed the analog modulators in place so that you are able to receive the over the air signals which will have the described video, and in between the cracks we would just provide voluntarily ‑‑ if someone approached us in that situation and said we can't receive the described video, we would give them what we call a DCT or set‑top box.

10223            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

10224            The next sentence to that on page 3, bottom paragraph, says:

"Star Choice currently provides descriptive video services on 26 channels."  (As read)

10225            You do offer other channels as well?

10226            MS RATHWELL:  Yes, we do.

10227            THE CHAIRPERSON:  And you don't provide described video or pass‑through described video on the other channels?

10228            MS RATHWELL:  Not currently, but as mentioned earlier we anticipate being able to do so by September 2009, which I believe is the policy requirement.

10229            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

10230            On page 4 in your second bullet from the top you talk about special remote feature with oversized buttons.

10231            Is that similar to the one that Rogers showed us last week?

10232            MS RATHWELL:  That's a star Choice remote and it is somewhat different.  We didn't bring a version of it today, but we can ‑‑ the specs for it, as well as a photo of it, are available on our website so we can direct you to that.

10233            It was not ‑‑ you know, to be completely clear, it was not developed uniquely for special needs customers, but we believe that it is useful for them.  It has large buttons, ergonomic design, fewer buttons.  It was developed to assist those with both visual and mobility impairment and an older demographic, but it is not specifically designed for a specific special needs group.

10234            THE CHAIRPERSON:  That flows me on to the last bullet on your websites, are under continuous maintenance, which I'm not sure the way I should be interpreting it.  It seems like it always needs work.  But hopefully you are getting to a point where you can actually stop doing that.

10235            Notwithstanding that, while you were talking to Commissioner Simpson I actually went on the Shaw website.  I did find the special needs icon, which I thought was very, very apropos and went through it all and noticed all the services that are on there, or the methodology for accessing the services.

10236            What is not on there are the products and services that you offer to the special needs people with prices and the product description.

10237            I'm just wondering why you wouldn't actually place the products in there as well and the pricing for the services and that way it's all in one place.

10238            So I will leave that thought with you.  If you want to answer it now you can.

10239            But it would be nice if they are going there anyways, because these are people with special needs, not only to describe the services, which you do in a very, very good way as well, and I commend you for it.  But you don't identify what the products are, what the prices are and an icon as to how to order them if they wanted to order them as well.

10240            MR. FERRAS:  Excellent point.  As we said, this is sort of our first iteration at this and I think this is the kind of thing that will get picked up in some of the accessibility gap audits that we intend to do.

10241            You are right, a customer would have to toggle up and go back to the customer care and then over to the digital products website to get that information.

10242            That is an excellent suggestion and we will follow that through.

10243            THE CHAIRPERSON:  That will work for people with hearing disabilities.  It wouldn't work for people with visual disabilities obviously, unless you married it somehow with some sort of voice synthesizer or something.

10244            MR. FERRAS:  Yes, the text reader functionality would be there.

10245            THE CHAIRPERSON:  I tried going into the Star Choice one, but for some reason I couldn't get into the website.  But when I did get in for a fleeting moment, there is no special needs icon in there at all.

10246            So Star Choice doesn't offer the same type of access that Shaw does.

10247            MS RATHWELL:  That's correct, not currently, but we would have ‑‑ we believe it would be a good idea to develop that sort of a page and access.

10248            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  If I flip you to your last page of your presentation you talk about, in the first paragraph:

"... sharing the view expressed by others that new initiatives should strike a balance among four factors." (As read)

10249            When you say "strike a balance", do you put equal weight on each one of those four factors or do you believe that certain of those factors carry more weight than others?

10250            MS RATHWELL:  Well, maybe I could begin.

10251            I don't think that they are meant to be given a priority or a weighting, but consistent with our belief that a sort of collaborative working group approach is the right approach to take, we think that all of those factors should be discussed and weighed in any given set of circumstances, because to put too fine a point on making decisions from the outset about what is a ranking concern are how things are weighted is inappropriate.

10252            Obviously the demonstrated needs of persons with disabilities is of utmost importance.  This is what it is all about and this is what these working groups would be all about.

10253            At the same time, I don't think that it would be right to sort of limit the scope of discussion and the factors taken into consideration in deciding how we all arrive at better solutions for those groups.

10254            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  I was pleased to hear you say the demonstrated needs of persons with disabilities is of paramount importance, because that is why we are all here today.

10255            I want to move on to some of my other questions.

10256            I think I heard you say you provide MRS service 711 service today to your digital customers?

10257            MR. BRAZEAU:  That is correct.

10258            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Is there a charge implicit in that service to your customers?

10259            MR. BRAZEAU:  No.

10260            THE CHAIRPERSON:  There is not.

10261            Do you provide this service directly yourself or do you farm it out to a third party?

10262            MR. BRAZEAU:  Third party.

10263            THE CHAIRPERSON:  And you have been doing it since you started your service as part of your CLEC status or whatever?

10264            MR. BRAZEAU:  That's correct.

10265            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Can I ask you guys to give us a filing, an undertaking to file with us what you currently pay for the services to this third party?

10266            MR. BRAZEAU:  Absolutely.

10267            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

10268            And go back to when you started it, three years ago, whatever it was as well.  If you can give us a run rate on the services?

10269            MR. BRAZEAU:  2005.

10270            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  Thank you.

10271            We heard this morning from RQST, and we heard it again last week as well, that these TTY products are of an aged nature, if I can call it that, and they have been around for a number of years.

10272            Have you heard this before from some of your customers who called and sort of said these things are 1970s renditions or products and why can't you guys give us something more state‑of‑the‑art?

10273            MR. BRAZEAU:  We haven't heard those types of complaints.  As I said earlier, we do not have significant usage of these devices in our network.

10274            There is about, on average, 180 calls a day using this equipment, but we haven't received any complaints to that nature.

10275            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Do you provide the TTY to your customers or do they buy them third party?

10276            MR. BRAZEAU:  Third party.

10277            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Third party.

10278            One of the issues that came up last week I guess that has been talked about is the role of the PSAPs in this whole initiative and particularly when it comes to people with disabilities and the fact that when they try and access a PSAP, they don't have the equipment on their end.  It's not connected; it hasn't been connected or they may not have been trained on it.

10279            Have you heard this before as well?

10280            MR. BRAZEAU:  No, we did not, but I assume that's probably accurate.

10281            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

10282            I believe ‑‑ and you can correct me if I'm wrong ‑‑ that Shaw is a member of the CCTS now, the Commissioner of Consumer and Telecom Complaints.

10283            MR. BRAZEAU:  Yes, we are.

10284            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Have you had any third party complaints from the Commissioner with regard to problems by people with disabilities?

10285            MR. BRAZEAU:  I'm not aware, but we can confirm that.

10286            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Could you, please?

10287            MR. BRAZEAU:  Yes.

10288            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Probably Commissioner Lamarre is a better person to raise this issue, but SRDUs, you guys provide the service to other cable companies to the SRDU.

10289            Is there any way any non pass‑through described video or closed captioning issues that you are aware of with your customers I guess at the other end of these SRDUs?

10290            MS RATHWELL:  Thanks.  SBS provides the SRDU service to cable companies and currently, as we have discussed, it's the same for Star Choice.  The number of services is 25 that we provide the described video pass‑through for, and when we move forward on the Star Choice platform, because it is integrated, it will be the same towards September 2009.

10291            Cable companies that take SRDU services from us can receive DVS on all of the signals that we distribute.  What is required is that on their end they have a digital IRD or the appropriate headend equipment to receive it, which is part of their business.

