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TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS BEFORE
THE CANADIAN RADIO‑TELEVISION AND
TRANSCRIPTION DES AUDIENCES DEVANT
LE CONSEIL DE LA RADIODIFFUSION
ET DES TÉLÉCOMMUNICATIONS CANADIENNES
SUBJECT / SUJET:
Unresolved issues related to the accessibility of
telecommunications and broadcasting services to
persons with disabilities /
Questions en suspens concernant l'accessibilité des
services de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion pour
les personnes handicapées
HELD AT: TENUE À:
Conference Centre Centre de conférences
Outaouais Room Salle Outaouais
140 Promenade du Portage 140, Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec Gatineau (Québec)
November 19, 2008 Le 19 novembre 2008
In order to meet the requirements of the Official Languages
Act, transcripts of proceedings before the Commission will be
bilingual as to their covers, the listing of the CRTC members
and staff attending the public hearings, and the Table of
However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded
verbatim transcript and, as such, is taped and transcribed in
either of the official languages, depending on the language
spoken by the participant at the public hearing.
Afin de rencontrer les exigences de la Loi sur les langues
officielles, les procès‑verbaux pour le Conseil seront
bilingues en ce qui a trait à la page couverture, la liste des
membres et du personnel du CRTC participant à l'audience
publique ainsi que la table des matières.
Toutefois, la publication susmentionnée est un compte rendu
textuel des délibérations et, en tant que tel, est enregistrée
et transcrite dans l'une ou l'autre des deux langues
officielles, compte tenu de la langue utilisée par le
participant à l'audience publique.
Canadian Radio‑television and
Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des
Transcript / Transcription
Unresolved issues related to the accessibility of
telecommunications and broadcasting services to
persons with disabilities /
Questions en suspens concernant l'accessibilité des
services de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion pour
les personnes handicapées
BEFORE / DEVANT:
Leonard Katz Chairperson / Président
Elizabeth Duncan Commissioner / Conseillère
Timothy Denton Commissioner / Conseiller
Suzanne Lamarre Commissioner / Conseillère
Candice Molnar Commissioner / Conseillère
Stephen Simpson Commissioner / Conseiller
ALSO PRESENT / AUSSI PRÉSENTS:
Sylvie Bouffard Secretary / Secretaire
Kathleen Taylor Hearing Manager /
Gérante de l'audience
Martine Vallée Director, Social Policy /
Sheila Perron Hearing Officer /
Lori Pope Legal Counsel /
Véronique Lehoux Conseillères juridiques
HELD AT: TENUE À:
Conference Centre Centre de conférences
Outaouais Room Salle Outaouais
140 Promenade du Portage 140, Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec Gatineau (Québec)
November 19, 2008 Le 19 novembre 2008
- iv -
TABLE DES MATIÈRES / TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE / PARA
PRESENTATION BY / PRÉSENTATION PAR:
SaskTel 618 / 3546
Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec 700 / 4126
Edwin Ross Eadie 737 / 4332
Canadian Hard of Hearing Association in Hamilton 769 / 4514
VRS Consultative Committee of BC 819 / 4828
Ryerson Centre for learning technologies 849 / 5024
Canadian Cable Systems Alliance Inc. 865 / 5116
Joe Clark 913 / 5431
Gatineau, Quebec / Gatineau (Québec)
‑‑‑ Upon resuming on Wednesday, November 19, 2008
at 0902 / L'audience reprend le mercredi
19 November 2008 à 0902
3534 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please. We are about to start Day Three of this proceeding. A couple of preliminary matters before we start.
3535 First, we are going to have another first for the CRTC today. There are a number of videoconferencing linkups that will be taking place today through Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto, so we ask for everybody's support in trying to work the process out. There will be support staff in some of these locations as well, so we will try and time things as best we can with the intent of not disrupting anybody else's evidence or interventions or cross‑examinations.
3536 With that said, I will pass it on to Madam Secretary.
3537 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
3538 Good morning. Bonjour, tout le monde.
3539 Before we begin, I would like to go over a few housekeeping matters.
3540 For the benefit of those who were not in the room yesterday, I would like to remind everyone that when you are in the hearing room we ask that you completely turn off and not only leave on vibration mode your cell phones and Blackberrys as they cause interference on the internal communication systems used by our translators and interpreters.
3541 Please note that ASL and LSQ sign language interpretation services will be available throughout the hearing if needed. Please advise the Hearing Secretary if you require such services.
3542 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. 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.
3543 Any parties planning to apply for their costs, who are unfamiliar with the application forms or process, are invited to speak with Commission counsel during a break for information.
3544 We will now proceed with our panel No. 12, SaskTel Telecommunications.
3545 Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your 15‑minute presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
3546 MR. MELDRUM: Good morning. My name is John Meldrum. I am the Vice‑President and Corporate Counsel of Regulatory Affairs for SaskTel and with me today is Duncan Kroll, Director of Regulatory.
3547 First of all, with respect to last Friday's interrogatories, we do prefer to provide answers at the end of our presentation as we will probably provide some context for some of the Commission's questions.
3548 The exceptions would be questions (g) and (i), which we undertake to respond by November 28th.
3549 We are pleased to have the opportunity to make our presentation and to answer your questions today.
3550 As you may know, SaskTel is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a leading communications provider in the province of Saskatchewan. Over those years, SaskTel's commitment to Saskatchewan people has been the one constant in a time of change and innovation. Whether delivering the latest wireless technology or plain old dialtone, SaskTel always keeps Saskatchewan and the particular needs of its communities, families and residents in mind.
3551 We are acutely aware that the communications tools we offer have become critical for Saskatchewan people to fully participate in society and improve their quality of living. With that awareness comes responsibility and accountability. As a result of SaskTel's status as a Crown corporation, all Saskatchewan residents, including persons with disabilities, are not only customers but owners of SaskTel. This generates a keen interest on SaskTel's part to pay close attention to customer services, including accessibility issues.
3552 To use a football analogy in this Grey Cup week, this means the service yardsticks that we are measured by often are different than those experienced across the country.
3553 Consequently, SaskTel has undertaken many activities and initiatives to ensure that these customers have access to telecommunications and broadcasting products and services.
3554 SaskTel is adhering to the many requirements established by the Commission to reduce accessibility obstacles. At times, often at the request of the Saskatchewan disability community, SaskTel has adopted specific programs or services that exceed national requirements.
3555 I don't want to give you the impression that we believe that we are perfect in our response to the needs of our customers with disabilities. No one is or ever will be, given the pace of change in our industry.
3556 We try, however, to maintain a diverse range of products and services which improve the accessibility of our communications services. We concentrate our efforts on building strong, ongoing relationships with the disability community in Saskatchewan. We continue to strive to be responsive to the communication needs of our customers and to satisfy those needs within the limits of our available resources.
3557 In that regard, our views on the five major services identified by the Commission in its letter of October 6, 2008 are summarized and attached to our comments today.
3558 In the time remaining, we would like to speak to several themes that have emerged from the public proceeding.
3559 Accessibility. SaskTel agrees that communications products and services should be made accessible to persons with disabilities to the extent that is readily achievable; that is, weighing the benefit to be delivered by a measure against the technological requirements and limitations, associated costs and the impact of the measure on the population at large.
3560 However, most of the issues regarding the accessibility of communications services generally deal with terminal equipment, and it is commonly agreed that accessibility is best accomplished in the initial design and development of products and services rather than attempting to modify specific devices after the fact.
3561 In this regard, SaskTel notes that it does not design or develop the vast majority of the products or services that we offer; rather, we market products and services that have been developed by others. Nor is SaskTel, as a small communications provider, in a position to influence the design and development of such products and services.
3562 In spite of that, there is a constant appeal that service providers, including SaskTel, take the lead in ensuring that products and services are made accessible to all people with disabilities. It appears to us that those who voice that appeal fail to understand that a company the size of SaskTel, or the whole Canadian industry for that matter, can exert very little influence upon manufacturers of equipment by which communication services are delivered. We simply do not have the mass of consumers to match those of Europe and Asia where manufacturers are focusing their attention.
3563 As ARCH has noted in a comments in this proceeding, there are many fronts where accessibility initiatives are being advanced, including Internet and computer technology and telecommunications.
3564 The Neil Squire Society which preceded us reports that its research and development group researches and creates devices, technologies and products to facilitate and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. There is an Assistive Devices Industry Office within Industry Canada. The ADIO website identifies 23 different business organizations in Canada involved in research and development of assistive technology, largely addressing communications services.
3565 Seventeen educational institutions with departments, divisions or programs in assistive technologies are also identified on the ADIO website. The Center for Learning Technologies at Ryerson University, a participant in this proceeding, and the Adaptive Resource Center at the U of T are but two examples.
3566 Similarly, in Saskatchewan there are long‑standing agencies such as Saskatchewan Abilities Council and the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living which continue to play a prominent role in accessibility issues. These supporting entities should not be ignored, nor should it be assumed that service providers are the sole source of improving the accessibility of communications services for people with disabilities.
3567 Affordability has also been raised. We acknowledge that affordability of services affects their availability. However, disabilities are diverse and varied. As has been noted in the proceeding, every Canadian is likely to have a disability sometime in their life, some permanent and some temporary. It is also said that people with disabilities are not a static group but that they vary and grow over time.
3568 Some have suggested that all telecom products and services be fully accessible by all people regardless of disability now and in the future. This broad perspective on disability and its impact on the accessibility of communications services places a daunting task before service providers to ensure that they have affordable services that aid accessibility.
3569 SaskTel has described a variety of services and other accommodations it makes available to its customers. Many of these accommodations are made available at no charge or at prices lower than might otherwise be charged. With very few exceptions, such as the initiatives that SaskTel proposed for the disposal of its deferral account, these services and accommodations were established well before SaskTel came under federal regulation.
3570 But if the boundaries of disability we just described are to be used to guide the development of accommodations for our customers, a serious question arises as to the capability of service providers to make available the required services at prices that are affordable.
3571 In our view, due consideration must be given to the potential and significance of other sources to address affordability of communications services. Across Canada there are a variety of governmental, nongovernmental and community based organizations and programs devoted to addressing and improving accessibility to communications services.
3572 For example, in Saskatchewan the Ministry of Social Services Social Assistance Program makes provisions for utility allowance which may be available to cover costs for basic telephone service and other utilities. Funds may also be available to cover the costs of special telephone equipment for a person with a disability.
3573 In its last budget the Government of Saskatchewan announced over $20 million to support the inclusion of people with disabilities, which includes a doubling of tax credits for people with disabilities.
3574 Most recently, in its Throne Speech the provincial government announced the development of a new disability income strategy in order to review and improve income support.
3575 It is our firmly held view that service providers should not continue to be relied upon as the parties with the primary responsibility to address issues of affordability.
3576 In terms of collaboration for solutions, the issues of improved consultation and collaboration on issues of accessibility are the two most broadly addressed themes of this proceeding. We strongly support the view is better for all parties when solutions are developed through a collaborative and consultative process, creating understanding, mutual trust and commitment between service providers and the affected stakeholders.
3577 The success of such consultation depends greatly upon the framework of the process. In our experience, the most productive consultations and concrete outcomes arise when they are focused and purposeful. Successful collaboration among parties also requires respect for priorities and the resources available to address them.
3578 Perhaps most important is the creation of an open door policy where parties directly engage one another and work toward building a shared effort to meet common goals.
3579 In our view, this collective effort is best established through the Saskatchewan disability community, providing SaskTel with their expectations, needs and priorities. That is why we strongly believe that those consultations are most successful when conducted at a regional rather than a national level. In our case regional means provincial.
3580 We believe that SaskTel already has an effective working relationship with provincial disabilities groups by focusing its attention on serving the needs of its customers and we take pride in our record of responding to those needs.
3581 Having said that, we do recognize the value in participating in national consultations on specific topics when these topics are of a national nature.
3582 As an example, we think that it is of paramount importance that the issues regarding the establishment and provision of video relay service be addressed at the national level. This is a service which the deaf and hard of hearing community of Saskatchewan has identified to us as a priority, but which we both understand would not be feasible for SaskTel to provide on its own.
3583 In terms of the need for regulation, many of the participants in this proceeding representing the disability community call for increased or different regulation to improve accessibility of communications services. SaskTel does not believe this is warranted.
3584 The Commission has correctly forborne from regulating telecommunications terminal equipment. We support the Commission's conclusion that Industry Canada should be responsible for ensuring accessibility of terminal equipment.
3585 The Commission also retains the ability to address issues of accessibility in telecom and broadcasting through establishing the terms and conditions of any service offering. Added regulation is inconsistent with the federal government's policy directive which calls upon the Commission to avoid regulating where it is not necessary and to rely upon market forces to the greatest extent possible.
3586 In that regard, SaskTel shares TELUS' view that innovation will drive more accessibility.
3587 The availability of SMART phones with their text messaging capabilities has met the needs of many deaf and hearing impaired persons. Those phones did not arise as a result of regulatory fiat, they were made available by manufacturers responding to the capabilities of new technology.
3588 Our introduction of voice to text messaging was motivated by the notion of providing our customers with the ability to receive messages without having to access their voice mailbox. That it also improved accessibility for the hearing impaired is another benefit. Although SaskTel does not believe that additional regulation is required, if established by the Commission it should be applied to all service providers.
3589 This again would be consistent with the policy direction which directs that regulatory measures that are not of an economic nature should be implemented in a symmetrical and competitively neutral manner.
3590 In closing, SaskTel can assure you that we will continue to make progress on accessibility issues in Saskatchewan. As has been our tradition, we are committed to directly engaging the disability community and taking our direction for service improvements from those affected groups. This model has worked well in Saskatchewan.
3591 While SaskTel understands that the Commission has a responsibility to ensure that accessibility issues are adequately addressed across the country, we sincerely hope that the outcomes or determinations of this process not divert SaskTel from devoting the attention to our customers that they deserve and have come to expect.
3592 SaskTel's recent annual report stated:
"With tens of thousands of people having worked for SaskTel over the years and decades of building social capital in Saskatchewan, our record is just as much about people and relationships as it is about getting affordable world‑class communications technologies into our customers' hands." (As read)
3593 Our relationship with the disability community in Saskatchewan is illustrative of this record.
3594 We would like to thank the Commission for the opportunity to appear today. We are ready to move forward in partnership with Saskatchewan residents with disabilities, their families, community based organizations, the Saskatchewan government and the Commission.
3595 In terms of the interrogatories, first of all, the status of our IP relay project, generally the project at the corporation is not at a state where many of the questions could be answered as we have been concentrating on the entire future of our Operator Services Group.
3596 We do require a major technology change‑out in our Operator Services Group and unfortunately that has distracted us. We will be continuing with operator services and we are in the process of arranging for that technology change‑out.
3597 That gives you sort of the background as to why we are not quite as far along as we would hope to otherwise be.
3598 In terms of cost per minute of IP relay service, that isn't available yet because we are not as far along as we hoped.
3599 In terms of migration of minutes from MRS to IP relay ‑‑ this would be question (b) ‑‑ we don't have anything specific, but we do certainly expect that there would be some migration. But we do in general note that there are many other factors that are impacting the volume of MRS already today and those of course are text messages, e‑mail and of course increasing needs for people to be able to communicate.
3600 In terms of monthly cost to users of MRS, IPRS and VRS, our MRS costs are not centralized. The service is offered by all of our operators as part of an integrated work station. We would have to do a cost study if we were to provide ‑‑ if we were to be able to provide the cost of MRS.