10292            It may be ‑‑ they have specific equipment suppliers.  We don't supply the equipment for that.

10293            So both the cable company and their subscribers have to have appropriate equipment.  It is readily available in the market.  But as an SRDU, we pass it through fully on the signals where it is carried, and that will soon be all signals.

10294            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

10295            MS RATHWELL:  May be one comment, just because there is often a bit of confusion on SRDU versus transport services.  Another business that Shaw Broadcast Services is engaged in is transport of digital ‑‑ of specialty and pay services.

10296            And to assist small cable systems that may have limited capacity, we have a couple of products that we serve them with.  One of them is called Hits/QT.  Another is called QT Plus.  QT Plus is a package of all of the specialty services that we carry and it can be received with a full DVS pass‑through and high definition.

10297            So again, they require the proper equipment to receive that service.  So there is one service on the transport side that doesn't pass through DVS and one that fully does.  Those are both available in the marketplace.

10298            THE CHAIRPERSON:  I just want to confirm, Ms Rathwell, that Star Choice is looking at putting an icon on their website for special needs similar to what Shaw has done?

10299            MS RATHWELL:  Yes.

10300            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  Is there a timeline for that?

10301            MS RATHWELL:  I think we will undertake it immediately.  We have been discussing it recently, in any event, and we have the appropriate people engaged in figuring out what it will look like.

10302            So we don't have a fixed date, but we could discuss it internally and give you a reasonable date.

10303            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Could you, please?

10304            MS RATHWELL:  Yes.

10305            HE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

10306            Those are all my questions.

10307            We will go out to the far stretches of Canada.  Commissioner Duncan, do you have any questions of Shaw?

10308            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  No, I don't have any questions.  Thank you.

10309            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

10310            Commissioner Molnar...?

10311            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you, I do have a couple of questions.

10312            Let me just begin by ensuring I understood some of the things I heard.

10313            Regarding the set‑top box and remote and trying to address the issue of the six‑step initiation of described video, I believe for Shaw you mentioned it was a four‑step process and you are in the process now of establishing a programmed remote.

10314            Is that what it is?

10315            MR. FERRAS:  Yes.  What it is, is there would be two ‑‑ we have a four‑step process now to turn it on and then, as we were saying, once it's set, it's set.  You can walk away and the next time you turn on the TV, it's still set.

10316            But if you wanted to move to a sort of an on/off feature, there would be two steps or two ways to go at that.

10317            The one way would be to work with equipment manufacturers and IPG suppliers and remote control companies and try to come up and develop that solution in terms of engineering the hardware, et cetera.

10318            The other solution, which would be an interim solution that we are exploring, would be to take those four steps, which would be the four burst and combine those steps into one button so that you would hit the button and it would actually send four commands and turn on and off your described video.

10319            That is something internally; that if we could do it, we would do that internally.  We wouldn't need the help of anyone else, any outside supplier.

10320            It would be do we have a spare button on the remote?  Can they remote be configured to work that way?  Will the box accept those commands and not freeze up?

10321            So that is the approach that we were talking about.  That is the macro button approach.

10322            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  How close are you to knowing whether you can feasibly do that?

10323            MR. FERRAS:  This is something we just, to be honest, started to think about through the course of this proceeding.

10324            The idea of trying to improve the ability for our customers to access described video, we mentioned we had just finally got this software upgrade that we were talking about that fixed the labelling problem.  We have been working on the website.

10325            Hearing some of the discussion at this hearing is really what got us thinking about what we could do.

10326            It has always been an issue in terms of our ongoing conversations with our industry manufacturer equipment suppliers, but in terms of this macro solution we really just got going on it, and it is something that we are going at really hard now.

10327            MR. BRAZEAU:  We have engaged our engineering folks and they are pretty excited about it, of course, having a toy to play with.  So we are hoping to have the solution.

10328            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So do you have a date?

10329            MR. FERRAS:  No, we don't have a date.  Really it has just hatched.  I would say this.  We would know whether we can do it pretty quickly.  If we can do it, it will be done quickly.

10330            What we would do is we would make it known that we have this feature, whether it is through the new local avail spots that we are doing.  We would certainly put it on the website.

10331            It would be something that we would make sure all of our customer service reps knew about, or that people could self‑identify.

10332            Then we would send a technician to the home, and set it up ourselves, at no cost.

10333            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I wish you all the best with that, because I think that is certainly the best solution to the problem that is out there today, which is costly described video that customers can't access.

10334            Could you tell me, from the perspective of Star Choice, if there is any initiative similar to that?

10335            I believe Ms Rathwell mentioned that the new remote had just been designed, and there had been no consideration for this issue in its design, so I wondered if there were any other initiatives on Star Choice's part to come up with a similar sort of interim solution.

10336            MS RATHWELL:  We have begun to discuss it, as well, in the context, primarily, of this process.  The design of the next remote occurred prior to that.

10337            But initial indications ‑‑ and our engineering staff is looking at it ‑‑ are that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to implement a macro solution.  We will keep looking at it, because it does make sense, and if it could be a cost‑effective fix, that would be great, and we are considering it.

10338            Right now it's a different technology than that used at Shaw, and it seems to have more levels of complication, but we will continue to look at it.

10339            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Perhaps I could ask, if that isn't the solution, are you looking at any solutions today to the six‑step process that you have outlined for access?

10340            MS RATHWELL:  We will continue to look at possible solutions.

10341            I am personally not in the engineering group, so I'm sorry that I can't offer you specific ideas that we may have, but we will continue to try to make it as easy as possible.

10342            We haven't abandoned looking at the macro approach, I just wanted to indicate that the early indications are that it would be more difficult for us.

10343            But we understand the importance of the issue and, in the meantime, we will continue to do what we can, in terms of customer education, and a website presence, and developing that to make this programming material as useful as possible.

10344            As you said, there is no point in having all of this if it can't even be used.

10345            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.  I want to ensure that I understand, from the perspective of Star Choice, if there were to be increased amounts of described video placed into the system, what are your restrictions as regards capacity or cost?

10346            Do you have any?

10347            Does the amount of described video influence your capacity or your costs?

10348            MR. RATHWELL:  No.  Right now we are planning to carry described video with every service by September 2009, and that involves the dedication of a described video stream.

10349            That is not something that gets shut on and off as the programming occurs, it is a constant allocation of bandwidth.

10350            So that is planned for.  As the system expands with new services that may have accompanying described video, that will be part of our general capacity challenges going forward, given the current satellite base that we rely upon.

10351            We are looking for the development of additional capacity, but that will require a new satellite.  It will require changes to existing radio spectrum policy, which we are currently involved in with Industry Canada.  We are having discussions.

10352            It is a real constraint that Star Choice, in general, faces, and it affects not just described video, but many aspects of our business.

10353            As we assured Commissioner Katz and Commissioner Simpson, we believe that we are on track to full compliance with the policy and the distribution of described video for September 2009.

10354            As regards the growth of programming services generally, and described video in conjunction with that, we have to manage that very, very carefully at Star Choice.

10355            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.

10356            I have to admit that I am still not entirely clear when you say "growth of described video".

10357            If there are more hours of described video, does that matter?

10358            If you are carrying it on one of the secondary audio channels, does that matter?

10359            MS RATHWELL:  The growth of described video, in terms of the number of hours, in connection with the current services we carry, we believe that all of that can be accommodated by September 2009.

10360            I was talking about the growth of described video in the context of a broader growth of services within the system, as compared to our circumstances with capacity in the near future.

10361            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.

10362            I would like to move to the issue of working groups.  You mentioned at page 5 that you believe a working group approach is preferable to other proposals, such as regulation, legislation, or the establishment of a national fund.

10363            I would like to understand better the type of working group approach that Shaw and Star Choice perceive as being effective.

10364            I am trying to understand, when you say a working group approach ‑‑ who would you see, for example, establishing the priorities?

10365            Or who would you see establishing the members?

10366            And how would we be able to be assured that these working groups would come out with measurable results, with a commitment by all parties to move forward?

10367            Absent any sort of regulations or legislation behind it, how do you see this working group approach being effective to coming up with improved accessibility?

10368            MR. BRAZEAU:  What we had in mind ‑‑ and I know that some people thought that CISC has not been effective, but what we had in mind was more a CISC type of working group.

10369            I know that you could certainly improve on how CISC works by imposing tighter deadlines, making sure that you can identify specific issues that are being discussed, and then having the Commission involved.

10370            It has been my experience in the past that once the Commission is there, involved, and encourages parties to come to some resolution of the issues, it normally works.

10371            So I think that that model is certainly a model that could be adapted to these issues, and could be very effective.

10372            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.  That helps me to understand it.

10373            The issue with CISC, of course, is that CISC begins by first having regulation, and it is the vehicle to implement the regulations and the policies.

10374            And consensus is great.  Non‑consensus is dealt with by the Commission, and the expectation is that the results of that working group approach are adopted and implemented across the system.

10375            Would you see that to be the type of model we would need to move forward on these issues of disability?

10376            MR. FERRAS:  We have regulations in place now on various issues.  I think one of the advantages we have moving forward here, in terms of a working group approach ‑‑ sometimes the working groups are very broad.

10377            On the broadcasting side I can think of an example.  We had a digital migration working group back in 2001‑2002, which was helpful and productive, but, at the same time, the issues were very broad.  It wasn't until this year, actually, that the Commission finalized its regulations.

10378            One thing about the digital migration working group that was helpful was, I think the Commission had established a third party, which ended up writing a report on the progress of the issues.  So that is one thing we might want to think about.

10379            But I think one of the advantages that we have here is that we know what a lot of the issues are that we are trying to solve.

10380            For example, with respect to described video, how can we increase the amount of described video?  How can we increase the quality of the closed captioning?  What can we do to make sure that the amount of described video that is available on a broadcaster's service ‑‑ in other words, what programs have described video ‑‑ how do we get that information to the cable companies and to the satellite companies and our customers?

10381            There is a gap right now.  That is not happening.

10382            How do we fix the remote control problems?

10383            What do we have to do to get audio cues on the IPG?

10384            I think, when you review the record, there are a lot of specific questions and issues that we could come up with, and that will be, in my mind at least, helpful in terms of figuring out:  Okay.  Now we know what we are trying to solve.  Who is the best group to be doing that?  Is it a broadcaster‑cable group?  Is it just a BDU industry group?  Does this question involve everybody?

10385            Of course, overlaid with all of that, we want the input of members from the accessibility groups, the CNIB, et cetera, and, as Jean said, the presence of a Commission person is always helpful in those types of processes.

10386            In my mind at least, I think there are a lot of specific issues that have been identified here which will be helpful in working toward solutions in a working group.

10387            COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you, those are my questions.

10388            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.

10389            Commissioner Denton?

10390            COMMISSIONER DENTON:  I have no questions.

10391            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

10392            Commissioner Lamarre?

10393            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

10394            I am sure you will appreciate that, as an engineer, I cannot let go of the remote issue without asking at least one question.

10395            My first question is actually about the pricing.  I read in your July 10, 2008 submission, under the section concerning procurement and pricing strategies ‑‑ I will read it to you:

"Additionally, the Star Choice large‑button remote control, which caters to customers with limited visibility and dexterity challenges, is available online through the Call Centre and through nationwide retailers at an affordable cost of only $24.99."

10396            Am I to understand that, if I do not want this remote, Star Choice will provide me with a set‑top box and a regular remote, but if I want the large‑button remote, I will have to exchange it and pay an extra $25?

10397            MS RATHWELL:  At this time we weren't aware of customers who had needs to be served who weren't currently on the level of the remote.  Obviously we would be happy to talk to visually impaired customers who have needs that weren't fulfilled, and we would look at whether we could provide them with such a remote.

10398            I wouldn't think that it would be a huge matter, but we will discuss it and determine whether that is possible.

10399            There would have to be some sort of process of understanding what their needs were, because, as we specified earlier, this was not a remote that was designed for special needs groups in particular, it was designed for a much wider customer base, primarily our older customers, and where that bumps up against special needs is sort of a grey area that we would have to discuss internally.

10400            In principle, we understand your point, and it's a good one.  It's valid.

10401            Hopefully, when a visually impaired subscriber initiates service with us, they would have enough information about the remotes that they would be provided with the right one in the first instance, but it is certainly something that we are willing to look into.

10402            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  On the issue of being able to access easily described video, I want to bring some words of encouragement to you.  You launched the initiative of trying to address the micro‑button alternative, as you labelled it.

10403            To me, I must say that it sounds a lot like what Rogers has presented to us, and if this could bring any comfort to you, Rogers' supplier is also Universal Electronics, if that is of any help.

10404            The remote they were talking about the other day is the Polaris model.

10405            Those are my comments concerning that.

10406            MR. BRAZEAU:  We will look into it.

10407            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.

10408            With respect to the remote, the large‑button remote, is it available only for Star Choice, or also for Shaw?

10409            MR. FERRAS:  The remote that we were talking about for Star Choice is Star Choice specific.  It is not available to Shaw.

10410            They are both Motorola platforms, but there are differences within them.  We have a different remote.

10411            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  When you are going to approach the micro‑button solution, you will do it for both Shaw and Star Choice, I am assuming.

10412            MR. FERRAS:  Yes.

10413            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.

10414            With respect to customer service accessibility, I note in the submission for Star Choice that you mentioned the customer service was accessible 24/7.

10415            Is that correct?

10416            MS RATHWELL:  Yes.

10417            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Is it equally available 24/7 in both English and French?

10418            MS RATHWELL:  Yes, it is.

10419            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  What about your website?

10420            MS RATHWELL:  Specifically ‑‑ I'm sorry, I don't understand your question.

10421            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  The Star Choice website ‑‑ information for customers on the website, is it also available in both French and English?

10422            MS RATHWELL:  The information concerning our packages is definitely available in French.  I believe it is, as well, on described video information and other accessibility issues.  I will check that, and I can undertake to report on that, and if it's not, we can look into addressing it.

10423            I would assume that it is.

10424            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  The same question goes for the Shaw service, obviously.

10425            MR. FERRAS:  Our website is only in English at this point.  What we do have is, for billing purposes, including Braille bills, if someone wants it in French, then we translate it.

10426            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You translate it on a monthly basis?

10427            MR. FERRAS:  If someone identifies that they would like to have their bill in French, then we provide it.

10428            COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  You don't have to go back every month and ask for it.

10429            Those are my questions.  Thank you.

10430            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much, Commissioner Lamarre.

10431            Legal counsel?

10432            MS POPE:  In its answer to interrogs, Shaw reported that the Shaw website satisfied all of the WCA Level 1, 2 and 3 priority standards, with the exception of Checkpoint 5.3, which it didn't support because of it not being commonly supported by older web browsers.

10433            Could you provide us, in confidence if you wish, the cost of making that website accessible, please?

10434            MR. FERRAS:  We will provide that to you.

10435            MS POPE:  Thank you.

10436            Could you please confirm that the Star Choice and Shaw EPGs currently display an icon associated with each program that has an available DV audio soundtrack?