3601 I should say by background that we do not charge our customers for MRS. It is not a separate bill line. The service we believe came into being in about 1987, and when we became regulated in June of 2000 it was embedded in our rates at that time.
3602 With respect to VRS, we do know that we have 300 registered message relay service customers today. We can easily extrapolate the costs over that base of customers. We have heard an estimate of perhaps upwards of $50 to $100 million a year for video relay service. We certainly hope that it is nowhere in the ballpark.
3603 But if you extrapolate that over our registered TTY users, that would be between $5,000 and $10,000 per year per registered user today. It would strike me that if the costs are that high that that perhaps would be on the other side of the reasonableness line, and certainly we believe that the Commission needs to fully understand these future costs before embarking on VRS service.
3604 Question (d), the date we plan to begin offering IP relay service, we have committed to the Commission to June of 2009. That is still our target, but we are afraid that that may slip as we get deeper into the analysis.
3605 Hours of availability ‑‑ this would be question (e) ‑‑ we believe it should be 24/7. Anything else wouldn't make any sense.
3606 Question (f), language availability. We have not had any demand whatsoever for French message relay service, so today we do only provide an English service for message relay in Saskatchewan. In the future we would see IPRS as been English only for us.
3607 Territory available, (g), that is an intriguing question. We think the answer is Canada but we will undertake to provide a formal response on that one.
3608 Compatible devices. Our expectation would be that if a device can access the Internet, then it should be able to access IP relay service.
3609 And last but not least, question (i), again an intriguing question, and we will file a response by November 28th.
3610 Duncan and I would be pleased to answer any questions of the Commission.
3611 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Meldrum.
3612 We will begin the questioning with someone that I think you are very familiar with, Commissioner Molnar.
3613 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Good morning and welcome.
3614 I'm going to address you as Mr. Meldrum and Mr. Kroll and I will address my comments to you, Mr. Meldrum, and you can redirect as you choose. Okay?
3615 Thank you for your opening remarks. They are very complete and very inclusive. So I will apologize right up front if I'm going to ask a question that is half answered here.
3616 I have questions for you related to telecommunications, related to customer service and related to BDUs.
3617 Let's begin with the telecommunications side of this.
3618 You did provide, and we appreciate you providing the answers to the potential undertaking, the questions that were sent out on your IP relay service.
3619 Before we get into IP relay service, I would just like to step back a little bit on message relay service.
3620 You mentioned that you offer it as an integrated platform with your operator services and that you don't have a cost study. I am very interested, however, in understanding what are the major components, cost components, of providing message relay service.
3621 I understand that SaskTel provides, for example, the TTY units themselves free of charge to users. Operators are another cost component.
3622 Are you able to discuss here today what are the major cost components of message relay service or would you like to get back to us with that?
3623 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, we would have to undertake to provide you that.
3624 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. At this point I don't think we are looking for an actual cost study, but I would like to understand what all is contained. I mean there is a rate. I think your rate is what to message relay ‑‑ while you say it is embedded, it is a separate rate. I know that it is, for example, imputed in your subsidy requirements and so on, so there is a separate rate or separate component of the rate for message relay.
3625 Do you know what that rate is?
3626 MR. MELDRUM: No.
3627 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: No?
3628 MR. MELDRUM: We will have to undertake that.
3629 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Sorry, I have it, but I have been told not to lift my screen or you won't see me. I think it's about 25 cents. So some component of that rate is covering off with the TTY.
3630 Obviously there are operators. And what are the other cost components?
3631 You also mentioned that there are other technologies and services that are available that have already impacted upon the demand for message relay service: text messaging, instant messaging and so on.
3632 Do you have information that you could provide to us related to the quantity or the demand for message relay over the past ‑‑ I would like five years, if you have that.
3633 MR. MELDRUM: We do have three years. We will see if we can get five and we will file it as well.
3634 Certainly 2006 to 2007 the volume dropped by about 10 per cent, and in 2008 we are expecting that drop to be more significant than that.
3635 Again, we are thinking that it is text messaging and e‑mail that is really replacing it.
3636 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes. I think that's a logical conclusion. It's obvious that some of these new technologies are valuable and useful tools for persons who are deaf.
3637 So yes, if you have that information, I would appreciate it.
3638 As we move into the issue of IP relay service, you mentioned you had not begun because you are doing an overhaul of the operator services.
3639 MR. MELDRUM: Well, we have done some work but we are not as far along as we would like to. They have been dealing with the issue of whether we would try and provide it in‑house or whether we would contract it out.
3640 I believe they have reached the conclusion that they want to contract it out and I believe they are now in the process of working with potential vendors.
3641 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. So if as a result of this proceeding we were to determine that it made sense to have a national IP relay service versus a regional service, would that affect the monies you would need to spend on your trial?
3642 MR. MELDRUM: Well, we did have the money that was allocated out of the deferral account.
3643 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
3644 MR. MELDRUM: I guess certainly that would have to be redirected if there is going to be a national service.
3645 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So the majority of that money is still available?
3646 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, for sure.
3647 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And could be redirected if that determination was made?
3648 MR. MELDRUM: For sure.
3649 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Would you have information or be able to file information as regards how much of that money would still be available?
3650 MR. MELDRUM: We can certainly file that, yes.
3651 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes?
3652 MR. MELDRUM: We think it is virtually all the money.
3653 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Virtually all is still remaining?
3654 MR. MELDRUM: Yes.
3655 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
3656 MR. MELDRUM: There would have been some work that would have been done, but it is really internal work.
3657 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Pardon?
3658 MR. MELDRUM: There would have been some work that would have been done that I suppose ends up getting costed out, but I don't think it's huge.
3659 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
3660 So let me just talk briefly about a national IP relay service, separate from video relay service, a national IP relay service.
3661 You have stated that you believe it's the way to go.
3662 Oh, I'm sorry, you talked about video relay. What are your views on national IP relay service?
3663 MR. MELDRUM: I don't think there is anything particular to SaskTel or the province of Saskatchewan that would dictate it being a regional service. So if it makes the most sense to provide it on a national basis, which it likely does because then you can access economies of scale, I would think we would be supportive of that.
3664 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: As it regards service providers, I think you mentioned that you are looking at potentially contracting out if you proceed with your regional.
3665 Would you see any particular issues related to having this contracted out separate and apart from the telecommunications service providers themselves?
3666 MR. MELDRUM: Can I just get you to repeat the question, please?
3667 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes. My question is ‑‑ I mean, message relay has been primarily provided by the telephone service providers themselves. IP relay service, there are of course companies we know in the States, for example, who provide the service. It is a separate and unique service and different companies contract their resources.
3668 Would you see that same model working here in Canada?
3669 Is there any reason that it would need to be provided by a telecommunications provider?
3670 MR. MELDRUM: No, I don't think there is any particular expertise that we have that others wouldn't be able to have. Our core competency there would really be handling customer inquiries and running a call center, being the operator services group, which isn't a skill that is particular to phone companies.
3671 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
3672 If we were to proceed with a national IP relay service that ‑‑ let's say, we contracted out, looked for, you know, set out the requirements and established this for the most economical ‑‑ in the most economical way we could, obviously, there still is ongoing costs associated or that will entail ongoing costs. Have you considered how to recover the ongoing costs?
3673 MR. MELDRUM: And again, we are talking about IP relay?
3674 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: We are talking IP relay, not video relay, just IP relay.
3675 MR. MELDRUM: Well, certainly in terms of the dollars that were flagged in our deferral account for introduction of an IP relay service, it was to cover the cost of putting the service together and some ongoing operating costs but it would have reached an end point.
3676 In terms of future costs over and above that, I guess it takes you back to a certain degree to the MRS service and where that is going in terms of volumes, because maybe in total the volumes may not be that much greater. I know some people think it could be substantially greater. I am not necessarily convinced of that.
3677 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So potentially ‑‑ and thank you for that because it is a natural question, I believe ‑‑ I mean, as we make a transition, which is in effect a technology transition from one relay service to another, and we see the users transition from the old technology into the new IP relay technology, it is an obvious question why the existing rate for relay services could not be sufficient to fund the new service, yes?
3678 MR. MELDRUM: Yes.
3679 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
3680 Let's move on to the issue of national video relay service.
3681 Could you provide me your comments or perspectives as it relates to establishing a national video relay service in Canada?
3682 MR. MELDRUM: We certainly ‑‑ as I have followed the proceeding, I came to the conclusion that it certainly is a service that Canada needs to look at and on the face of it would have great benefit to disabled Canadians.
3683 My only reservation is the cost of the service. A lot of people don't seem to want to talk about the cost of the service but if it approaches anywhere near this $50‑100 million estimate, then I think the Commission and Canada as a country needs to understand if that is the best way to spend $50‑100 million a year.
3684 So we certainly are quite supportive of it but we certainly want to understand the costs and I think our government would want to understand the costs as well.
3685 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You mentioned that there's 300 users in ‑‑
3686 MR. MELDRUM: Right.
3687 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Do you have any sense as to what number of those registered users ‑‑ I assume all of those registered users are text literate today if they are registered.
3688 Do you have any sense as to the size of the community of users in Saskatchewan who aren't being served today because they aren't able or aren't literate in text?
3689 MR. MELDRUM: We did ask the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society their views and they don't have a number themselves. They certainly believe there are a number of people that only sign and for which that service would be essential but they don't know the number.
3690 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you.
3691 I want to move on to the issue of website accessibility. I understand some of your deferral monies was directed to improving the accessibility of your website.
3692 MR. MELDRUM: Correct.
3693 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And where are you in that process?
3694 MR. MELDRUM: We recently received back an audit that was done by an outside contractor and are in the process of going through the audit to understand what changes we can make within that envelope of money.
3695 It is not our expectation that there is enough money available or that it makes sense for us to make our entire website compliant today but certainly we believe that it would make sense to focus on the special needs portion of our website.
3696 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And that is what I was going to ask. So the money in the deferral account is being used to create a special section?
3697 MR. MELDRUM: Well, it was ‑‑ we haven't made that determination yet. That is our expectation in terms of the amount of money that is available given what it has cost others to make their entire website compliant with those guidelines.
3698 But I believe looking at the amount of money available, that that is where we will end up, that we will focus on the special needs portion and whatever other sections that we could do reasonably.
3699 Did you want to add anything, Duncan?
3700 MR. KROLL: No.
3701 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I know that you have been here for a couple of days and so you have heard some of the parties who have represented disability communities speak about the fact that they want and believe they should have access to all aspects of the website, not a segregated section but all aspects of the website, that all information should be made available to them.
3702 So under what basis would you decide ‑‑ if it is not all and it is not just a section on special needs, how is it you are going to decide what will and won't become accessible?
3703 MR. MELDRUM: I guess there is that balance in terms of whether it is reasonable for a company the size of SaskTel to spend upwards of a half a million dollars to make its website accessible. It is that balancing act that I guess occurs all the time in terms of the services that we offer to our customers.
3704 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Are you in any process where you will be doing any kind of web redesign in the near future where these costs could be incorporated front end?
3705 MR. MELDRUM: I think it has just been recently redesigned.
3706 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And not compliant?
3707 MR. MELDRUM: No.
3708 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
3709 I am going to move on from the website to other information.
3710 Another theme we have heard is that persons with disabilities are looking for information in alternative formats and we have heard examples such as manuals for some of the terminal equipment that is provided as an example.
3711 What today do you provide in alternative formats?
3712 MR. MELDRUM: That which is mandated by the Commission. I don't believe we offer anything over and above that. So that is the opportunity to get your bill in Braille, big print bills, some other promotional material.
3713 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Would you have any comments as it regards the feasibility of expanding that to other types of information, customer‑related information that your company provides?
3714 MR. MELDRUM: Again, I think for a company our size, it is a question of balance. It might make more sense for us to deal directly with the customer involved and help them with the service or the issue that they are having.
3715 We have heard through the course of the proceeding that it sounds like some of the other phone companies have substantially automated their customer service.
3716 We are not on that page. We continue to have live customer service reps answering the phones and dealing with our customers on a day‑to‑day basis and it could be that continuing to do that with people that are requiring more information would make more sense for a company our size.
3717 For example, to contact and talk to the special needs manager directly to discuss the issues might make more sense than trying to separately prepare a brochure that might only have 10 or 20 people interested in receiving it.
3718 We think in terms of the alternative format that ‑‑ in terms of bills, we think at the moment we only have 40 customers out of our province of a million people that actually get bills in alternative formats.
3719 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: A million and growing.
3720 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, and growing.
3721 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Sorry, did you say 40?
3722 MR. MELDRUM: Yes.
3723 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
3724 So just maybe as a matter of principle, I understand what you are saying about a company your size. However, customers should not be limited by the size of the company in addressing their accessibility.
3725 But do you believe it would be important that information be made accessible and it is not necessarily how it is made accessible that we should be focussed on?
3726 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, I would agree with that.
3727 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you.
3728 I would like to talk briefly about other customer service.
3729 You have been identified as a company ‑‑ well, identified ‑‑ I think maybe a proper term is a company that gets it regarding customer service and addressing the needs of the disability communities.
3730 I have looked ‑‑ we have a matrix that just sets out, you know, what the different companies have as it regards servicing different disability groups, you know, whether or not there is a special needs manager, whether or not they have a dedicated access to CSRs or what it might be.
3731 I have to tell you, having looked at the sort of black and white as to what SaskTel provides versus what other telephone companies provide, there is nothing special. You know, if you just look at the form, there is nothing special. SaskTel is not the only company to have a special needs manager. SaskTel is not the only company that has access, you know, to their call centre.
3732 MR. MELDRUM: Mm‑hmm.
3733 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So what is it that you believe sets you apart as it regards customer service, as it regards serving the needs of these disability communities?
3734 And, Mr. Meldrum, if you say it is because you are a Crown corporation, we are not going to be able to do much with that.
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
3735 MR. MELDRUM: Well, I certainly would say that it is the relationship between us and our customers. It really is. They own us and that makes them at times very demanding and makes us very responsive.
3736 We are not in the business of disappointing our customers because we end up hearing about it in the Legislature, reading about it in the newspaper or handling complaints through the Minister's office. So if you sort of said, why do we focus on it more, that would be, to me, the underlying theme.
3737 Now, in terms of the document that you are looking at, I don't know the extent to which it lays out all the things that we do, because looking at the things at least that are over and above what the Commission has mandated, there is a fair list of things that we understand are beyond that.
3738 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Do you have that list?
3739 MR. MELDRUM: We do.
3740 Now, again, we didn't compare that to what the other companies do to see whether ‑‑ are we the only ones that do it?
3741 But our own initiatives that we understand would be no charge with respect to speed call, which helps the blind.
3742 We do have an initiative with the Paraplegic Association of Saskatchewan that has a special cellular offering for people that are members of that association. That is about 750 people that are on that particular directed cellular plan.
3743 We do meet regularly with the disabled groups in Saskatchewan. We do have the special needs manager, but as you indicate, other people do. And we do have a large ‑‑ I would say for a company our size, a fairly large amount of special needs equipment that you can see on our website.
3744 We do do the free TTYs to registered users and their principal contact, and we do provide artificial larynxes for people that are no longer able to speak without the assistance of an artificial larynx.
3745 And we do provide ‑‑ I would say that the rates that we charge for those telephone, special needs telephone sets that we sell outright, I would say that it is a subsidized rate that we charge those for.
3746 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thanks for that.
3747 I will admit I am not sure that I am all that much smarter on, you know, what it is, what is the magic that sets one company apart in having ‑‑ you know, in serving a community where there is obviously a lot of discontent with others. So if we wanted to take your formula, I am not sure, truthfully, that I understand the formula.
3748 MR. MELDRUM: I will get Duncan to add to it.
3749 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Sure.
3750 MR. MELDRUM: I don't think he can come without saying something.
3751 MR. KROLL: I don't know if we can give you a formula because it is not something that you can probably write down on a piece of paper and say here are the three or four things that you need to do to ensure that your consultations and your relationship with these folks is going to be a positive one.
3752 And we work hard at it, as John said.
3753 We have had longstanding relationships with a lot of these groups. It is sometimes the small things that count.
3754 For instance, our relationship with the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society, we obviously meet regularly with them but they also come into our facilities and use our facilities for their board meetings and other functions.
3755 We understand that they don't have a great deal of resources and cannot afford sometimes to rent facilities, so we ask them to come in and ‑‑ or they ask us if they can come in and use our facilities and we offer them for them to do so. So it is hard to describe, I suppose, but other than we pay close attention to it.
3756 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thanks for that.
3757 Just, I guess, a couple more questions, one related to the cost.
3758 Would you say that your enhanced relationship with the disability communities is at significant cost or minimal cost?
3759 MR. MELDRUM: Oh! I definitely wouldn't say significant cost. It is worth the effort.
3760 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It is worth the effort, you said?
3761 MR. MELDRUM: For sure.
3762 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes. And as a business group, for you ‑‑ I mean we have all seen the statistics as to how the disabilities are growing in Canada as we all age ‑‑ have you looked at it from a business perspective to say what is the value of this group or the groups of disability communities?
3763 MR. MELDRUM: I wouldn't say that it is a major thrust on the Corporation's part but certainly seniors make up a fairly high proportion of Saskatchewan residents, so they are a market that we are attuned to.
3764 But again, we are challenged by the size of the company. I know there has been a lot of discussion about companies, wireless service providers providing terminals that are specific to the disabled community.
3765 We did look at bringing one in and the minimum order for us was 10,000. We wouldn't be able to move 10,000 cell terminals in Saskatchewan. Our market, again, is just too small.
3766 So where we would like to focus, again, you run into some of the economic realities really quickly.
3767 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I am going to come back to terminals in a minute, but I would like to finish off on the issue of customer service and consultation.
3768 You were clear in your opening remarks that you believe consultation should be purpose driven, and it should be regional.
3769 I would like to get your views, however, on the proposal put forward by the CNIB that there be an institute established to deal with issues related to disabilities, and that the members would be not just the disability communities and the industry, but also that there needs to be a role for the CRTC in making those consultations effective.
3770 Do you think there needs to be a role for the CRTC in ensuring effective consultation?
3771 MR. MELDRUM: In terms of national issues and the national industry, I certainly would see the CRTC taking a role in that.
3772 As you have seen from our comments, we are not really thrilled about being mandated to participate in all of the discussions. Our experience has been that national consultations, from a cost/benefits analysis ‑‑ typically, the cost goes up and the results go down, as opposed to, when we do it regionally, the costs are low and the results are high, in terms of getting somewhere.
3773 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
3774 I want to move to the issue of terminal equipment, and you gave an example here about bringing in something and the costs of bringing in a product to serve the disability community ‑‑ cost versus demand.
3775 I hear that, and I have also seen in your remarks your comments as they relate to how the manufacturers ‑‑ really, we don't have control. SaskTel is not large enough. Canada is not large enough, necessarily, to influence the design.
3776 Let me ask you about equipment that is available nationally, or, more importantly, internationally, that has been designed for the disability community.
3777 For example, terminal equipment that meets their needs, or adaptive devices.
3778 What happens when one of your customers procures one of these devices outside your jurisdiction? Do you support it?
3779 MR. MELDRUM: These would be wireless terminals?
3780 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Let's talk wireless.
3781 MR. MELDRUM: We asked that question this week, and we would work with a customer to try to get it to work on our network.
3782 But I think you have heard this week that there are a lot of issues as to whether or not a particular device will work.
3783 First of all, it has to be CDMA, in our case, because we are not a GSM provider, so the total number of terminals that are available is a reduced number to start with.
3784 And, then, of course, it has to work on the right frequencies, and we have to be able to adapt it to work on our system.
3785 But we would try to work with a customer, if they came forward with a device that they had sourced elsewhere, to see if we could get it connected to our network.
3786 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: When you say that you would try, I assume that there may have been issues in the past where customers have wanted an accessible wireless handset.
3787 Has that happened in the past?
3788 MR. MELDRUM: A set that they have sourced elsewhere and then brought to us?
3789 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Sourced elsewhere.
3790 As you noted, the economies don't allow you to provide it yourself, so if they are going outside your jurisdiction to obtain or acquire that handset ‑‑
3791 Has that never happened?
3792 MR. MELDRUM: Not that I am aware of.
3793 We can make further inquiries to see if ‑‑
3794 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It's not important that you undertake to provide that information. I think it is more important to know what you will do going forward, and on a going forward basis you said that you would support it.
3795 MR. MELDRUM: We would attempt to get it to be able to connect to our network, yes.
3796 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And, once connected, I guess the issue is ongoing support.
3797 I am not asking you to support a handset any more than you would support any other person's wireless handset if it's an equipment issue, but obviously there are interworkings between a handset and the network that says, "If there is a problem, we are not going to tell them, `It's not our handset,' and ‑‑ "
3798 MR. MELDRUM: With those limitations we would support it, but there are incredible limitations, as even I, as a consumer, discover when a handset has fallen into a swimming pool. They are not supported.
3799 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
3800 I want to move to the issue of your broadcast distribution undertaking. The first issue relates to closed captioning. In this proceeding there has been a lot of discussion about the quality of closed captioning. The CAB has put forward the position that there is a role, and there is a definite role to play for BDUs, as it relates to monitoring and responding to issues related to the quality of closed captioning.
3801 Do you have any comments related to that?
3802 MR. KROLL: As you know, our requirement is to pass through closed captioning that is available, and we do so.
3803 As you saw from the attachment that we provided to you, when we do have issues regarding closed captioning from our end, we try to address them as quickly as possible.
3804 We have an issue on the closed captioning side with our high-definition programming, for instance, and we are working with our vendor to accommodate or adjust those issues.
3805 If you are asking if we are constantly or formally monitoring the closed captioning that is on our system, I suppose that there is not a formal process, but certainly we periodically make sure that the quality is there, and that is how we are able to address some of the issues that arise.
3806 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Is there any end‑to‑end process?
3807 If a customer has an issue with the closed captioning, it could be caused ‑‑
3808 There is obviously a chain, be it the BDU, the SRDU, the programmer ‑‑ there are many in the chain that get to the end, and it can fall apart anywhere in that chain.
3809 Is there any process for ongoing ‑‑ to work together with the chain of suppliers?
3810 MR. KROLL: I think that when there are issues our technical people would be in contact with the various parties to see where the issue is, who may be responsible, and what can be done about it.
3811 I think that is probably quite common.
3812 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: My last issue relates to described video.
3813 Today, as I understand, you provide described video in an open format for your customers.
3814 MR. KROLL: We provide it through the duplicate channel method, yes.
3815 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And you will be moving to an embedded basis going forward.
3816 Is that right?
3817 Is that your plan?
3818 MR. KROLL: That is what we would like to do longer term, yes.
3819 The duplicate channel method, as you know, was an interim measure, given the state of our IPTV technology at the time, and we are updating and modifying our IPTV network as we speak, over the next year or so, and that will allow us to go to a single stream.
3820 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: When you say that it will allow you to go to that, the benefits for you are reduced capacity requirements?
3821 MR. KROLL: Yes. Some costs, yes.
3822 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Costs.
3823 Would it be possible, to better understand what costs we are speaking of ‑‑
3824 What are the costs of carrying it open source versus embedded?
3825 MR. KROLL: Commissioner, as you know, I am not a technical person, so I think that I would have to get back to you with that. I don't have that with me.
3826 MR. MELDRUM: We did do some work in preparation for the proceeding, and the costs aren't substantive when you are talking a few channels.
3827 Actually, as a company, we would be prepared to continue in the future to have the four Canadian channels as separate described video channels.
3828 The costs are reasonable enough that, in addition to having it embedded in the regular channel, we would be prepared to break it out.
3829 Now, we wouldn't want to do that with all of the channels that we carry, because, essentially, you would be doubling your equipment costs, and perhaps, then, as you get into that doubling, there are some scale issues that would start to affect some of your underlying equipment.
3830 In other words, instead of the equipment necessary for 120 channels, you would have the equipment necessary for 240 channels.
3831 We wouldn't want to get to that point, but certainly to have the four dedicated Canadian channels with separate described video, we believe that would be a reasonable thing for us to do for our customers.
3832 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
3833 Today you provide open source for more than the four. You provide it, as well, for the specialties that have described video.
3834 MR. KROLL: Yes.
3835 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Would you propose to leave them open source, as well?
3836 What is in the system today ‑‑ I guess that is what I would say. For the described video that is in the system today, would you be prepared to leave that all open source?
3837 MR. MELDRUM: I think we would have to understand the full implications of that, as to whether there is a point at which you would get these lumpy costs that arise.
3838 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I am not asking you to do any more than you are doing today, just to be clear.
3839 MR. MELDRUM: But, of course, the number of channels that we offer will continue to expand, so the fact that we can do those extra ones today doesn't necessarily mean that it would be the same situation that we would encounter two years out or four years out.
3840 I think we would want to understand it more ourselves.
3841 As Duncan says, neither of us is technical, and we wouldn't want to make a commitment that the engineers would ultimately come back and ask us if we had lost our minds.
3842 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. That's fair. You can undertake to provide that answer.
3843 Or, in your reply, I think, would probably be efficient, as well.
3844 MR. MELDRUM: Sure, we will address it in our reply.
3845 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I would like to understand the embedded format that you are proposing to move to.
3846 Yesterday, TELUS told us that the process for a person who is blind to access described video is a six‑step process.
3847 Do you know what process will be involved for consumers when you move from the open format to the embedded?
3848 MR. KROLL: I'm sorry, I wouldn't know that, although I would hazard to guess that it could be similar to the TELUS situation.
3849 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I would hazard a similar guess, actually, that it would be similar to TELUS, and that it would be a six‑step process.
3850 I am going to leave you with the same question I asked them. Are you working with your manufacturers to develop a simplified process?
3851 MR. MELDRUM: That is a bit of a challenge, because most of the new middleware folks that we are looking at are from the States, and, actually, described video is something that they are not all that familiar with. It's not mandated in the United States.
3852 We are just hopeful that their middleware will support it.
3853 Our actual Request for Proposals did not address the issue of access itself ‑‑ how many clicks, so to speak.
3854 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. I will let that go, but I think it's hard to imagine going from open format today to six clicks to get somewhere tomorrow.
3855 Do you know what I mean?
3856 That's the difference between what is being offered and what you are moving toward.
3857 MR. MELDRUM: Certainly, we haven't yet acquired our middleware, and we will keep this in mind as we work with the potential vendors to understand what their system is capable of.
3858 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You are saying that you don't have any potential influence in setting out requirements for that middleware, where you could look at reducing ‑‑ or making that content more accessible, simplifying it for the end users.
3859 MR. MELDRUM: I think it will be a challenge.
3860 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. The last thing I want to talk about is the electronic programming guide.
3861 I understand that today there is a visual indicator for described video programming.
3862 Is that correct?
3863 MR. KROLL: We do a couple of things. We voiceprint, and all of our described programming services are grouped together in the sequence of channels. In our case, they are channels 555 through 567 or 568, I believe.
3864 Those described video channels also have an identifier, if you will, on the interactive guide.
3865 For instance, CTV would be "CTV/DV". That would come up on the guide.
3866 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But there is no indicator in your electronic guide itself to indicate that a program is described.
3867 MR. KROLL: No.
3868 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Is that something that you could see making available, assuming that broadcasters provided you the information that the program is described?
3869 Because I have heard some comments here that BDUs aren't always aware that described video is even being provided.
3870 If you were provided with that information, could it be easily added to your electronic program guide?
3871 MR. KROLL: I think we would explore that, yes.
3872 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: What about any opportunities for audio announcement, or other means of simplifying access for persons who are blind?
3873 MR. KROLL: I believe, as John mentioned, in terms of discussions with middleware vendors, that is a functionality that we have flagged.
3874 Now, I am not exactly sure what is out there, as John indicated, but certainly it is something that we have pointed out.
3875 MR. MELDRUM: And the people responsible for our service are going to look to see if there is something they can do on an interim basis.
3876 We hadn't really looked at it before we heard it discussed at the proceeding this week.
3877 So we will have a look to see if there is something we can do today.
3878 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Will you have a look and be able to provide us some information on whether that is possible by the time reply comments are due?
3879 MR. MELDRUM: We will try.
3880 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. It is interesting that the IPTV application is a bit unique in its integration with internet websites, and so on, so I just wondered, with that technology, if there also might be other ways of information related to what is or is not ‑‑ you know, what is described video, what is accessible programming available for those people.
3881 You know, a separate website that could flash up or something.
3882 It seems to me that the technology would provide some opportunities.
3883 MR. MELDRUM: For sure it would. When you think of how it actually works, the opportunity to have a section right on your television that was devoted to special needs and/or focused on this, yes.
3884 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. If any of those opportunities are available, it would be very interesting to hear about them, as well.
3885 MR. MELDRUM: Certainly.
3886 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Those are my questions. Thank you.
3887 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.
3888 I think that some of us have some questions, as well. I am going to start.
3889 I want to go back to something you said a few minutes ago with regard to middleware being done in the United States, and, as a result, your manufacturers or suppliers may not have the expertise on described video, because it's not something that is done in the United States today.
3890 I don't know who you are using, but described video was a standard that was being used several years ago in the United States. It may have had a bit of a hiatus, but I still believe that described video is being offered by the Public Broadcasting System, PBS, and some other channels, as well.
3891 So I cannot believe that, unless you have gone with some relatively new, unknown middleware supplier, they haven't got the expertise to know what is required in described video, nor what has been the standard in the U.S. in the past.
3892 It leaves me to believe that the reason it is not being incorporated is because it wasn't part of the RFP process and identified as a need right upfront.
3893 Is that true?
3894 MR. MELDRUM: No, our RFP definitely is asking for described video.
3895 THE CHAIRPERSON: It is.
3896 MR. MELDRUM: In terms of your views, I can only report what I have been advised, that some of the middleware providers were surprised about described video and didn't really know that much about it.
3897 Certainly, our current middleware provider is Canadian, and knows all about it, and has worked with us to try to make it work as best we can.
3898 THE CHAIRPERSON: When you look at your response to your RFP, how much weight do you put on the fact that one supplier may not have the expertise to do something that is for a segment of the population, as opposed to costs or other technical parameters?
3899 MR. MELDRUM: If they couldn't support the Commission's requirements, then we wouldn't go with them.
3900 THE CHAIRPERSON: I want to come back to MRS, and you are going to have to help me here. My math may be wrong, so I am going to take you through a mathematical exercise.
3901 Do you have your tariff with you for MRS, or is there a tariff today?
3902 I should ask the first question.
3903 Do you have a tariff for MRS?
3904 MR. MELDRUM: I don't believe there is a tariff, no.
3905 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Commissioner Molnar mentioned, I think, that the rate was 25 cents. My records say that it's 26. It doesn't matter.