10437            MR. FERRAS:  We could answer that now, if you like.

10438            MS POPE:  Okay.

10439            MR. FERRAS:  At this point, no ‑‑

10440            Are you talking about an audio cue, so that when you ‑‑

10441            Oh, an icon.

10442            MS POPE:  An icon, yes.

10443            MR. FERRAS:  On the Shaw Cable side, we currently do not have an icon.

10444            MS POPE:  But on the Star Choice side there is an icon.

10445            MS RATHWELL:  The Star Choice side does have an icon.

10446            MS POPE:  Thank you.

10447            With regard to consultations, do you have a view on how the participation of disability groups should be funded?

10448            MR. BRAZEAU:  I guess it depends on the kind of consultation.  If it's a very broad consultation with individuals, I guess we could contemplate having a fund that the carriers would make contributions to, but for a more targeted consultation with various organizations, it was our view that the group could always apply to the Commission for costs, and the Commission could approve the costs.

10449            MS POPE:  Sort of a CISC model, then, in terms of participation.

10450            MR. BRAZEAU:  The CISC model, exactly.

10451            MS POPE:  Finally, what would be the challenges of expanding the availability of alternative formats to include all promotional materials?

10452            We heard from some parties during the hearing that they would like to know what deals are available ‑‑ special offers and that sort of thing.

10453            MR. FERRAS:  That is something we are working on right now.

10454            MS POPE:  Have you identified any particular challenges, or you are actually working to make this material available?

10455            MR. FERRAS:  We are working to make it available, yes, to move from where we are now to apply it right across the board.

10456            MS POPE:  Thank you, those are my questions.

10457            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.  This concludes the Shaw/Star Choice appearance.

10458            It is 3:45.  Let's break until 4 o'clock, when we will resume with Bell and Bell Aliant.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1545 / Suspension à 1545

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1610 / Reprise à 1610

10459            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Order, please.

10460            We are about to resume with Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Télébec, but before we do I think we have some announcements.

10461            Madam Secretary...?

10462            THE SECRETARY:  Yes.  Before we proceed with Bell's presentation, legal counsel has something to add.

10463            Me LEHOUX : Merci, Madame la Secrétaire.

10464            Alors, pour le dossier public, le comité d'audience s'est rencontré lors d'une pause, a étudié la demande de RQST, et a décidé de refuser la demande de prolongation pour les motifs suivants.

10465            Un, l'ACR est l'entité responsable afin d'assurer la coordination pour la validation des normes et le dépôt des rapports.

10466            Deuxièmement, originalement, l'ACR devait déposer le rapport du groupe de travail le 30 novembre.

10467            Troisièmement, cependant, le 17 novembre, l'ACR a demandé une extension au 15 décembre afin de déposer les rapports concernant les exercices de validation des normes proposées concernant le sous‑titrage.

10468            Quatrièmement, la lettre de l'ACR a été ajoutée au dossier public le 17 novembre pour commentaires, et le Conseil n'a reçu aucun commentaire jusqu'à ce jour.

10469            Donc, le comité a déterminé que la demande était tardive.

10470            Le comité note que les répliques finales sont dues au plus tard le 12 janvier et veut s'assurer que les parties aient le temps de revoir les rapports avant le dépôt des répliques finales.

10471            Par conséquent, le comité est d'avis que la demande de prolongation déjà octroyée à l'ACR est suffisante afin de s'assurer que toutes les parties puissent fournir des commentaires sur les normes validées au sein de leur réplique finale.

10472            Merci.

10473            LA SECRÉTAIRE :  Merci.

10474            We now call on Bell Aliant Regional Communications Ltd., Bell ExpressVu Ltd. partnership and Télébec, Société en commandite, collectively The Companies, to proceed with their presentation.

10475            Please introduce yourselves and you can start your presentation.


10476            MR. DANIELS:  Thank you very much.

10477            Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I am Jonathan Daniels, Vice‑President of Regulatory Law for Bell Canada, and I am pleased to introduce the panel appearing on behalf of Bell Aliant, Bell Canada and Télébec.

10478            Joining me today are, to my immediate right, Denis Henry, Vice‑President of Regulatory and Government Affairs for Bell Aliant; to his right, Paul Armstrong, Director, Regulatory Affairs for Bell Canada; and to my left, Bill Abbott, Senior Counsel Regulatory Law Bell Canada.

10479            Mr. Chairman, I am reading off of my prepared statement.  We had the request of the Hearing Secretary that we would file this yesterday, or provide it yesterday to her.  So I assume that it is in the hands of the Commissioners.

10480            For those who are listening on the web, we filed this and served this with all parties so that they would have a chance to follow along, considering how few people are actually in the room today.

10481            We are pleased to have this opportunity to share our thoughts on the important issues related to the accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services to persons with disabilities.  The record of this proceeding has provided considerable insight into the diverse perspective of many stakeholders.

10482            I would first like to note some of the products and services that The Companies make available to enhance accessibility, including message relay service, free operator assistance, specialized discounts, accessible pay phones and customized customer service through special needs centers in the case of Bell Canada and Bell Aliant serving areas.

10483            As well, BellTV is the first broadcast distribution undertaking in North America to provide an audio electronic program guide for visually impaired customers to describe programming.  BellTV also passes through all closed captioning and described video programs provided by programmers.

10484            The Commission has indicated its intention to focus primarily on five key areas in this proceeding.  As such, the balance of our opening comments will address those five areas.

10485            There has been considerable interest in relay service in this proceeding, both on the written record and in the testimony of various parties.  The existing message relay service provided by The Companies is a long‑standing success.

10486            Now, if I could just add there, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I noted that there was a comment made last week by Henry Vlug when he was testifying here raising concerns about the quality of MRS nationally, right across the country.  That took us a little bit by surprise, because in our experience we think we have a very good quality service and the feedback that we get from customers and users of the service, the feedback that has been on the written record of this proceeding and in the oral testimony, including from the CQDA, who described it as functioning very well and delivers excellent results, is that we provide a very good MRS service.

10487            So we were a little surprised at that comment and just wanted to highlight that fact; that we don't believe that is an accurate description of our MRS service provided, Bell relay service.

10488            Its evolution has benefited greatly from the input of an advisory group comprising organizations representing the deaf and hard of hearing.  We have no plans to discontinue the current service even if other forms of relay are mandated in the future.

10489            Of considerable interest to many parties are new forms of relay service, namely Internet protocol relay service and video relay service.  What distinguishes IPRS and VRS from the existing MRS provided by The Companies is they are both accessed by users over their Internet connection ‑‑ this is the key to it ‑‑ regardless of who the user's local telephone service provider is or if they even have one.

10490            Hence, for ease of reference I will refer to these two services correctly as IP/VRS.

10491            At the outset we believe that Commission must consider if, based on the record of this proceeding, it is appropriate to mandate IP/VRS.  This initial determination should be made in the context of relative costs and benefits.

10492            If the Commission does mandate IP/VRS, the preferred model should be available nationwide and provision on a competitive basis.  Indeed, this approach would allow the Commission to minimize the costs and delays in implementation by allowing existing service providers in the U.S. to serve Canadian users.

10493            In the deferral account process Bell Canada had initially proposed to launch a region‑specific IP/VRS exclusively to its residential wireline customers in its traditional serving territory.  After further investigation, Bell Canada has concluded that a regional ILEC‑specific IP/VRS model is impractical and, frankly, inappropriate, as provided in more detail in Bell Aliant Exhibit No. 1 which we filed at the beginning of this oral component to this proceeding.

10494            If after assessing the costs and benefits the Commission determines that IP/VRS should be implemented, then appropriate means of funding will have to be determined.  If governments are not prepared to provide such funding, all TSPs should be required to fund such an initiative and be permitted to recover such amounts from their customers.

10495            In the case of regulated ILECs this will mean an adjustment to their rates, including their stand‑alone residential local rates in forborne areas.

10496            Moreover, there are a myriad of practical issues that would have to be resolved prior to implementation, including a funding framework, criteria for eligible service providers and access to emergency services.

10497            In addition, the Commission would have to consider the best method of provisioning VRS using LSQ.

10498            If the Commission wishes to pursue IP/VRS, a follow‑up process will be necessary as the existing record is simply not adequate to make detailed determinations about how IP/VRS should be implemented.  We would welcome the opportunity to participate in such a process in any manner that the Commission sees fit.

10499            Described video and closed captioning are the second and third issues specifically raised by the Commission.

10500            As you know, BDUs are responsible for passing through the described video and closed captioning provided by programmers.  They have no direct input on the availability and quality of what is delivered to them.  Although we are not aware of any quality issues associated with the service in the case of our television services, nevertheless we would be pleased to meet with broadcasters and/or the CAB to address any and all operational issues associated with accurate delivery of captioned and video descriptions.

10501            The fourth issue raised by the Commission is customer service and support.

10502            My colleague, Denis Henry, will speak to this matter.

10503            MR. HENRY:  Thank you, Jonathan.

10504            Mr. Chairman, The Companies recognize that accessible customer service and support is important and to this end Bell Canada and Bell Aliant have established special needs centers to provide specialized and experienced customer support to persons with disabilities.

10505            Let me speak to Bell Canada's first.

10506            Bell Canada's special needs center provides live call answer assistance, not only to Bell customers but also to Bell Aliant's Ontario and Québec customers in the Ontario and Québec territories of Bell Aliant.  Special needs centers are staffed by experienced representatives who devote as much time as necessary to provide quality service to individual customers.

10507            The Bell Canada special needs center handled over 45,000 calls in 2007.

10508            As a result of the enhanced special needs center of excellence project resulting from Bill's deferral account, Bell Canada will also be improving resources and functions of its special needs center.  These enhancements will include a greater presence at retail outlets, improved online resources and an expansion of live call answer by accessibility specialists to handle wireless, Internet and television services.

10509            Now, in Bell Aliant we also have a special needs center in our Atlantic territory.  Currently the Aliant special needs center is available only to customers in two Atlantic provinces, namely Nova Scotia and PEI, and is limited to voicemail access.

10510            I am pleased to tell you today that as part of Bell Aliant's commitment to improving accessibility of its customer service and support, we have decided to expand the special needs center to serve all four Atlantic provinces and to also improve the service to provide live answer support during regular business hours in both official languages.

10511            As a result of these enhancements, Bell Aliant customers will now enjoy improved access to special needs centers in all six provinces we serve.

10512            Another aspect of customer service and support that has attracted a fair bit of attention is the issue of Web accessibility, which I will turn back to Mr. Daniels to address.

10513            MR. DANIELS:  We have heard a number of parties discuss their adherence to W3C guidelines, yet none of these parties have provided detail, how they made this assessment or what level within the guidelines they follow.

10514            In response to the Commission's request to determine costs for proposals made in this proceeding, Bell Canada undertook an extensive examination of the consumer portion of its website.  The examination, conducted by experts in this field, looked at what it would take to improve the accessibility of its website to meet almost all of the AA criteria of the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG, 2.0.

10515            This examination took place over the last month and cost Bell Canada in excess of $90,000 to perform.

10516            Based on the initial cost estimate of these results, Bell Canada estimates a cost of approximately $20 million to meet this objective.

10517            Mr. Chairman, we do not believe an investment of this magnitude is justified in the circumstances, absent deferral account funding.  That is not to say, however, that the website is inaccessible.  Indeed, it has many features that meet the WCAG Accessibility Guidelines and it will improve as design features evolve in the future.

10518            The last issue identified by the Commission is access to emergency services.  A number of parties have raised legitimate concerns in this area.  Unfortunately, not all of these problems are within the control of the industry to resolve.

10519            Nonetheless, we do see a role for TSPs and BDUs in helping to resolve these issues.

10520            Take for instance the case of 911 service.  The key issue appears to be ensuring that PSAPs are adequately equipped and trained to receive calls from persons with disabilities.  For example, a direct TTY call can be delivered to the PSAP, but without TTY equipment and trained PSAP personnel there is no guarantee that the call will be properly handled.

10521            Nonetheless, The Companies are prepared to work with accessibility groups, governments and PSAPs to examine potential improvements to the existing service.  And again we can describe in more detail what we are thinking about there.

10522            Another issue that has gained prominence is access to 911 via short message service or SMS.  This seems like a simple matter but in fact it raises significant technical issues and huge costs.  At this time, SMS 911 is not technically feasible, even if the large cost for this service could be overcome.

10523            The Companies are aware that there has been significant study of this issue in the United States and Europe and we will continue to follow developments and potential solutions.

10524            On the broadcast side, the emergency notification system is a complex arrangement involving public and private entities.  BellTV will be able to pass through whatever emergency notification information is adopted in both audio and text formats.  This initiative will greatly improve accessible emergency notification broadcasting.

10525            Having covered the Commission's five key issues, I would like to close by briefly addressing Bell Canada's deferral funded account accessibility initiatives.

10526            We are of course prepared to speak to these initiatives.  However, one aspect that I wish to point out is that Bell Canada commits to consult with relevant accessibility groups before implementing these initiatives.

10527            Mr. Chairman, this concludes The Companies' opening statement.  We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

10528            Thank you.

10529            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

10530            I would ask Commissioner Duncan to begin follow‑up questions.

10531            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you, Mr. Daniels.  I do have some questions with respect to your presentation, but I have incorporated them in my questions since you were kind enough to send your presentation last evening.

10532            I am just going to start first of all with the customer service and support area, specifically with alternative formats.

10533            I'm wondering what would be the challenges, cost, technical, whatever else, in terms of expanding the list of documents available in alternative formats to include all promotional material and also information regarding, for example, the nonvisual usage of telephone services, information regarding specialized equipment and services, the use of adaptive technologies, rate plans, service options, essentially all the material that would be of interest to persons with disabilities.

10534            I realize you probably didn't come with that number, but you could submit it as an undertaking if you would prefer.

10535            But go ahead with your comments if you like.

10536            MR. ABBOTT:  Certainly.  Thank you, Commissioner Duncan.

10537            We came with part of that number.  I think the main challenge would be the volume of information involved and the expense related to each piece.

10538            To sort of give you a sense of the scope, there are about 10,000 distinct customer messages that go out to Bell customers and potential customers in the course of a year.  You could take out, say, the bus shelter ads and the billboard ads, but you are still left with the better part of 9,000 distinct messages that go out to customers.

10539            Some are very short.  They may be a single page direct mailing piece.  Others are longer; they are a brochure.  We are just talking about the promotional materials.

10540            So it is a matter of volume to produce that much in alternative formats and to distribute them in an effective manner.  I would not want to understate the size of that undertaking and the expense related to it.

10541            But your question was much broader than that.  You are asking I believe about user designs and other information.

10542            Some of that we don't even produce.  It is provided to us ‑‑ you know, for example, a user's manual for a piece of product, we wouldn't even produce that so there is an additional challenge there.

10543            Needless to say, I'm sure we have all seen users manuals; they are rather thick.  And ultimately I'm not sure that this is the most effective way to accomplish the goal that you have in mind.

10544            I would like to underline the presence of the Bell special needs center which can provide a great deal of this information directly to a customer.

10545            So I don't know if you would like an undertaking.  The scope of the undertaking is rather broad and it may take some time to sort of track down every single piece of documentation that we produce and provide to the public in the course of a year.

10546            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  I would appreciate some feedback.  I mean I realize the why nots, but I think I would be interested to know what you can do and what is reasonable to do.