3906 I want to take you through a mathematical exercise, and tell me if I am correct or not.
3907 There are roughly a million people in Saskatchewan. The average number of people per family is somewhere between 3.5 and 4. So you have about a quarter of a million homes in Saskatchewan.
3908 If I take that number and multiply it by 25 cents per MRS customer, times 12 months, my math comes up with, roughly, three-quarters of a million dollars of revenue generated by the cost recovery for MRS services from the residential side.
3909 Business was also mandated to subscribe, pay for, and contribute to MRS, so I just doubled it and got $1.5 million.
3910 It may be less than that. Competition may have caused you to lose some market share ‑‑ and I don't want to get into proprietary numbers.
3911 So I am at $1.5 million, give or take a bit.
3912 You were saying that there are 300 registered users for MRS services ‑‑ TTI services ‑‑ I believe. So if I divided 300 by $1.5 million, I would get $5,000 per person utilizing MRS as what you would be recovering through the passthrough charges of what was approved by the CRTC, in whatever year it was approved.
3913 That's my math.
3914 Does the math sound logically correct, give or take the number of customers?
3915 MR. MELDRUM: The back‑of‑the‑envelope math sounds reasonable, yes.
3916 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you are recovering, roughly, $5,000 per person utilizing this technology, per year, and I guess the question is, how much cost are you actually incurring to serve 300 people with TTI?
3917 I guess I would put it to you that there may be a contribution there that may be useful in developing additional services through this recovery mechanism, because my math tells me that the $5,000 per person using TTI per month is quite a high amount of cost to have to recover. In this case there is a major contribution.
3918 MR. MELDRUM: That possibility exists, yes.
3919 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
3920 You said you incorporated the rate into the monthly service fee. So there's not an individual line item on the customers' bill for MRS services?
3921 MR. MELDRUM: There is no individual line item, no.
3922 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
3923 MR. MELDRUM: It's in the $22 a month.
3924 THE CHAIRPERSON: This is the antithesis of system access fees, where you have put it in as opposed to leaving it out.
3925 Why did you do that?
3926 MR. MELDRUM: Why?
3927 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because at one time it was a tariffed item, I mean you were fully regulated, and, as far as I know, this service is still a regulated service and ‑‑
3928 MR. MELDRUM: Well, there was a period of time during which we weren't formally regulated at all. I know for phone companies that's Nirvana and probably not for regulators, but there was a period of time and that might have been the period of time at which we introduced MRS.
3929 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Because again, I mean, my math would tell me if you incorporate it into the rate and just bundled it in, then, as you increase your telephony rates by inflation or whatever, 2 percent, 3 percent, you are bumping that number up, as well.
3930 And again, if it was a tariffed item by the CRTC, embedding it and then bumping it up by the cost of inflation may not be something that we contemplated or approved either.
3931 So I just leave that thought with you and maybe you can look into the history behind the rate, and how it became bundled into the services, and maybe file something with us at an appropriate time explaining it.
3932 MR. MELDRUM: We can certainly undertake to see what we can find in our records.
3933 THE CHAIRPERSON: Great.
3934 MR. MELDRUM: Unfortunately, I have been around forever and I can't recall the specifics as to how it was that occurred.
3935 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes. Neither do I, for that matter, but ‑‑
3936 MR. MELDRUM: I think it probably was during that unregulated era.
3937 THE CHAIRPERSON: Was there anything else you did during that unregulated era that you want to share with us?
‑‑- Laughter / Rires
3938 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
3939 MR. MELDRUM: I'm sure they are all good.
3940 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm sure they are.
3941 Someone mentioned the other day -- and we keep using the term Jitterbug -- I think TELUS said they had an alternative phone to Jitterbug, as well. And I think I heard you say that the order levels, in order to bring in product, was a minimum of 10,000 units, and therefore it didn't support the business proposition.
3942 I guess I question to the extent that you have 300 TTY customers and you were able to equip them with product and you didn't buy 10,000, I would believe that one could get smaller numbers if they wanted to. And if they couldn't, I would tend to think you can still buy them off the shelf if you had to subsidize them, which is maybe what you are doing on TTY, I don't know.
3943 MR. MELDRUM: Well, certainly we have a number of wireline terminals that we are able to source quite easily and I think it's probably more the nature of the cellular terminal industry.
3944 I had occasion to meet with a manufacturer is Southeast Asia within the last year, and it's a country that's renown for their politeness, and when we met with them they essentially asked us why we were there and told us that we were so small that they couldn't waste their time to talk to us, and we carried a number of lines of their phone.
3945 So I had the firsthand opportunity to hear from a large international manufacturer that they didn't want to talk to us.
3946 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, and I have no doubt that it's difficult to deal with large manufacturers who have production runs that are in the tens of thousands, if not even more than that, but that doesn't mean you can't get them through a distributor and perhaps pay a higher margin, a higher price for it. But I'm sure people are bringing them into the United States, for example.
3947 And I guess I heard TELUS say that they have an alternative product to this Jitterbug product. Why you couldn't call them up and say, Can you sell us a hundred of these things?, at whatever price they will pass it through to you. To me it would be a logical thing to do if there's a need for it or a demand for it by your citizens, your customers.
3948 MR. MELDRUM: And again, from what I understand, a wireline terminal just sort of works on the end of the line and with a cellular terminal it has to integrate with your network and work with your network and be supported and meet your requirements and be locked onto your network, and all those various things. So, again, it's hard to do small batches.
3949 THE CHAIRPERSON: You are all CDMA. If TELUS can do it, you can do it. You are all roaming on TELUS network so your products are perfectly interchangeable across the CDMA platform.
3950 MR. MELDRUM: If they would let us have a look at it, we would.
3951 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, it's something that you might want to think about, I guess.
3952 You mention in your submission that one alternative for people who have got issues is to deal with the Commissioner of Complaints that was set up about a year ago.
3953 Do you know if there's been any complaints by the disability community to the commissioner for telecommunications complaints, whatever they are called. CCTS, I think it's called.
3954 MR. MELDRUM: Concerning SaskTel?
3955 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
3956 MR. MELDRUM: No. There have been four complaint since it's set up and I guess I can't address it without saying that comes out to $15,000 a complaint for us for the first year.
3957 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. It's on the record, Mr. Meldrum.
3958 Value of service pricing: some of the parties came before us saying they buy product, because you sell them off the shelf and so they have got to take what you sell them, and some of the services, whether you are disabled through hard of hearing or visibility impaired, the services are there and yet they pull full price for the service even though the utilization may be lower. I know you mentioned earlier that there is some discretion where you actually reduce the price of some services, as well.
3959 Have you thought about, particularly on the wireless side, looking at whether, if the value of the product to people with disabilities is lower simply because they can't utilize some of those services, rather than trying to get them a product which we know is not available that you would find some way of creating a discount for their utilization?
3960 MR. MELDRUM: Our pay‑per‑use service actually doesn't require you to spend any money at all on voice. You can actually get our pay‑per‑use service, and then subscribe to a text messaging plan, and either pay per use on text messaging or pay $10 month...or I guess it's $13 a month now, to get unlimited text messaging.
3961 So essentially we do have a plan that would be text only or the opportunity to put a plan together that would give you that.
3962 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
3963 Those are all my questions, Mr. Meldrum.
3964 Commissioner Lamarre? No? Yes.
3965 Commissioner Lamarre.
3966 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Merci, monsieur le président.
3967 In your presentation you have mentioned that you do not intend to offer the IP relay service in French because there's no demand for the service in French.
3968 How did you come to that conclusion that there was no demand?
3969 MR. MELDRUM: None of the 300 registered TTY users have indicated a need for French.
3970 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Aren't you going to plan for the possibility that there may be new people coming to Saskatchewan and that there could be a demand in the future for it?
3971 MR. MELDRUM: Well, we certainly would look at it if one of the registered users came forward and said that they could only communicate in French. We would certainly try and deal with that.
3972 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay, but that's from the end of the users. Now, people that live in Saskatchewan surely don't communicate only with people in Saskatchewan. Some of them probably communicate with people outside of Saskatchewan.
3973 How would one of your...actually, I hesitate between using the word "customers" or "citizens" given that you have mentioned that your customers own you and that you are a Crown corporation, but I think it's going to be easier if I say "customers".
3974 If one of your customers wants to communicate with somebody who only speaks French at the other end, how would they do that?
3975 MR. MELDRUM: Well, I think we would see if any of the operators on duty were bilingual and get them to handle the call.
3976 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
3977 MR. MELDRUM: We would have some bilingual operators.
3978 Unfortunately, though, bilingualism in Saskatchewan is fairly limited. We just don't get an opportunity to use our French, so we learn French and then lose it, unfortunately. But if there were bilingual operators on duty, then they would handle that particular call.
3979 I'm sure today we must get calls from some customers that end up in our operator services that are French‑only.
3980 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: And couldn't you extend that to the IP relay service, then?
3981 MR. MELDRUM: The extent to which we are able to handle it today and the extent to which those calls arise in the future, yes. But in terms of actually setting ourselves up to ensure that we would be able to provide bilingual IP relay service, we just haven't had a need yet to undertake that.
3982 And again, it's a bit of a struggle for a call centre the size of which we operate to be able to meet all the needs of everybody at all hours.
3983 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Have you considered the possibility of contracting it out in that case?
3984 MR. MELDRUM: And that certainly is one of the things we are looking at for IP relay is to contract it out. And again, this would be another consideration as to why a national service would make more sense: to be able to provide a higher level of service to Saskatchewan customers who wanted to communicate in French.
3985 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: What about VRS? Because for VRS you have it in your presentation, and, actually, in your undertaking at the end of your presentation, that you do agree that it should be set up as a national service. And then you mention that you are only going to offer VRS in English.
3986 So are you saying that, if there is a national VRS service, then in Saskatchewan it should be only in English?
3987 MR. MELDRUM: No, I don't think we did say that, that we would only offer it in English, VRS.
3988 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: You did not say ‑‑
3989 MR. MELDRUM: No.
3990 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: ‑‑ that VRS would be offered only in English?
3991 MR. MELDRUM: I think the question that I was answering was in relation to IP relay.
3992 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Oh, okay. So VRS, you will also offer in French?
3993 MR. MELDRUM: Well, again, our view is that it should be a national service, and we certainly would support that it should be an English and French service, yes.
3994 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: If it doesn't become a national service, if it becomes regional services, will you be offering it in French, as well?
3995 MR. MELDRUM: Oh, I would think we would really struggle with that ‑‑
3996 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Why would you struggle with that?
3997 MR. MELDRUM: ‑‑ in terms of being able to deliver it.
3998 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Why?
3999 MR. MELDRUM: Well, I guess we could contract to somebody that would have that expertise, because we certainly wouldn't.
4000 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay, so you ‑‑
4001 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, so we would contract, and I guess we would certainly look to see if that was available and possible, and try and understand the costs of obtaining that. But if it was a call centre that offered both English and French, then I would certainly think it would come with the service that we would contract.
4002 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: So, basically, correct me if I'm wrong, what I understand you to say is that you have not made any specific cost analysis as to what it would amount to to offer IP relay service or VRS regional service in French, as well as in English, once you implement it.
4003 MR. MELDRUM: Right, we wouldn't have any costs at all. We are not far enough along on our IP relay service to know the additional costs ‑‑
4004 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
4005 MR. MELDRUM: ‑‑ and whether there even are any additional costs if we are contracting it out. And in terms of video relay, we wouldn't be anywhere along that continuum of understanding of costs.
4006 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Will you make those comparative costs when you get there?
4007 MR. MELDRUM: I would think so.
4008 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Can you commit to it? I'm just asking you if you will make the cost analysis to see what it would cost to offer it in both French and English, either in‑house or contracting out.
4009 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, we would certainly commit to do that.
4010 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay, thank you.
4011 Now, I do take Mr. Kroll's point that he's not a technical person, but I still have technical questions anyway. And it's regarding, really, your IP technology.
4012 Now, currently, your infrastructure for IPTV, does it rely on cable or on fibre?
4013 MR. MELDRUM: I will maybe try that.
4014 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Yes.
4015 MR. MELDRUM: It's fibre to within 900 metres of the homes or less ‑‑
4016 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
4017 MR. MELDRUM: ‑‑ and then from there it's copper‑delivered.
4018 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: And then it's copper, okay.
4019 MR. MELDRUM: Yes.
4020 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: With regards to your electronic program guide, we were under the impression that at one point SaskTel had asked for a quote to get a voice sensitizer device to connect to that program guide so that the program could be heard.
4021 Am I wrong? Did I...?
4022 MR. KROLL: I'm sorry, Commissioner, I'm not sure what you are referring to.
4023 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Well, currently, the guide is only visual ‑‑
4024 MR. KROLL: That's right.
4025 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: ‑‑ and you have mentioned in the notes that I have from this morning that you are not aware of any EPG or IPG which would provide,
"...audio cues accompanying the graphic information at this time. Should one appear, SaskTel will assess the feasibility of incorporating audio cues to its IPG." (As read)
4026 Some of our technical staff was under the impression that you have already started looking into that.
4027 MR. KROLL: As I indicated earlier, it was one of the functionalities that we flag in the RFP that we have put out the middleware vendors, but we are certainly not at the point where we have been able to determine whether that's even possible.
4028 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. Did you get the reply for that RFP?
4029 MR. KROLL: My understanding is that the responses have come in and that they will begin reviewing them shortly.
4030 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay. Can you keep us informed whether or not your supplier was able to provide you with a positive answer or not?
4031 MR. KROLL: Yes, we will do that.
4032 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you.
4033 Those are all my questions, thank you.
4034 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Lamarre.
4035 We will start from the far east coast. Have you got any questions, Commissioner Duncan? One?
4036 Go ahead.
4037 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I have just a simple question, I think.
4038 I would like to understand the open versus embedded. If I'm a customer of SaskTel's, how do I access the open signal now? Is it just a single button?
4039 MR. KROLL: Yes, you would get your remote, you would select "Guide", and then you would have to scroll to the described video programming channels.
4040 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: So then, as compared to the six steps, still a few steps, is that the idea?
4041 MR. KROLL: A few steps, yes.
4042 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Half as many?
4043 MR. KROLL: And as I said earlier, we have tried to make it more user friendly by grouping the channels together.
4044 And, of course, as TELUS mentioned yesterday, too, we do have, as part of the menu option, a favourites option, as well, where they could customize the guide to be tailored to described video or closed captioning.
4045 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Do you have staff that would go to a customer's home and help them set that up? I'm just imagining it would be complicated initially to set up. Not any moreso there than anywhere else, but....
4046 MR. KROLL: I think we give as much support as we can. When the installer goes into the home to install the equipment, they would probably lend some assistance if they could, and certainly there are avenues available for the customer to call back if they were having troubles.
4047 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: So I'm taking that most of it would be done by phoning into the office, then?
4048 MR. KROLL: I would think so.
4049 MR. MELDRUM: That would be our first attempt: to try and support it over the phone.
4050 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. Thank you very much. That's good.
4051 Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
4052 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Duncan.
4053 Commissioner Denton, any questions?
4054 COMMISSIONER DENTON: No questions.
4055 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4056 Over to the far west coast, Commissioner Simpson.
4057 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: The left coast. Thank you very much.
‑‑- Laughter / Rires
4058 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning, gentlemen.
4059 I would like to be very brief, first of all, but just deal with a few issues from your presentation that I would like to take not exception but challenge you on with respect to accessibility in general.
4060 While I'm extremely cognisant of the issues that you have brought out with respect to the scale of your business and how that plays with respect to the supplier community globally, you know, it's noted and well received that is a reality. But still on points 16 and 17, on page 2 of your presentation, you had indicated that it seemed to be of your belief that accessibility issues largely rested with technological issues and you had said:
"However, most of the issues regarding accessibility of communication services generally deal with terminal equipment and it's commonly agreed that accessibility is best accomplished in the initial design and development of products and services." (As read)
4061 Where I'm going with this is I would like to have a very brief discussion about the range of disability.
4062 I think, to a certain extent, from what I have seen from service providers, they take a rather compartmentalized view to the issue of disability, that you are either disabled or you are not, and if you are able‑bodied you fit into one category of service provision, including products and services, and if you fall into the disabled category. It's a hard wall that divides the two and that puts you in another framework of thinking, in terms of what you can and can't do given the size of your organization.
4063 But one of the things that has impacted me in the preparation for these hearings was the very slippery slope we seem to be on, as an aging population, where individuals of my age, as the elder, I think, at this table, are finding ourselves going more and more from what I would call totally abled to somewhat disabled.
4064 And the degree of difficulty that I ran into was in my years in the advertising business, finding 25‑year‑old designers designing business cards in 6 point type that I could read when I was their age and I can't read today.
4065 I would like to ask you if you believe that there's some movability in your position that there is nothing you can do for individuals with disabilities of varying types with respect to the other soft services, such as the manner in which you engage your customers in a non‑technical area, such as the provisioning of your billing services, your website services and so on.
4066 I'm trying to divide your perspective on hard, technical issues that you can't control from those that you can, and I would like you to discourse a bit as to whether you actually have some elasticity in your position, in terms of the stuff that you can control that's within your financial means.
4067 MR. MELDRUM: Well, certainly the phones that we do carry and that we do offer for sale on the wireline side are not simply designed and aimed at those that are completely disabled, they are to get at people who are hard of hearing. And, of course, certainly as I'm discovering as well as I get older, the hearing starts to slip.
4068 So we do, through our special needs manager and the special needs products and services, attempt to address that broader description of the disabled in Canada that I think makes up the 15 percent that is disabled.
4069 I don't know if that answers ‑‑
4070 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, I guess I was reacting somewhat to what I felt was a little bit of a defeatist attitude towards your ability to address the issues before this hearing. So I'm hearing you say that you do have sensitivity and are making efforts in the areas you can make.
4071 MR. MELDRUM: We do have a number of products and services that we provide. Perhaps the frustration is really more on the wireless side than on the wireline side.
4072 And again, our special needs manager will actually try and help special needs people to source products that we don't have, again on the wireline side being much easier than making inroads on the wireless side, unfortunately.
4073 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Is there, for providers such as yourself, which I'm sure globally there are many that are in your scale ‑‑ are you aware of any working groups or organizations of telecom providers that have workgroups that deal specifically with the mandate of bringing disability requirements to the equipment manufacturers?
4074 MR. MELDRUM: No, we are not aware of any.
4075 I should mention we do have some products that are fairly new that are actually directed I think to that senior category to a certain degree. Actually the Office of Disabilities of the Province of Saskatchewan has asked us to use that smaller amount of our deferral account to actually focus on seeing whether we can adapt these products to aid cognitively disabled individuals to be able to live more independently.
4076 Of those two products, one is a medical alert service that we offer through our security company, SecureTech Monitoring Solutions. It is a 100 per cent owned entity.
4077 That provides sort of a work alone medical alert thing that in the case of seniors could be quite helpful and aid them with independent living.
4078 And then there is a product called LifeStat, that we actually have a joint venture with Alcatel, that provides remote monitoring for serious illnesses. Two that are today monitored remotely would be blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which of course diabetes leads to so many other disabilities.
4079 So we are focused in that marketplace trying to see what we can develop, and certainly we would be addressing much more than Saskatchewan to the extent that we are successful with those particular products and services.
4080 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
4081 I just would like to end with a statement of sharing what we are learning, because it goes both ways. With respect to the business model of any service provider, again we are seeing at this end that scale of aging population and the percentage of moving into what could be considered some form of disability. As an individual reaches 75 years of age, we are being told that between 65 and 75 per cent of the population of that age group will be considered as having some form of disability.
4082 I bring this up to all of the providers, that it perhaps is time to start thinking about that with respect to disability becoming a much broader category that they have to put into their focus.
4083 Thank you.
4084 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Simpson.
4085 I believe Commissioner Molnar has a couple of follow‑up questions.
4086 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes, thank you. Just a couple of things.
4087 First of all, I would like to go back to the whole issue of national IPRS service and the natural transition that exists with existing message relay service.
4088 If we were to implement a national IPRS, would it make sense that message relay service also be provided on a national basis and potentially by that same service provider?
4089 MR. MELDRUM: I think intuitively I think it would make sense. I think you would want to understand the specifics, but intuitively I think it would make sense.
4090 Get the economies of scale that would be available to offer it in French and English on a national basis.
4091 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. So would your company have any concerns if we move to a national message relay service?
4092 MR. MELDRUM: No, I don't think we would have any concerns.
4093 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
4094 I need to move back to the issue of website compatibility.
4095 You mentioned that the deferral account funds were being used specifically to create a special needs section of your website.
4096 Could you tell me how much funds was approved for that purpose?
4097 MR. MELDRUM: Just to be clear, we haven't decided that we would only do special needs. It's just that we think that the amount of money available may only permit us to do special needs. We are still trying to understand the audit.
4098 And the extent to which there are other relatively easy things to do that would provide benefits in terms of the accessibility of our website, we would certainly do that for sure.
4099 It's $103,000 set aside out of our deferral account.
4100 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: If the Commission were to make a determination that the full website should be accessible, would you undertake to provide us with an estimate of what the costs would be to expand accessibility to incorporate all the information available on your website?
4101 MR. MELDRUM: We would have to do an estimate because we wouldn't know for sure, but I think we would have an idea.
4102 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. If you could provide that and any other information you would have related to requirements, benefits, challenges or so on, you know, in expanding the requirement to be all information.
4103 I would also be interested in that same undertaking, if you could undertake to provide this with the other information we spoke about, if you could look at it relative to maybe a requirement to make it accessible in the near term, let's say the next sort of two to three years, versus the requirement if it was part of your next Web redesign and how the costs would be different if it was imposed upon the website you have today versus incorporated into the next version or the next redesign.
4104 MR. MELDRUM: We will see what we can do.
4105 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
4106 I didn't provide a date related to undertakings. The end of next week, is that reasonable?
4107 MR. MELDRUM: With some of them it would be reasonable. That last one I would be very surprised if we could provide anything meaningful within a week.
4108 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Maybe I will just check with our legal counsel.
4109 In two weeks is that what ‑‑ two weeks? I guess I shouldn't have said the end of next week.
4110 In two weeks if you can provide us the best information you have available.
4111 MS LEHOUX: And we will be laying all the undertakings and tomorrow we will provide the list.
4112 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
4113 MR. MELDRUM: Great.
4114 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
4115 MR. MELDRUM: It seems to be a long list.
4116 THE CHAIRPERSON: Does legal have any legal questions at all? I see heads shaking no.
4117 Thank you very much, Mr. Meldrum, Mr. Kroll, for appearing before us.
4118 We will take a five‑minute break for a change of speakers and parties and we will reconvene in five to seven minutes.
4119 Thank you.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1044 / Suspension à 1044
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1056 / Reprise à 1056
4120 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please.
4121 THE SECRETARY: Please be seated. Veuillez prendre vos places, s'il vous plaît.
4122 Nous allons maintenant procéder avec le Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec.
4123 Mais avant, je vais faire une annonce qu'il y a possibilité que nous arrêtions entre 11 h 15 et 11 h 30 pour procéder avec le participant qui vient en vidéoconférence, puis si nous n'avons pas terminé, nous allons revenir avec votre présentation.
4124 I would just like to announce that we will probably be stopping between 11:15 and 11:30 for our videoconference and we will continue with the presentation by le Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec.
4125 Vous pouvez maintenant procéder avec votre présentation de 15 minutes.
PRÉSENTATION / PRESENTATION
4126 M. DUBOIS : Alors, bonjour. Je vais vous présenter ma collègue Florence Pardo. Elle est directrice générale du Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec. Je suis André Dubois, président de ce regroupement.
4127 Alors, nous vous remercions, nous remercions le Conseil de nous avoir invités aujourd'hui à venir nous présenter à votre audience.
4128 Je voudrais juste expliquer brièvement le regroupement.
4129 Nous autres, on a 12 affiliations à travers le Québec. On couvre tout le Québec. Notre organisme existe depuis 32 ans, et nous avons fait cheminer plusieurs dossiers pour favoriser l'intégration des personnes handicapées visuelles au Québec.
4130 Le mot " amblyope ", souvent, on me demande ce que ça veut dire. C'est un mot qui a une racine grecque, qui vient de " ambly ", faible, et " ope ", vision. Alors, c'est pour ceux que ça ne paraît dans les yeux, au niveau des yeux, mais c'est à un autre niveau.
4131 Alors, voilà pour la présentation.
4132 Juste une petite seconde. Je vais juste vérifier là, j'avais... juste vérifier dans mon ordinateur parce que je ne veux pas m'égarer dans ma partie. On va le faire de façon alternative.
4133 M. DUBOIS : O.K.
4134 Alors, nous, nous ne sommes pas... bien sûr, nous ne sommes pas des professionnels au niveau des médias électroniques et tout, mais sur le plan humain, sur le plan de la déficience visuelle, ça, on connaît.
4135 Alors, sans plus tarder, je vais laisser Florence faire sa première partie. Merci.
4136 MME PARDO : Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs. Je vais vous entretenir sur nos besoins en vidéodescription, et, par la suite, monsieur Dubois prendra le relais pour parler du service à la clientèle, du service et du soutien à la clientèle.
4137 Pour la période de licence qui doit débuter en août 2009, nous souhaitons que les télédiffuseurs, par exigence du CRTC, fournissent le quart de leur programmation avec vidéodescription, c'est‑à‑dire 42 heures par semaine, 6 heures par jour.
4138 Cette mesure devrait être appliquée de façon graduelle. Ce que nous proposons, c'est au début de la deuxième année, 2 heures par jour, au début de la quatrième année, 4 heures par jour, et au début de la sixième année, 6 heures par jour.
4139 Cette mesure devrait s'appliquer à tous les télédiffuseurs de langue anglaise et française et concerne les émissions préenregistrées ainsi que ‑‑ pardonnez mon Braille parce que ça, je sais que c'était très important ‑‑ ah, oui! aux heures de grande écoute parce qu'on n'aimerait pas que ce soit enterré à 2 heures du matin.
4140 Cette augmentation significative des heures de vidéodescription, pour nous, est nécessaire parce que, actuellement, les besoins des téléspectateurs handicapés visuels est pratiquement ignoré, et ce, malgré le fait que nous sommes des citoyens à part entière, que nous payons des taxes, que nous achetons les appareils, nous payons pour les services de câble, et les solutions aux problèmes d'accessibilité sont maintenant disponibles.
4141 Bien sûr, la vidéodescription a un prix. Sur le site d'AudioVision Canada, on cite une moyenne de 1 600 dollars pour produire la vidéodescription d'une émission d'une heure. Par contre, ce prix est un pourcentage peu élevé des coûts des émissions elles‑mêmes.
4142 Par exemple, l'émission québécoise " Minuit, le soir ", dans sa première saison coûtait $260 000 environ par épisode de 30 minutes. Une partie de ce prix peut être assumé par des instances gouvernementales qui financent les producteurs, ainsi que par une contribution des abonnés au câble.
4143 Une autre raison pour augmenter les exigences, c'est que l'histoire nous a clairement démontré que c'est par les exigences du CRTC qu'on voit l'augmentation du service de vidéodescription, c'est‑à‑dire les compagnies semblent avoir une bonne volonté et de comprendre, mais elles attendent les exigences du CRTC pour aller de l'avant.
4144 Il y a aussi un avantage financier pour les compagnies d'ouvrir leur auditoire, d'agrandir leur auditoire, parce que les personnes que nous représentons, nous sommes 600 000, disons des centaines de milliers de personnes handicapées visuelles et on sait qu'avec le vieillissement de la population, notre nombre est en hausse.
4145 Tantôt, j'ai mentionné, pour la vidéodescription, que nous proposions qu'elle soit appliquée aux émissions préenregistrées.
4146 En ce qui a trait aux émissions en direct, ce que nous proposons, pour l'instant, c'est qu'une attention soit portée lors de la période de pré‑production aux besoins des personnes handicapées visuelles. C'est‑à‑dire que, en fait, c'est un peu un retour à la parole parce que nos membres mentionnent beaucoup qu'autrefois, il ne fallait pas ignorer la température ou c'est qui la personne qui est à l'écran dans un bulletin de nouvelles et qu'il y a tout à fait moyen qu'il y ait une attention portée à ce besoin‑là.
4147 Et le fait d'accorder une importance à l'accès à l'information lors de la pré‑production correspond au principe d'accessibilité universelle qu'on défend. C'est‑à‑dire qu'au début d'un projet, c'est là qu'on tient compte des besoins de toute la clientèle, et ça peut, par la suite, réduire les efforts à mettre dans l'adaptation des services.
4148 Pour terminer ce volet sur la vidéodescription, nous aimerions que le CRTC encourage et facilite tout projet qui vise à transférer le précédent qui a été créé par The Accessible Channel, un poste qui permet d'avoir la vidéodescription en clair dans toute la programmation.
4149 Maintenant, mon collègue va vous entretenir sur le service à la clientèle, équitable.
4150 M. DUBOIS : Merci.
4151 Pardonnez ma digression, mais lorsque vous écoutez... bien souvent, un bulletin de nouvelles est toujours accompagné d'un bulletin météo, et puis, lorsque vous entendez, bon, voici la météo pour les 24 prochaines heures, et que vous entendez une petite musique presque d'ascenseur là, vous vous ennuyez de l'éloquence de Jocelyne Blouin ou encore des explications claires du professeur Lebrun.
4152 Pour la vidéodescriptive, on disait qu'on connaît le proverbe : La parole est d'argent, mais le silence est d'or. Et, dans notre cas, c'est l'inverse, c'est la parole qui est d'or.
4153 Alors, voilà. Pour le service, maintenant, à la clientèle, nous, on demande au CRTC d'obtenir... de faire en sorte qu'on puisse obtenir un service à la clientèle équitable. En fait, ça signifie que toute la clientèle va recevoir la même information, et ce, de façon à faire des choix éclairés.
4154 Bon! Donc, c'est primordial que toutes les entreprises sous la juridiction du CRTC puissent fournir à sa clientèle, sur demande, en différents médias substituts, les dépliants, la facturation, que ce soit un gros caractère, en Braille, en texte électronique ou en audio.
4155 On demande aussi à ce que tous les sites web de ces fournisseurs respectent aussi les normes W3C, qui sont les normes en cours pour l'accessibilité du web.
4156 D'ailleurs, au RAAQ, on avait monté un projet, les Ambassadeurs du web, justement pour sensibiliser différentes entreprises. Il y a plusieurs choses qui existent pour venir en aide aux compagnies comme ça qui veulent leur site web accessible.