10547            So, for example, if 9,000 pieces is not reasonable, then I would be interested to hear what is reasonable; your major promotions, for example, perhaps.

10548            I also mentioned things like rate plans and service options.  Those things you are not dependent on from another supplier.

10549            So perhaps if you could give it some thought and give us some more feedback, as I say, I would like to get something positive.  I realize everything is not possible, but something with something positive, an aspect of something positive would be appreciated.

10550            MR. ABBOTT:  Certainly, Commissioner Duncan, I couldn't agree more.  There are, as you say, a number of things that we certainly can do.

10551            In listening to the other parties and in reading the record, an idea that we would support is the creation of a pamphlet that has ‑‑ I believe this was described in one of the interrogs, the creation of a pamphlet that has the core accessibility information for each line of business for BellTV, for wireline, for wireless, for the Internet, and also would prominently display the special needs center as a ‑‑ cannot underline ‑‑ a really important source of accessible information and one‑on‑one assistance with our products and services.

10552            So we would be willing to ‑‑ a number of parties brought that up.  It was brought up, the idea of a pamphlet that would be available in a number of alternative formats.

10553            We think it is a good idea and we are willing to take that away and provide a proposal as far as content and also how would it be effectively and efficiently distributed to the people who most need it.

10554            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.  I think that sounds helpful.  I'm sure that would include at least some of the items that I mentioned.

10555            With respect to the special needs center, it is available obviously over the phone and on the Internet.  That's correct?

10556            MR. ABBOTT:  Yes.  There are two distinct presences ‑‑ I'm not sure if that is the plural.  The special needs center is a call center and the special‑needs website is ‑‑ well, I guess it goes without saying, it is a website.

10557            They function very differently but provide much of the same information.

10558            The special needs center has been in existence since 1980 and was created on a voluntary basis by Bell Canada, without any intervention.  I believe it was coincident with the UN Year of the Disabled.

10559            It is staffed by very experienced individuals and it provides live answer.  There is no IVR.  You get directly to an agent who is familiar with in particular wireline products and services and also the needs of persons with disabilities.

10560            And there is no limit on the amount of time that they will spend with the customer.  There is no average handle time goal or anything like that.

10561            We visited the center actually to ensure that we fully understood it, and they had indicated that from time to time someone had called up to go through their bill line by line.  And if it takes an hour, it takes an hour.

10562            So that's the ‑‑ I can give you a lot more information about the special needs center.  I don't know if ‑‑ but it is a very important presence for assisting the disabled.  It can be easily accessed.  It has its own TTY line, obviously.

10563            And then the website, special needs website, is a consolidated presence where anybody can go to view the products and services and discounts, and so on, that would be of most interest, we believe, to persons with disabilities.

10564            Have I answered your question?

10565            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you, Mr. Abbott, for that.  You did fine, thank you.  I will probably come back to some aspects of it later, but anyway that is a very full answer, thank you.

10566            Just following along on the alternative formats, what would be the challenges again if the list of alternative formats to be made available on request to persons with disabilities was expanded to include plain language, sign language, both LSQ and ASL, and audio recording in both official languages delivered via CD or over the provider's website?

10567            MR. ABBOTT:  I think my answer would not be that dissimilar to the answer I gave you with respect to the promotional materials.

10568            I would hope that we frequently write in plain language, if not all the time.  I have certainly read our contracts and realize that won't always be the case.  But writing in plain language is yet another version of all your materials.  Certainly it is doable, but there are costs and other logistical challenges that I think would be similar to the promotional answer.

10569            So if anything, it needs to be done at a very ‑‑ if it were to be done, it would need to be done in a very targeted and efficient manner.  Whether it was done across the board might not be appropriate.

10570            With respect to providing materials in ASL and LSQ, I guess what I would say there is that is quite a significant undertaking, and I think we need to balance the costs and benefits, as with any activity.

10571            My understanding is that this measure would largely address those who are deaf or deafened, don't read English or French and therefore can't access it in print, and communicate through one or another version of ASL or LSQ.

10572            I don't think we have a clear idea of how big that group is.  I would venture that it might be small, but I must underline that it would be a significant undertaking.  No other industry that we are aware of does it within Canada and even abroad on any general basis.  So I'm not really sure.

10573            Certainly you come to some huge practical challenges, depending on how far you take this.  You don't have to take it very far before you get ‑‑ for example, if you were to provide a bill in ASL or LSQ, each person's bill is different, so there would be ‑‑ each bill would have to be signed and sent.  It would be a challenge, a significant challenge.

10574            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  You probably wouldn't have to go as far as every bill, but anyway, I appreciate your comments.  They are helpful.

10575            What about the audio recording then?  That was suggested actually at the beginning of the hearing by Cathy Moore of the CNIB.

10576            MR. ABBOTT:  Because it is not an existing requirement and it wasn't featured that prominently in the record, at least to the extent when I reviewed it, I came without information with respect to what it would take and what the costs and challenges would be with respect to providing an audio format.

10577            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  I wonder if you would then take an undertaking to maybe look at the record for what Ms Moore said there on the first day of the hearing, the 17th, and maybe give us your comments?

‑‑‑ Pause

10578            MR. ABBOTT:  Mr. Daniels pointed out that this information is available on the website and one has a JAWS ‑‑ Job Access With Speech ‑‑ or JAWS browser.  It could be converted into speech.  So there certainly are ways for users to make this happen.

10579            And there are a number of alternative formats that are already provided.  So there are ways for customers to obtain this information, including by turning the texts that they receive into speech.

10580            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Perhaps I could ask you, though, if you could look at her comments and see if there is anything that you could add.

10581            MR. ABBOTT:  Certainly.  I'm sorry, whose comments?

10582            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  She was very well informed.

10583            MR. ABBOTT:  This is Cathy Moore, right?

10584            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Cathy Moore of the CNIB, yes.  Thank you.

10585            MR. ABBOTT:  Certainly, I will look into that.

10586            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you.

10587            Now, moving on about CSR training and service, I'm wondering, the Neil Squire Society indicated that:

"CSRs obviously need an excellent understanding of the various disabilities as well as a list of technologies and services most appropriate for particular individuals."

(As read)

10588            You certainly seem to recognize that.

10589            We were wondering what training Bell provides to its CSRs on accessibility, including the availability of fully accessible service bundles and the operation of terminal equipment.

10590            MR. ABBOTT:  I can certainly speak to that generally.

10591            With respect to the special needs center, the CSRs who staff the center are long service CSRs who are very familiar with the company and its products and have a passion and a dedication for this.

10592            Certainly one of the reps that we were speaking with had a disabled child, and I think you will find that they are all very dedicated and have perhaps the best training possible in the sense of having gained experience throughout the company before coming to the special needs center.

10593            With respect to our CSRs, the customer service representatives in general, I must say I am not fully familiar with the training that they receive.

10594            But I would like to point out that under the deferral account one of the proposals we have put forward, Bell Canada has put forward, is the long customer ‑‑ no, Enhanced Customer Service Centre of Excellence For Persons with Disabilities.  So that has been approved.

10595            One of the measures we are looking at under that proposal is providing sensitivity to all customer facing representatives across the company.  This doesn't necessarily mean that each one of them will have the skills and capabilities of our special needs center, but they will at least be sensitive to the needs and requirements of persons with disabilities and be further aware of the sorts of assistance that can be provided through the special needs center.

10596            MR. DANIELS:  If I may, Commissioner Duncan, one of the other things I would just say about this is that Bell Canada approach is to rely not exclusively but largely on the special needs center where they get specific training, as Mr. Abbott mentioned.

10597            But one of the things that we are doing as well as part of this deferral account initiative is to take that special needs center and expand, as we talked about, the capabilities to handle other areas of lines of business that they don't handle today, specifically wireless Internet and video television services.

10598            So part of this training will be familiarity with these issues and the chance of getting someone who has been specifically trained and be able to help you address your specific needs will be enhanced, because they will be dealing with it not once every so often but on a day‑to‑day basis they will be dealing with this issue.

10599            So how do I ‑‑ whatever specific needs I may have, if I am deaf or hard of hearing, how do I handle this issue?  They will have experience in that.  They will be the right people to answer that.

10600            So we think that is the best way to approach this problem and we look forward to having that enhanced service.  We have it right now for our wireline service and we want to expand it to all lines of business.

10601            So it doesn't mean that there is not other training for anyone else, but that is primarily what is going to happen.  We think that is the best way to handle the situation, at least for our company.

10602            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you, Mr. Daniels.

10603            I'm wondering just quickly on that ‑‑ and perhaps I should already know it ‑‑ when do you expect to have that in place?

10604            I realize it is a part of your deferral account initiative, but ‑‑

10605            MR. ABBOTT:  That's correct.  We are targeting implementation of most of the measures within that initiative in 2009.

10606            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you.

10607            I have just one other question then.

10608            Mr. Stark had raised it.  You know, he felt that people serving persons with disabilities should be, you know, I think having their training refreshed.

10609            I'm just wondering how Bell ensures that the training is effective and what protocols it follows to make sure that staff are current and that you don't lose sight of what the message is, too.

‑‑‑ Pause

10610            MR. ABBOTT:  With respect to ‑‑ I believe the question asked was to what extent is the training related to serving persons with disabilities refreshed or enhanced or provided on a regular basis?

10611            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Sorry, how do you ensure the training is effective and that your training protocols are followed ‑‑ that your protocols are followed?

10612            MR. ABBOTT:  That would be largely ‑‑ two answers to that.

10613            With respect to the deferral account initiative, an element of that is refresher training for CSRs and the current situation would be the special needs center.

10614            They have the normal job reviews.  Their responsibility is to serve persons with disabilities and they are rated based on that.  If there is a problem with the manner in which they serve persons with disabilities, that would be something that the manager would identify.

10615            Beyond that, that regular ‑‑ given that that is their job, that is what they are rated on.

10616            I am not aware of a specific protocol relating to training for them.

10617            MR.  DANIELS:  The one other thing I would just add is ‑‑ I just wanted to check with this ‑‑ is we generally have very good feedback about our special needs service.  The complaint we usually hear is about that it doesn't cover other services, which we are addressing through the deferral account initiative we discussed.

10618            There has never been a complaint escalated that we know about the quality of service in terms of us providing.  So we feel pretty confident it giving you the answer to that, that it is a good position.

10619            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you very much, I appreciate both answers.

10620            What I had done was we had prepared for us sort of a comparison of what is done by the different telephone companies in the different areas of serving the disabled or persons with disability, and I have gone through and I have a number of questions just comparing the level of service between Bell, Bell Aliant and Télébec, and then I have a few questions at the end about Bell Mobility.

10621            So hopefully we can go through it fairly quickly, because I have a number of other questions as well.

10622            First of all, I understand that all three companies provide a special needs call center and I was wondering if it's a common call center.

10623            MR. DANIELS:  First of all, I think I have to ‑‑ Télébec does not provide at this time a special needs call center, and it's separate call centers for Bell Canada and Bell Aliant for Ontario and Québec is one common call center, and it is a separate call center in the Atlantic provinces for Bell Aliant, which I believe we have talked about in our opening statement in terms of Mr. Henry described how that service was to be expanded and changed to sort of match the approach that Bell Canada and Bell Aliant take together in Ontario and Québec.

10624            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Two questions sort of fell out of that.

10625            I noticed I think in your submission, in your written remarks there this afternoon, that I didn't get the understanding that the service was available 24/7.  I think it says regular business day.  Does it say that in your comments?

10626            MR. DANIELS:  Yes.  In Ontario and Québec it is 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

10627            MR. HENRY:  In the one we're planning to expand in Atlantic Canada will be live answer during regular business hours, but it will be accessible through voicemail in after‑hours.

10628            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  So if I was to call ‑‑

10629            MR. DANIELS:  Sorry, if I could, I have been corrected that it is 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and we also have the same aspect of it's live answer during those hours and able to leave a message outside those hours.

10630            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.  So if I was to leave a message at 9 o'clock at night or, you know, when people are really interested ‑‑ using their phones, and I leave a message, do I get a call back the next day or are there a few people on call that will call me back?

10631            MR. ABBOTT:  The standard is that your call gets returned within one business day for the Bell Canada special needs center.

10632            MR. HENRY:  That would be the same.  Our plans would be the same.

10633            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  But if I am not a person with a disability and I call in for service, don't I get 24/7 service?

10634            MR. HENRY:  Not live answer.

10635            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Not live answer?

10636            MR. HENRY:  No, not live answer.

10637            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  I guess that tells me how reliable my phone service is, I haven't had to phone.

10638            MR. DANIELS:  I don't have the exact hours.  It's not the exact same hours, but it's definitely not 24 hours.

10639            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  All right.  I take it that that's typical of telephone companies in general.

10640            You probably can't speak to that.

10641            I am just surprised that you can't call at 9 o'clock at night and get an answer.

10642            MR. DANIELS:  I am not sure about whether it's 9 o'clock at night, but I have definitely experienced ‑‑

10643            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  No, no, after ‑‑

10644            MR. DANIELS:  Yes, I have definitely experienced not being able to get through and having to call during regular business hours.

10645            MR. HENRY:  There may be a difference here, Ms Duncan, between repairs and service.  If you are calling because you have a question about TTY, or you want to order a service, you might not be able to get through.

10646            But for a repair service, you can get through in off hours.

10647            If you have a problem with your phone, you should be able to get through in off hours.

10648            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you for that distinction.

10649            What are the plans with respect to Télébec and the Special Needs Centre, or do you have any?

10650            I appreciate that you made the announcement today about Bell Aliant, but ‑‑

10651            MR. HENRY:  Let me confess.  We are not as well equipped on the panel to answer questions about Télébec.  We are certainly able to undertake and find out.

10652            But on that particular one, I understand that Télébec, as you know, is quite small, and they do not have any plans to have a Special Needs Centre.

10653            Something that I think they would be willing to look at is whether or not there is an arrangement they could make with Bell or Bell Aliant to perhaps contract that out.

10654            I don't know how easy that would be, because you would be dealing with agents in Bell or Bell Aliant about products that might be different in Télébec, but I think that is something they are willing to take away and have a look at.

10655            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Excuse me, could I interrupt, Commissioner Duncan, to get a clarification?

10656            Is Bell Aliant speaking on behalf of Télébec, because I see a Télébec representative in the room.

10657            Am I missing something here?

10658            MR. HENRY:  No, you are not.  I am speaking to the extent of my knowledge.

10659            We can either get an answer in writing, or if there is somebody here from Télébec, then ‑‑

10660            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Is he prepared to address those questions?

10661            MR. HENRY:  To the extent that I haven't answered them correctly, he will be.

10662            Sure.  Sure, we can do that.

10663            THE CHAIRPERSON:  So we can pose questions to him, as well.

10664            MR. HENRY:  If you like.

10665            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  If you are saying that you may not have an answer, and you want to provide it later, we would rather get it on the record sooner, so we can ask follow‑up questions.

10666            MR. HENRY:  I understand.

10667            I think, so far, I can tell you that I have talked to him about the answer I just gave, and I am comfortable with that.