4157 On parlait aussi de l'assistance annuaire. Il y a plusieurs fournisseurs qui offrent les services d'assistance annuaire gratuits, mais c'est différent d'une compagnie à l'autre. C'est différent aussi, d'une région, je vous dirais, à l'autre.
4158 Par exemple, on peut... moi, je suis de Drummondville, j'ai accès à l'assistance gratuite, mais dès que je suis ailleurs dans un territoire qui n'est pas couvert par Bell Canada, c'est toute une histoire, ce n'est pas couvert, puis on a souvent des mauvaises expériences quand on fait la demande d'obtenir l'assistance annuaire.
4159 Donc, on aimerait que le CRTC se penche là‑dessus pour, en fait, rendre uniforme l'assistance annuaire gratuite, peu importe le fournisseur ou la région.
4160 Je m'excuse, je fais juste regarder mes notes.
4161 Oui, on disait que la solution doit refléter l'époque que nous vivons.
4163 M. DUBOIS : Ah, oui! Toujours dans le but d'avoir un service équitable, lorsqu'on fait appel aux services à la clientèle, on devrait être informé qu'il existe un service à la clientèle qui peut recevoir les demandes particulières, non seulement pour les personnes handicapées visuelles, mais pour toute personne handicapée.
4164 Les gens devraient avoir une formation. Tout l'ensemble du service à la clientèle devrait avoir une formation minimale et être en mesure d'adresser la personne handicapée à la bonne personne ou au bon service à l'intérieur du service à la clientèle.
4165 En fait, on demande aussi qu'il y ait une particularité dans le service à la clientèle pour recevoir toutes ces demandes‑là.
4166 On demandait aussi pour le service à la clientèle d'avoir accessible en différents médias substituts toute l'information.
4167 Ah, oui! On aimerait... oui, oui, oui. Ça, vraiment, on aimerait souligner un grand obstacle que toute notre clientèle rencontre, c'est l'inaccessibilité des appareils.
4168 Par exemple, on sait qu'on peut avoir... à travers le SAP, on peut avoir parfois de l'audiodescription sur différentes chaînes quand c'est possible, mais seulement se promener dans les menus là, se déplacer dans les menus, c'est déjà très laborieux. On doit toujours mémoriser une séquence de quatre fois flèche bas, une flèche droite, un entrer. Et puis, les télécommandes aujourd'hui, ce n'est pas ça qui manque dans les maisons. Alors, ça devient presque impossible de tout mémoriser ces télécommandes‑là.
4169 Alors, nous, ce qu'on demanderait au CRTC, c'est que le CRTC puisse faire appel soit à Industrie Canada ou à l'ACNOR, à l'Agence canadienne de normalisation, pour tenter de trouver des solutions pour résoudre ce problème‑là.
4170 De même, les fameuses entreprises de radiodiffusion et de télécommunication, elles‑mêmes ont des plans de développement. Alors, ce serait peut‑être bon qu'une partie de leur investissement dans le développement consiste à l'adaptation de leurs appareils.
4171 Par exemple, tantôt, j'entendais ce serait bien qu'on puisse avoir des menus avec une synthèse vocale, non seulement affichés, mais aussi en synthèse vocale, ça serait... ça serait vraiment une belle accessibilité.
4172 Alors, voilà, je repasse maintenant la parole à Florence. Merci.
4173 Mme PARDON: J'aimerais apporter une précision par rapport à la formation du personnel. Deux choses doivent se passer.
4174 D'une part, le personnel en général doit être formé sur les besoins des personnes handicapées et ça, de façon récurrente parce que, comme on sait, le personnel change, donc ça ne peut pas être chaque cinq ans.
4175 Mais, d'autre part, il faudrait que toutes les compagnies suivent l'exemple de certaines compagnies qui ont des services d'assistance spécialisés.
4176 Et puis, dans l'information dont on a besoin pour faire les choix éclairés, il y a l'information générale et on a le droit à cette information générale. Donc, c'est pour ça que la solution d'avoir un petit coin d'une site web, on est moins d'accord avec ça.
4177 Donc, il y a le fait d'avoir l'information générale et aussi l'information particulière. Par exemple, des fois, il va y avoir certains services particuliers comme la vidéo description et l'assistance annuaire gratuit, site web accessible, et caetera, les documents en média substitut, mais on ne retrouve pas cette information-là.
4178 Donc, cette information particulière devrait être incluse dans les sites web et devrait être incluse aussi dans les canaux dédiés au Service à la clientèle où Vidéotron explique comment on fait Illico et qu'on peut acheter Illico. Donc, il faut avoir de l'information sur la vidéo description et on suggère aussi les lignes téléphones interactives qui puissent avoir de l'information sur les besoins particuliers.
4179 Alors, ça, c'est des...
4180 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Excusez-moi; il vous reste une minute.
4181 Mme PARDO: Une minute? Eh! bien, c'est parfait parce que je conclus.
4182 Alors, juste avant de conclure, nous aimerions quand même, parce que c'est une grande opportunité aujourd'hui, sans élaborer, mais très brièvement de dire que les services d'urgence et la représentation et l'emploi des personnes handicapées, c'est quelque chose qui a une grande importance pour nous et, à cet égard, je crois que de mettre sur pied des comités consultatifs avec les personnes handicapées, ce serait de bonne augure, à cet égard, mais aussi pour les autres points qu'on a nommés plus haut.
4183 Alors, les propositions que nous vous faisons, nous pensons que ça va assurer... aider à assurer un réel exercice de nos droits, mais nous croyons aussi qu'elles sont parfaitement réalisables parce que les stratégies existent, la technologie existe et il y a même des solutions sur le plan financier.
4184 Et pour nous, l'autonomie des personnes que nous représentons, c'est toute la société canadienne qui va gagner avec ça.
4185 Alors, merci beaucoup pour cette opportunité parce que ce sujet est de très grande importance pour nous et nos membres.
4187 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup. Je demanderais au conseillère Lamarre de commencer les questions.
4188 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Merci, monsieur le président. Bonjour, monsieur Dubois, madame Pardo. Merci d'être ici aujourd'hui.
4189 Les questions que j'aimerais vous poser portent principalement sur les trois sujets que vous avez abordés : la vidéo description, le service à la clientèle et les modes de consultation dont vous avez parlés dans votre soumission et aussi un peu ce matin.
4190 Alors, on va plonger immédiatement dans le vif du sujet. Je note, premièrement, que dans votre soumission du 16 juillet, vous proposez qu'on modifie les exigences en matière de quantité de programmation vidéo décrite au moment du renouvellement des licences de radiodiffusion.
4191 Est-ce que je me trompe, mais vous avez changé le quantum entre votre soumission et votre présentation de ce matin?
4192 Dans votre présentation du mois de juillet, vous faisiez état d'une modification pour qu'on accroisse jusqu'à 28 heures d'heures par semaine alors que ce matin vous nous dites 42?
4193 Mme PARDO: D'accord. Ce que nous avons fait depuis juillet, c'est poursuivre la consultation et l'analyse du sujet et nous savons... nous avons très bien entendu qu'il fallait présenter des arguments et être collé à la réalité, collé au faisable.
4194 Mais nous avons vu que cette audience-ci, en tout cas, pour nous en ce qui a trait au RAAQ, c'est historique. Ce n'est pas tout le temps qu'on a l'opportunité de venir présenter à un organisme du Gouvernement nos besoins. Donc, on a décidé de se concentrer sur les besoins et à ce niveau-là, c'est sûr que, bon, si on obtient quelques heures en moins de ce qu'on a demandé, on pourra vivre avec, mais c'est sûr que moins que les 28 heures que nous avons proposées, ça ne ferait pas l'affaire.
4195 Mais le nombre 42 que vous voyez là, c'est après mûre réflexion on voulait vraiment montrer c'est quoi le besoin, dans le sens que, comme on a mentionné dans les observations initiales, on veut qu'il y ait un réel changement parce que, bon, on parle d'une période de licence de sept ans, mais sept ans peut être 10 ans, peut être 14 ans, donc on n'aimerait pas que d'ici 15 ans que les choses soient encore minces. Donc, on voulait clairement exprimer c'est quoi les besoins de nos membres.
4196 M. DUBOIS: Moi, je voudrais juste ajouter, madame Lamarre, que suite à la réunion du Comité de l'information parce qu'au regroupement il y a un comité, après avoir discuté on se disait qu'après trois ans, s'il y avait six heures par jour de vidéo descriptive, ça pourrait toucher tout l'ensemble de la clientèle, en fait, qu'on pourrait avoir de la vidéo description.
4197 Il faut dire aussi que le comité avait mené un sondage, ça fait déjà...
4198 Mme PARDO: En 2006.
4199 M. DUBOIS: En 2006 on avait mené un sondage auprès des membres du RAAQ à travers le Québec pour voir en fait quels étaient les besoins, quelles étaient les attentes.
4200 Alors, nous, on a considéré que c'était réaliste de faire cette demande-là. Alors, c'est ce qui explique pourquoi le quantum a été changé. Merci.
4201 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et, justement, votre sondage de 2005-2006 auquel vous faites allusion dans votre soumission de juillet, est-ce que vous pourriez le déposer auprès du Conseil ce sondage-là?
4202 Mme PARDO: Bien sûr.
4203 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Merci beaucoup. Dans votre soumission de ce matin, quand vous faites référence aux heures de vidéo description et à l'augmentation graduelle jusqu'à six heures d'émissions vidéo décrites, vous précisez *aux heures de grande écoute+.?
4204 Mme PARDO: Hum-hum!
4205 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Pouvez-vous me dire c'est quoi, pour vous, la définition des heures de grande écoute?
4206 Mme PARDO: C'est entre 7 h 00 et 10 h 00 du soir. C'est... ce qu'on aimerait c'est avoir l'information qui est utile à toute la population et il y a des émissions qui sont plus écoutées, qui sont plus d'intérêt et ce serait important qu'on concentre sur le fait que, comme j'ai dit tantôt, que ça ne soit pas, je ne sais pas, moi, quelque chose à 2 h 00 du matin qui est moins écouté, que ce soit des émissions vraiment d'intérêt et qui offrent une variété de types d'émissions aussi.
4207 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Parce que de 7 h 00 à 10 h 00, ça fait trois heures par jour. Alors, les trois autres heures, réalistement, vous considérez que ça devrait aller où, à ce moment-là?
4208 Mme PARDO: Bien, une fois qu'une attention est portée aux heures de grande écoute pour qu'on ait accès aux émissions qui intéressent vraiment la population, on peut ajouter des émissions à d'autres plages.
4209 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Donc, ce que vous nous dites au fond, c'est d'accorder la priorité à cette plage horaire-là de grande écoute en premier dans nos exigences ou nos attentes vis-à-vis des radiodiffuseurs ultimement s'il y en a et, après ça, de diriger le restant du quantum dans d'autres émissions prioritaires?
4210 Mme PARDO: C'est ça.
4211 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et pourriez-vous me dire qu'est-ce que, vous, vous identifieriez comme émissions prioritaires? Je vous donne le contexte.
4212 Présentement, la majorité... en fait, pas la majorité, mais les attentes et les exigences du Conseil en matière de vidéo décrite vise les émissions dramatiques, les documentaires et les émissions pour enfants.
4213 Certaines entreprises de programmation et de radiodiffusion nous ont fait valoir qu'ils trouvaient que c'était trop limitatif et qu'il y aurait d'autres types d'émissions qui se prêteraient à la vidéo description.
4214 Vous, qu'est-ce que vous verriez en premier?
4215 Mme PARDO: En fait, nous, ce qui nous intéresse, c'est une variété de types d'émissions. Donc, ça peut être des documentaires, des dramatiques, des comédies. Il peut y avoir une grande variété au niveau du type d'émission.
4216 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Monsieur Dubois, voulez-vous ajouter quelque chose? Oui?
4217 M. DUBOIS: Oui. Je rappelais que lors du Comité d'information, nous autres on avait discuté aussi à propos de l'information. Même si la vidéo description ce n'est pas quelque chose qui puisse s'appliquer comme, par exemple, raconter une trame dans un film, il y a quand même des choses intéressantes à ce qu'on sache au fur et à mesure que ça défile.
4218 Donc, l'information, ça avait été aussi soulevé, ça.
4219 Mme PARDO: Si je peux ajouter quelque chose. Dans le but d'essayer de trouver une solution, ce qu'on a fait c'est qu'on a séparé les émissions pré-enregistrées et les émissions en direct. Donc, on a un intérêt à toutes ces émissions-là, mais on s'est plus penché comme solution pour la description sonore, pour une attention lors de la pré-production, pour ces émissions-là.
4220 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et dans votre proposition, vous mentionnez justement que, bon, vous la faites la distinction entre le direct et ce qui est pré-enregistré, ce qui est tout à fait valable, là, évidemment.
4221 Et, du même souffle, vous demandez à ce que les exigences s'appliquent à toutes les entreprises de radiodiffusion.
4222 Maintenant, est-ce que vous croyez que ce serait peut-être nécessaire ou non de faire des exceptions au cas par cas parce que, justement, il y a des entreprises de radiodiffusion qui sont des entreprises, par exemple, de nouvelles en continu ou qui n'auront pas autant le matériel de programmation qui se prête aussi bien à la vidéo description?
4223 Mme PARDO: Oui, on a pensé à ça. Ce qui était très important pour nous, c'est de vraiment faire... d'essayer de résoudre le problème du déséquilibre entre les télédiffuseurs anglais et français parce qu'au niveau francophone il n'y a pas grand-chose.
4224 Nous avons mentionné tous les télédiffuseurs, mais c'est sûr que c'est très complexe. Il y a une différence entre, je ne sais pas, moi, le canal Météo et Global Television, quelque chose de ce genre, donc, on serait ouvert.
4225 Mais ce qu'on aimerait, c'est que maintenant ce qui se passe c'est que, bon, on peut trouver trois heures chez untel, quatre heures chez l'autre. On aimerait que ce soit pour commencer au moins, les télédiffuseurs majeurs, mais vraiment dans les deux langues qui offrent cette programmation avec vidéo description, mais il peut y avoir des nuances.
4226 Par exemple; bon, là, je reviens encore à la différence entre le pré-enregistré et en direct, je peux voir des solutions, par exemple, au niveau du Canal Météo où au cours d'une heure il y a plusieurs... il y a des choses qui reviennent à chaque heure, n'est-ce pas? Ça peut être la route, les informations régionales, les informations locales.
4227 Donc, ce serait très simple de porter une attention et qu'il y ait, je ne sais pas, moi, dans une heure de temps au moins un dix minutes ou, au lieu que ce soit, comme disait André, la petite musique puis rien que le visuel, qu'il y ait une information qui est dite.
4228 Donc, c'est juste une question de trouver... de trouver les solutions, en fait, du cas par cas, comme vous dites.
4229 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et, justement, au niveau de la description auditive de matériel visuel qui est à l'écran, comment est-ce que vous proposeriez qu'on encourage ou qu'on incite les radiodiffuseurs à employer cette manière-là de façon plus répandue parce que je ne sais pas si vous réalisez la difficulté qu'on touche ici, c'est le matériel éditorial, c'est le matériel de créativité des producteurs.
4230 Alors, comment vous proposeriez qu'on approche ça?
4231 Mme PARDO: Oui, en effet, c'est sûr que c'est toujours un équilibre et je crois que cet équilibre-là est quand même réussi. La difficulté existe aussi avec les films de vidéo description qui sont déjà faits parce qu'il doit y avoir un équilibre entre, justement, transmettre l'information visuelle et ne pas toucher à l'art et au niveau des émissions d'information, ce serait, comme vous dites, le matériel éditorial.