10668            But if there are questions you have about Télébec that I don't have the answers to, then, by all means, let's bring him ‑‑

10669            THE CHAIRPERSON:  But if, hypothetically, we ask you for an undertaking to make the same Special Needs Centre available in Télébec territory as in Bell Aliant territory, would you be the one committing to that, or would he be the one committing to that?

10670            MR. HENRY:  Or committing to have a look at it.  I don't know that either of us would commit to doing it.

10671            THE CHAIRPERSON:  So you are prepared to speak on behalf of Télébec.

10672            MR. HENRY:  I am prepared to speak to that item and say that I know ‑‑ I have talked to him ‑‑ that Télébec is prepared to have a look and have discussions with Bell and Bell Aliant about how this might be done ‑‑ how and whether it might be done.

10673            THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  We think that there are other questions that we would look to Télébec to respond to, as well, and I am just wondering whether we pose the questions ‑‑

10674            I suppose we could pose the question to Mr. Daniels, and he could refer the question to whomever he wants on your panel.

10675            MR. HENRY:  Sure.  If they get detailed beyond my knowledge and you would prefer not to have an undertaking, then let's bring him up.

10676            THE CHAIRPERSON:  I apologize, Commissioner Duncan.

10677            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  No problem.  Actually, I looked at the table, and I do have questions that pertain to Télébec, so we will just proceed and see what we may need to do.

10678            I notice that the special needs section of Bell Canada's website is fully accessible, that Bell Aliant's is partially accessible, and it appears that Télébec's is not accessible, so I am just wondering if you could comment on when they would all be upgraded to be accessible to the extent that Bell's is.

10679            MR. DANIELS:  Commissioner Duncan, if you don't mind, I am sort of jumping in here before I hand it over to Mr. Henry.

10680            Your description of our website being fully accessible ‑‑ I think it might be beneficial to have a little discussion on fully accessible, because it's an assumption.

10681            We have heard people use this term, and we are a little reluctant to jump to that conclusion, because I don't think there is such a thing as fully accessible.

10682            I will let Mr. Abbott explain that.

10683            Or we could hold off on that ‑‑

10684            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  We can continue with that discussion a little later, I think, because I have some questions on your whole website.  This is just referring to your special needs section, but maybe your comment is pertinent there, too, so you go ahead if you feel that is ‑‑

10685            MR. ABBOTT:  Perhaps the comments that I wanted to make about the issue of how you measure accessibility, and the use of percentages, and exactly what it is we are measuring against, may be more appropriate during the later portion of your questions.

10686            What I can indicate to you is that ‑‑ no, I will leave it for later.

10687            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.  At this point, then, are you prepared to speak to bringing Télébec and Bell Aliant's special needs sections up to the same level that Bell's is currently?

10688            MR. HENRY:  We are certainly willing to look at that, yes.  That is one of the improvements we have been considering this week, as we have heard a lot of comments.

10689            So, yes, we are certainly willing to look at that.

10690            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  I should ask you, Mr. Henry, when you say that you are willing to look at it, are you then intending to come back to us with some further comment?

10691            MR. HENRY:  I will give you that undertaking right now.  We will do it.

10692            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  You will actually do it.  Okay.  Thank you.

10693            MR. HENRY:  The special needs section.

10694            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Yes, that is what I am referring to.

10695            MR. HENRY:  I would have a lot of problems with the rest of the site, but ‑‑

10696            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  That's fair.  Thank you.

10697            MR. HENRY:  ‑‑ I can undertake to do that.

10698            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Bell and Télébec, do they have plans to make an audio version of their Statement of Consumer Rights available on their websites, which I understand Bell does?

10699            MR. HENRY:  Actually, I hadn't put my mind to that until today.  I didn't realize that that was being done.

10700            I have no idea what is involved.  I think it is probably doable.  That one I will get back to you on, because I just haven't had a chance to consult with my people.

10701            I think it's the kind of document that is fairly static, and I am hoping that it wouldn't be a lot of work.  We will get back to you on that.

10702            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.  Thank you.

10703            I notice that Bell has an Office of the Accessibility Manager, and I am wondering, as well, with Bell Aliant and Télébec, if your intention is to have the same there, if you have the same necessity.

10704            MR. HENRY:  An accessibility manager?

10705            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Yes.

10706            MR. HENRY:  We have a product manager ‑‑

10707            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Office of ‑‑

10708            MR. HENRY:  We have two things.  On the product side, we have somebody who is responsible for special needs product development, so we have a Product Development Manager responsible for special needs.

10709            Then, on the service side, we will have the Special Needs Centre.

10710            I am not sure how much that differs from what Bell has.

10711            I'm not speaking for Bell, I'm speaking for Bell Aliant.

10712            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Would Télébec have a similar ‑‑

10713            MR. HENRY:  I think that goes to the first answer I gave you, that Télébec is willing to explore what it might do in this regard.

10714            I think that Télébec, being the size it is, it will be difficult to construct the same level of Special Needs Centre, but perhaps they could explore ways of contracting it out to Bell or Bell Aliant, and making use of those synergies.

10715            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you.

10716            Just to digress a minute, the Product Development Manager that you referred to, that person is responsible for identifying and sourcing accessible products?

10717            Is that the idea?

10718            MR. HENRY:  Yes, that would be one of his responsibilities.

10719            He is also responsible for E‑911.  He works very closely with the PSAPs, and, of course, accessibility issues come up there, as well.

10720            He has a few other responsibilities, but E‑911 and product management for special needs are among his most prominent.

10721            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Would you generally include an accessibility requirement in your RFPs when you are placing orders?

10722            In other words, is it a practice to do that?

10723            MR. HENRY:  I don't think it's a practice, I would say that it's something that, I am sure, is taken into account.

10724            I think, as we develop this Special Needs Centre, that will be another source of feedback into our product management.

10725            I am hoping that that will also enable us to actually do better in that area, but I wouldn't want to say that that's something that is on our checklist right now.

10726            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Would he also consult with some of the groups representing persons with disabilities as a matter of course?

10727            MR. HENRY:  Typically, because of our relationship with Bell, we get a lot of our information that way.  We have not had a lot of requests to meet with groups in Atlantic Canada.  I think we would be willing to, but we haven't done that to date.

10728            As I say, we have a relationship with Bell, and we get a lot of information that way.

10729            We do have our MRS service, which we contract out to High Communications in Moncton, and they consult regularly, and have sensitivity training from a hard‑of‑hearing society, one of the ones based in Atlantic Canada.

10730            We are also proposing to have our special needs representatives our special needs centre have access to insensitivity training as well from that society.

10731            COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  With respect to that question then about what would Bell's answer be, then maybe Mr. Abbott would have to answer that with respect to including an accessibility consideration in our fees?

10732            MR. DANIELS:  Actually, I'll take that one.  I think what, if I may, you're talking about in terms of including in RFPs, really it depends on the type of service and what role you're talking about playing.

10733            The real question, if I can rephrase it into the way we are thinking about it at Bell is: how do you get people thinking about accessibility issues when they're making business decisions and building services, new products and so forth?  In that regard, one of our initiatives that we have, a deferral account, plans for deferral account funding that we have received for is to create an inclusive design or a universal design initiative, so there's been a fair amount of information on the record of this proceeding, on the written record, about inclusive design and some discussion orally.

10734            Maybe it can help if I just sort of describe the way I sort of give you a little bit of a personal answer, that may then tell you how I looked at it and what I have learned.

10735            Until I picked up this file, I come new to this file this summer, I didn't know anything about a lot of these issues, but certainly not about inclusive design.  As I have learned about inclusive design, it's really an interesting idea, it's an exciting idea and I have become a believer in the fact that if Bell was to adopt inclusive design principles and how it went about its decision it's going to actually provide for better service, not just to the accessibility community but to its customers as a whole.