4232 C'est sûr qu'on n'a pas eu le temps d'élaborer là-dessus et de voir pratico pratique, mais je sais que ce qui peut aider, c'est de se servir de matériel qui est déjà fait de vidéo description parce que c'est quand même une industrie qui fonctionne très bien et qui a une bonne expertise et il se développe une façon... des types d'information qu'on a tendance à retrouver, qu'on a tendance à donner.
4233 Ça peut être, par exemple, la personne qui est à l'écran. Si c'est le psychologue qui est en train de donner son opinion, le lieu, l'action. Donc, il peut avoir... on peut recenser un type de matériel qui pourrait faire en sorte que les producteurs puissent prévoir les besoins.
4234 Donc, c'est sûr que, bon, c'est plus complexe que de juste dire 42 heures par semaine. On rentre dans le qualitatif, mais je pense que ça demande une certaine analyse des besoins pour pouvoir, par la suite, aller au-devant du besoin.
4235 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Avant que je passe à la prochaine question, je vais vérifier avec mon président.
4236 THE CHAIRPERSON: Madam Secretary, do you want to -- are we on time now to link in with Winnipeg? Do we know? So, I think it might be appropriate to take a break now with this panel and link in so that we can utilize the video comfortably. You need ten minutes?
4237 I think Commissioner Lamarre needs about ten minutes to finish. Maybe we can do that and, in that way, we can avoid -- we're going to continue.
4238 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Merci. Excusez-moi pour l'interruption étant donné qu'on doit connecter avec Winnipeg, vu que ce n'est pas moi qui décide. On peut continuer, on me dit qu'on a encore un peu de temps pour pouvoir continuer. Alors, plutôt que de reprendre par la suite.
4239 Alors, pour parler un peu plus précisément du Accessible Channel auquel vous faites allusion dans votre présentation, vous mentionnez que vous croyez que le CRTC devrait encourager une initiative semblable pour que ça développe du côté français.
4240 Alors, outre accorder une licence qui nous serait demandée et prévoir même éventuellement peut-être une distribution obligatoire, comme c'est le cas pour the Accessible Channel, qu'est-ce que vous croyez qu'on pourrait faire de plus pour que l'effet d'entraînement se fasse sentir dans le marché francophone?
4241 Mme PARDO: Eh! bien, c'est ce que j'avais en tête. C'est à part au niveau de la sensibilisation des acteurs, des différents acteurs gouvernementaux et privés, je ne peux pas penser à autre chose. André, est-ce que tu as une réponse à ça?
4242 M. DUBOIS: Mais, moi, peut-être... madame Lamarre, peut-être que votre question, on pourrait peut-être en discuter avec notre Comité d'information et vous retourner une réponse plus... parce qu'à brûle-pourpoint comme ça, je m'excuse, c'est...
4243 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Oui, oui, c'est parfait. C'est parfait. Et pensez-vous que the accessible channel va être distribué obligatoirement autant dans les marchés francophones qu'anglophones, croyez-vous que, ça, en soi, ça va aussi participer à la sensibilisation, là, de l'utilité d'une telle programmation?
4244 Mme PARDO: Oui, je pense que oui. Déjà on a... nous avons diffusé de l'information sur the accessible channel à nos membres qui sont en grande majorité francophones et puis ce qui se produit au début, c'est un emballement incroyable puis quand on dit, bon, c'est... l'obligation, c'est au moins quatre heures puis ils ne sont pas obligés d'en faire plus en français par semaine, puis, là, il y a une grande déception par rapport à ça.
4245 Donc, c'est vrai qu'une fois que ça va être en onde, les personnes pourront utiliser ça pour apprendre plus c'est quoi la vidéo description. Donc, l'existence de the accessible channel, en effet, même au niveau du marché francophone, sert de sensibilisation, mais la barrière de la langue, elle est là.
4246 Donc, c'est... nos membres nous ont vraiment manifesté que ce serait beaucoup plus intéressant s'il y avait quelque chose comme ça en français avec les avantages que ça porte; c'est-à-dire pour l'instant, il n'y a pas de problème avec le SAP et puis tout ça là, pour naviguer dans les menus.
4247 Donc, c'est quelque chose qui est intéressant pour que ce soit développé au niveau francophone.
4248 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Au niveau de votre présentation et même de votre soumission, vous faites référence à un fournisseur producteur de vidéo description, Audiovision Canada. À votre connaissance, est-ce qu'il y a d'autres fournisseurs qui produisent la vidéo description en français?
4249 Mme PARDO: L'autre fournisseur qu'on connaît c'est la SETTE, S-E-T-T-E, qui fait déjà de la vidéo description. Il y a une émission... quelques émissions à Teletoon et puis VRAK-TV et, à ma connaissance, cette compagnie a une expertise dans le sous-titrage, je crois, qu'elle transfère à la vidéo description. Donc, ça c'est quelque chose qui est en train de grandir.
4250 Et au niveau du CRIM qui est le Centre de recherches en informatique de Montréal, il y a un développement intéressant qui se fait. Ils travaillent sur un logiciel de reconnaissance d'écran, mais pas le texte comme jaws mais vraiment d'éléments visuels comme l'action, et caetera, ils collaborent avec la SETTE là-dessus pour voir à éventuellement réduire le coût de la vidéo description.
4251 M. DUBOIS: Il y a aussi en France, à l'Association Valentin Haüy, là où on produit de la vidéo descriptive.
4252 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Pouvez-vous me répéter le nom, monsieur Dubois, s'il vous plaît?
4253 M. DUBOIS: C'est l'Association Valentin Haüy, H-A-Ü-Y.
4254 Mme PARDO: Mais le problème avec la vidéo descriptive là-bas, c'est qu'il y a des problèmes de droits de producteur et puis là encore, les personnes sont très intéressées à voir ces films avec vidéo description français, mais, en tout cas, on ne peut pas les avoir au Québec pour l'instant.
4255 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Mais ce qui me rassure, c'est de savoir qu'au moins la technologie, là, vous dites, existe et qu'il y a quelque chose qui se fait dans une autre juridiction francophone, là.
4256 Je vous remercie pour cette information-là parce que je ne crois pas que ça en est une qu'on avait au dossier.
4257 Au sujet du service et du soutien à la clientèle, j'avais une question à vous poser et très franchement vous y avez tellement bien répondu dans votre présentation que je ne vous ferai pas répéter. Mais si vous avez quelque chose à ajouter, là, j'ai quand même très bien compris que vous disiez que c'était nécessaire, en ce qui concerne les sites web, que le site web principal, les fournisseurs soient disponibles, tout autant qu'une section dédiée aux produits spécialisés pour les gens que vous représentez.
4258 Mme PARDO: Hum-hum!
4259 M. DUBOIS: Oui.
4260 Mme PARDO: Absolument. Parce que quand on va sur un site web, on y va comme n'importe quel client. On a les mêmes besoins en fait. Ce n'est pas juste des besoins particuliers.
4261 M. DUBOIS: Quand un site web, quand on sent qu'il y a de l'accessibilité sur un site web, on est... en tant que personne handicapée, on se sent le bienvenu. On sait qu'il y a quelque chose, là, qui a été préparé à notre intention.
4262 Ce sont des touches de raccourci, ce sont des textes alternatifs pour expliquer une image qui se trouve sur le site web, ça, c'est quelque chose d'assez intéressant.
4263 Pour l'intégration, c'est quelque chose de fantastique.
4264 Mme PARDO: C'est ça. Et je voulais ajouter aussi à la fin de notre présentation, lorsqu'on a dit que c'est la Société canadienne en entier qui a à gagner, ce n'est pas juste de belles paroles en l'air.
4265 C'est que l'accès à l'information, ça peut permettre à quelqu'un de devenir un travailleur autonome, de développer par le web des expertises et puis cette expertise-là non seulement peut aider la personne de pourvoir à ses besoins, mais aussi de contribuer à la communauté.
4266 Donc, lorsqu'on utilise un site web, que ce soit pour des raisons récréatives ou pour des raisons professionnelles puis, tout à coup, tu as besoin de telle information puis, tout à coup, tu ne l'as pas, c'est très... bon, c'est malheureux.
4267 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et au niveau du service à la clientèle plus spécifiquement, quand on a à appeler soi-même avec... contacter le fournisseur soi-même pour un problème particulier, quel constat est-ce que vous feriez de la qualité du service que vous obtenez, de manière générale?
4268 Mme PARDO: Bien, au niveau de la... bon, de la bonne volonté et puis la courtoisie et tout ça, il n'y a pas de problème à ce niveau-là, mais ce qui arrive, c'est que le personnel ne savent pas que les services existent.
4269 Par exemple, on va appeler même un télédiffuseur qui fournit la vidéo description puis on pose des questions, par exemple, à quelle heure, quelle émission... la personne ne sera pas au courant. Donc, la grande amélioration, ça doit se faire au niveau de l'information et l'assistance que le personnel peut offrir.
4270 C'est pour ça que l'idée d'avoir un personnel spécialisé aussi, c'est très intéressant comme solution.
4271 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Au niveau des consultations entre les fournisseurs de service et les clients et les personnes qui ont des déficiences visuelles, de manière générale, certains membres de l'industrie proposent des groupes de consultation séparés pour traiter des questions de télécommunications, d'une part, et des questions de radiodiffusion, d'autre part, il y a d'autres participants qui, eux, préfèrent l'instauration de groupes consultatifs, au sein desquels le personnel du CRTC serait présent.
4272 Et, finalement, Bell Canada préconise l'établissement de groupe Ad Hoc dont les objectifs et les échéanciers sont clairement établis.
4273 Quelle méthode est-ce que, vous, vous préconiseriez et qui vous sembleraient plus appropriées pour améliorer l'accessibilité aux personnes ayant une déficience visuelle qui est une méthode qui est différente de celle que j'ai énumérée, là?
4274 Je vous ai juste fait un résumé de ce qu'on a au dossier jusqu'à présent.
4275 Mme PARDO: Okay. Pour l'instant, notre réflexion n'est pas allée dans tous ces détails-là. Ce qu'on préconisait, c'est qu'après cette consultation publique et après les décisions qui seront faites par le CRTC, que la consultation doit être continue.
4276 On a un exemple précis où notre groupement avait collaboré très bien avec la Fédération des caisses Desjardins pour l'accessibilité de leurs guichets automatiques et la Fédération des caisses, c'est la seule institution financière qui offre, pour l'instant, tous ses guichets automatiques avec assistance vocale.
4277 Mais cette collaboration-là, elle se poursuit jusqu'à présent; c'est-à-dire, on est en contact. À chaque fois qu'il y a des changements à apporter, des nouveautés, ils se tournent vers nous pour qu'on le teste et à chaque fois qu'on pense qu'ils sont rendus bons puis ils connaissent ça très bien, nos besoins, on remarque que, justement, cette consultation continue est nécessaire.
4278 Et quand on parle de radiodiffusion et de télécommunications, l'analyse qu'on a fait, c'est que pour la mise en oeuvre des mesures, c'est quand même complexe et il faut rester collé à la réalité et aux besoins.
4279 Donc, c'est pour ça qu'on a mentionné l'importance d'un comité consultatif, mais on peut retourner auprès de nos membres pour voir si ça doit se faire, si les sujets doivent être séparés ou bien s'il doit y avoir quelque chose de global.
4280 Mais pour l'instant, je verrais une place pour les deux, hein! parce qu'il y a des choses qui se solutionnent lorsqu'on regarde de façon spécifique, mais en même temps, il y a des enjeux qui sont globaux aussi. Donc, je ne sais pas, André, si tu as quelque chose à dire à ce sujet?
4281 M. DUBOIS: Ça mérite réflexion. Madame Lamarre, pourriez-vous juste ré-expliquer la deuxième, là où le CRTC avait une implication parce que, en fait, moi, je verrais...
4282 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Oui. C'est qu'il y a certains participants qui préféreraient justement voir l'instauration de groupes consultatifs et au sein de ces groupes-là le CRTC serait représenté.
4283 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Hum-hum!
4284 M. DUBOIS: Moi, là, je... sans hésiter, je voudrais voir le CRTC là parce que, je pense, en fait, le CRTC représente déjà... c'est un organisme qui représente le bien, je dirais, des citoyens de l'ensemble du pays. Donc, le CRTC devrait être là, les personnes handicapées devraient être là, bien sûr l'industrie. Et je pense qu'à trois on devrait... on devrait trouver des solutions, là.
4285 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et, finalement, j'ai une question qui déborde un petit peu plus... Oui? J'ai une question qui est d'ordre un petit peu plus administratif.
4286 Vous mentionnez là, et vous expliquez très très bien, là, en quoi consiste votre regroupement et qu'il est formé, là, des regroupements d'associations régionales au Québec.
4287 Est-ce que vous avez des contacts avec des organisations hors Québec qui représentent des personnes francophones, qui ont des déficiences visuelles?
4288 Mme PARDO: On a... pardon?
4289 M. DUBOIS: Avec la France, oui.
4290 Mme PARDO: Non. Hors du Québec, vous parlez...
4291 M. DUBOIS: À l'intérieur du Canada?
4292 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: À l'intérieur du Canada, oui, oui.
4293 Mme PARDO: Vous parlez des groupes un peu comme le CCD puis le Alliance for Blind Canadians. C'est tout ça, c'est ça?
4294 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Oui, mais qui représentent précisément des personnes francophones?
4295 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Les personnes francophones.
4296 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Oui, hors Québec?
4297 Mme PARDO: On ne les connaît pas.
4298 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Vous ne les connaissez pas.
4299 Mme PARDO: Non.
4300 M. DUBOIS: Malheureusement.
4301 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et est-ce qu'il y a des gens...
4302 Mme PARDO: C'est pour ça qu'on parle pour les québécois, mais si on peut aider tous les francophones à travers le Canada, on est heureux de le faire aussi.
4303 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Est-ce qu'il arrive que vous recevez des demandes de renseignements justement, et d'aide de la part de francophones hors Québec? Est-ce que ça arrive, de mémoire?
4304 Mme PARDO: Très rarement, mais ça arrive parce que, bon, au regroupement on reçoit toutes sortes d'appels et, en général, lorsqu'on n'a pas l'expertise, on est là pour référer les gens. On leur explique comment ça fonctionne avec les centres de réadaptation puis l'INCA et tout ça, mais ça n'arrive pas souvent.
4305 M. DUBOIS: C'est un très bon point que vous soulevez parce que je me dis, là, nous autres, je pense qu'on aurait peut-être un travail à faire aussi en tant que regroupement.
4306 Moi, dans l'industrie dans laquelle je travaille, on a affaire à des gens un peu partout au Canada puis en Amérique du Nord puis les francophones, on est dans les technologies pour les personnes handicapées visuelles, je les connais, mais c'est drôle, je n'ai jamais entendu une organisation, tu sais.
4307 Je ne peux pas dire le regroupement des personnes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick ou... il y a quelque chose à faire là.
4308 CONSEILLÈRE LAMARRE: Et je me permets, pour clore, un commentaire éditorial. Monsieur Dubois, vous avez bien fait de préciser la définition du mot *amblyope+, mais j'avais déjà trouvé la définition exacte dans un grand dictionnaire terminologique de l'Office de la langue française.
4309 Mais je pense que pour le bénéfice de tous les participants, ça a été apprécié.
4310 Je n'ai plus d'autres questions, monsieur le président. Merci beaucoup.
4311 M. DUBOIS: Merci.
4312 Mme PARDO: Merci.
4313 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci. Est-ce qu'il y a des autres questions du panel? Non? Conseiller juridique?
4314 Mme LEHOUX: Merci. Je suis Véronique Lehoux, je suis une des avocates du Conseil. J'ai juste une petite question de procédure. Vous avez pris deux engagements ce matin, dont, un, de fournir le sondage de 2006 et, le deuxième engagement était de répondre à la question de madame Lamarre, là, qui est la suivante : Outre accorder une licence qui serait demandée au Conseil avec, possiblement, une distribution obligatoire comme le Accessibility Channel, que pourrait faire le Conseil.
4315 Donc, est-ce que vous vous engagez à répondre à ces... est-ce que c'est possible pour vous de répondre à ces questions-là d'ici vendredi prochain?
4316 M. DUBOIS: On peut faire une consultation téléphonique, oui.
4317 Mme PARDO: Qu'entendez-vous par *vendredi prochain+?
4318 Mme LEHOUX: Le 28.
4319 Mme PARDO: Le 28, oui.
4320 Mme LEHOUX: Oui. Merci. J'ai fini mes questions, monsieur le président.
4321 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup. On prend dix minutes.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1148 / Suspension à 1148
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1158 / Reprise à 1158
4322 THE CHAIRPERSON: We are going to start again. Please, be seated.
4323 Madam Secretary, if you can introduce the panel.
4324 THE SECRETARY: We will now proceed with our next participant, Mr. Edwin Ross Eadie who is joining us via videoconference from our Winnipeg office.
4325 Mr. Eadie, can you hear us?
4326 MR. EADIE: I certainly can.
4327 THE SECRETARY: Okay. I will present for you ‑‑
4328 MR. EADIE: Can you hear me?
4329 THE SECRETARY: I am Sylvie Bouffard, the Hearing Secretary.
4330 I will present the panel members in order they are seated from left to right: Elizabeth Duncan, Timothy Denton, Suzanne Lamarre, Leonard Katz, Candice Molnar and Stephen Simpson.
4331 You may begin your 15‑minute presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
4332 MR. EADIE: Great! Thank you for allowing me to step in a bit earlier here as I have a job interview this afternoon, I would really hate to miss that. It is tough being poor, although I have a nice suit today.
4333 You can call me Ross Eadie. I put my full name just ‑‑ I can't remember why but my name is ‑‑ you can call me Ross.
4334 I brought with me today ‑‑ I wanted to bring the attention of the CRTC the difficulty that people with disabilities have in participating at this regulatory level, trying to advocate for what I would call appropriate services to customers who are paying for the services.
4335 One of the people I invited with me today ‑‑ she won't be speaking but I brought with me a woman by the name of Jane Sayer. She is with the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf‑Blind.
4336 When I called her up to find out from her what her perspective was on the issues that we are talking about today and throughout the week, she was unaware that these hearings and these interventions were possible.
4337 I can in no way represent what the needs are for people who are deaf‑blind but I just wanted to point out that it is hard ‑‑ we need to find a way to reach out and allow people to participate more, I think, in the ideas of how to bring solutions to our systems that are covered by the CRTC: the telephone systems and the broadcasting system.
4338 For me, I think that it has been a very difficult process. I have tried to intervene in a number of situations and produced some lengthy papers over the years but it is very frustrating not being able to have participated right in Gatineau, for example, for the new ‑‑ I call it the Unaccessible Channel ‑‑ but the Accessibility Channel that was established. I think it was last year a decision was finally made by Stephen Harper, I think.
4339 I found it very frustrating doing this and having to do all the research to make sure that I understand what is going on, to make sure that I understand decisions that have been made. I believe that there needs to be a universal design approach to any system of providing culture to us in this country because the special segregated ways of dealing with these things can only achieve a minimal percentage of access.
4340 For example, I heard somebody mention DAISY and the publishing of books. At best right now, using the special segregated methods with exemptions and so on, the best they can do is tell us that 15‑20 percent of published books are accessible.
4341 We need to do better. Why can't we get to 90 percent, as we have, let's say, in captioning for people who are deaf in our broadcasting system. I am not sure of the exact percentages but why can't we achieve that? We need to be able to do that.
4342 How can we do that? We need to hear ideas from Canadians who are not immersed in what I would call segregated services.
4343 They are wonderful people, the CNIB, the NBRS services. They have a good will, they want to try to solve problems but what they end up usually doing is they come up with segregated service ideas in how to deal with things because after all they have to make sure that their organizations are viable. They want to try to make sure their so‑called clients receive a service.
4344 However, we are just immersed ‑‑ we can't achieve universal design if we continue to use that kind of approach though because there is the law of limited resources. I mean I listen to Global, a billion‑dollar loss.
4345 Now, not all of that is related to the broadcasting that they do but certainly a large portion of it has to do with that because the models in which we deliver our broadcasting system have to be looked at and they need to be ‑‑ I think of convergences here, and maybe Global missed that bit, I don't know. I mean YouTube is out there and people are advertising there now and we have to deal with those situations.
4346 So if we look at things from a universal design situation though, maybe we can minimize some of the extra costs.
4347 I am proposing a fund that would allow us to implement a more universal design approach but I want to point out how utilizing the limited resources, and in the Broadcasting Act, it mentions itself, it talks about when resources become available.
4348 Well, what we have done now, I think, is we have used 20 cents per subscriber to pay for what I call a segregated service, this open‑access channel, which created a separate overhead, a different administration to run a channel when, say, CTV, who is providing a good portion of that programming, they already have an administration in place to provide services. Why do we have to duplicate cost? That is an extra cost that we shouldn't need.
4349 We heard about a $1,500‑an‑hour cost for descriptive video services to produce that. Not long ago it was probably double that price and it is coming down because more is being done. But what you have is an after‑market effect here, with a special cottage industry that has come up, where they have added administrative costs to produce this stuff.
4350 When I mentioned the Canadian ‑‑ I don't know the right name for it but there are two funds that are established for producing programming of Canadian content. Why not have them, through their production processes, produce the descriptive video? There are writers and directors and producers on these shows and actually the writers know what they are trying to depict when there is no verbalization happening. I spoke to somebody who works in the business and this is about creative rights as well.
4351 Why can't we have them do it? Why do we have to have a separate cottage industry where you pay somebody else to write the descriptive video service? And this is for preprogrammed stuff, this isn't real time DVS that people are trying to consider, which is much more difficult to do.
4352 But I think you are probably getting my point here, that there is this added extra cost that is built into providing special segregated services that we need to get away from.
4353 And the problem is here, I heard that if the Accessibility Channel is no longer needed because we now have the ability to change the DVS. On my set‑top box, on my controller, I am able to get to the menuing system and all that sort of thing.
4354 Once that is accessible, I still don't think that you are going to remove the licensing of the Accessibility Channel because what will happen is you have built up a user base, you have people who are disabled working for this organization, you have people who have gotten used to this service, and there is no politician and no commissioner who is going to say, let's pull the plug on what people with disabilities say they need.
4355 Believe me, once you have a loyal client base, you are not going to be able to get rid of it. Like I say, no politician is going to want to be known as the person who hurt those poor cripples, you know. I am sorry to say it that way but that is kind of how society kind of looks at things sometimes and that is the reality.
4356 So that is why I find it sometimes frustrating that we need to have more people who can talk about universal design involved.
4357 And I heard some great ideas being presented, the idea of having a committee that can look at an approach when the technology is there to provide advice and direction on how to do things. And maybe the fund that I am talking about establishing or the money that I am trying to ‑‑ resources put in place, maybe that could be utilized to have that kind of system.
4358 Because I know you as commissioners can't know and understand everything. You often hear from the people who provide the segregated services but you don't get to hear the people who have the universal design ideas, the way to maybe achieve a much bigger access to the systems.
4359 I wanted to point out SaskTel. I was listening with great interest. I am glad that they were still presenting today. They were talking about only having four network channels with open description. That points out the problem with open description.
4360 My television wants ‑‑ I won't call them needs, although I have a need to ‑‑ I am often involved in politics, I have a need to know the news.
4361 But I wanted to point out though, I listen to CBC, I listen to CBC Newsworld. BookTV is one of my main suppliers of listening pleasure ‑‑ well, television pleasure. The Documentary Channel, I just love it. The Independent Film Channel is something I listen to through the MTS Allstream services.
4362 In other words, I have a different television ‑‑ well, I am just like any other Canadian because this is the wave of the future, right?
4363 The so‑called specialty channels are the designated channels and these channels do run programming that come from the networks as well.
4364 Like the Documentary Channel will run a documentary that, for example, was run on CBC Newsworld, and if somebody does the descriptive video for it, it can be used on all these different channels.
4365 But my point being, though, that the Accessibility Channel that was established, it is never going to meet my need. Do I have to listen at three o'clock in the morning to listen to any programming content that I want to listen to?
4366 The CNIB's library service does not produce the books I want to listen to in audio format. So what am I left to?
4367 We need to achieve a better access. So I wanted to just quickly mention, if I could, it is too bad that we could not ‑‑ this is kind of a political statement but $4 billion of revenue was received in the public interest, the sale to cell phone companies.
4368 Why couldn't we have used that money to pay for the audio portion of my Pocket PC which I had to pay an extra $600 for just so I could have voice access to my cell phone? It is available but I had to pay an extra $600. I don't have it, it is on my credit card, I am still paying it. But not only that, I am paying the regular fee that I had to pay for this Pocket PC to MTS, and it is not a cheap contract, I have to say. But you know what? This is a great thing to have.
4369 Why couldn't we have used some of that money ‑‑ because I know that businesses are trying to make money and that is what they do and I think that is a good thing because businesses employ people. Why couldn't we have used some of that money to pay for the audio system so I don't have to pay for it?
4370 I shouldn't have to pay an extra fee for access and I think you really need to consider when dealing with these issues that that is the way we have to go. So how do we find the money to do that?
4371 I also wanted to point out that some people say that there was an overcharge of access fees here on the Prairies when it came to wireless thing, and I know it is in the courts. But you know what? When I heard access, I thought, well, if there is all this money there and people want it back, why can't we actually use that and use it for access? Because there are many people with disabilities who don't have access to this.
4372 There is going to be a decision made that doesn't even consider the needs of people with disabilities in that and I think that is wrong. We need to be able to reflect and utilize some of those resources maybe.
4373 So there's other ways. The 20 cents a month, I hope you will ask me questions about that. I heard people worried about administrating the fund sort of things but I have ideas on that.
4374 I think we really need to go with the idea that the channels themselves varied in their own signal. Even though I might have to get my son or somebody else to turn the DVS on for the time being but if we establish this fund, we can get people to design the software and hardware that we can use.
4375 And believe me, it can be done because you know what? They told us they couldn't put a voice on these things. They told us they couldn't do it. It is impossible, they said. That was how many years ago, right? They can do it now.
4376 You know why they can do it? Because there is a whole bunch of people ‑‑ there's very good blind programmers.
4377 There is a fellow by the name of T.V. Raman. He has been working on this stuff. He knows how to design software, how to tweak stuff to make it accessible. There's Matt Campbell. There's all these people around the world that can do programming.
4378 These businesses need to consult with programmers who know how to do it. It can be done. It is just a matter of putting a focus in on how to do it.
4379 I am going to ‑‑ there is a lot more I would really like to say but I am just going to probably end with an example.
4380 In 1989 I was at Red River Community College and they were trying to provide accessible services to people who were deaf as well as blind, but there was a problem in terms of people who were deaf learning computers because they had these sort of online learning programs to learn how to use software, but there was no ASL for them.
4381 There is a fellow named Dave Gurney. What he did was he went to ‑‑ I think it was Hitachi or whoever was making the VHS player and he got the machine code from the industry, from that company, that set the switches so he could turn it off and on through software. And he designed a software program on the computer that sent the signal over a data cable and whenever somebody who is deaf needed extra help, they could click on this button and automatically would run over to this VHS player, pull up somebody doing ASL on the television and they could watch and learn and find out what to do.
4382 This was designed in 1989‑1990. It can be done. It just requires a focus.
4383 So we need to keep that kind of stuff in mind and try to move away from ‑‑ now, I must point out, because Jane is here and others. I do believe that we need to support the video relay service because that in itself is a different language. Sometimes we have to figure out ways to accommodate, but I think that we need to be putting resources into that.
4384 There are many other issues that we need to consider as well, and I hope that when we do consider them and when you are listening to people talking about what they think we need, try to ‑‑ universal design is about thinking.
4385 I forgot, there is one last point I wanted to make.
4386 The CRTC just came out with some new policies related to the new digital broadcasting system and two things I wanted to point out. For local digital production there is 60 million new dollars being put into the programming fund to help local ‑‑ for local programming in the digital world.
4387 That is one of the problems I think I heard Global talk about; that the production and that sort of stuff, there is less money now for that. We need to support that. I think that's an important thing.
4388 But I didn't hear anybody say well, shouldn't we have some DVS involved with that as well for that local programming.
4389 So we have the funds there set aside.
4390 Another thing I wanted to point out, we are not having licensing for BDUs that are supplying to ‑‑ I think it's 20,000 or less consumers. Now, if we take away that licensing, is there a mechanism that we can ensure that they will still consider the needs of the people with disabilities who live in those small markets?
4391 I would point out that many of those small markets involve First Nations people, and what you need to understand about First Nations people is the level of disabilities is much higher. Blindness, for example, is much higher in the aboriginal population than it is, say, in the population ‑‑ the ethnic population I come from.
4392 So you need to consider this stuff. It's a way of thinking. We need to make sure that we can think about these things.
4393 I thank you for listening to my presentation. I hope to answer a number of questions and I really appreciate that I have been involved this way over the television. I would never have been able to afford to go to Gatineau.
4394 Thank you.
4395 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Eadie.
4396 It is Mr. Katz here, Presiding Chairman.
4397 I am going to pass the microphone over to the Regional Commissioner for Manitoba and Saskatchewan to begin some of the questions or follow‑up.
4398 MR. EADIE: Excellent.
4399 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
4400 It's Candice Molnar here. Welcome, Mr. Eadie.
4401 MR. EADIE: Thank you.
4402 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I appreciate your comments and I want to say that you can be assured that we are taking into consideration your comments, both what you have spoken about today as well as what you placed on the record in your initial comments.
4403 I know in your initial comments, for example, you also spoke about some issues related to access to telecommunications services as well. That has been noted.
4404 I would just note before I go on to my questions, one area that I thought was well addressed, if you will, or at least was noted, is that in your comments, your comments began with a situation with your star 69 call return, that I note. And you may have noted that MTS in their reply comments, or in their comments of October 6th they address that issue, and in case it ‑‑
4405 MR. EADIE: Oh, did they?
4406 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes. I would just ‑‑
4407 MR. EADIE: I was just going to say I didn't have time to read it all, yes.
4408 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes. I will let you know that they said in their comments of October 6th related to your issue with star 69, they said:
"MTS will look into the possibility of providing access to the feature or service option at a reduced rate or free of charge to Mr. Eadie and other customers in similar situations." (As read)
4409 So certainly your comments are noted not just by the Commission but by the industry and service providers in your region.
4410 I would like to focus my questions today on the issues related to described video.
4411 MR. EADIE: Yes.
4412 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just to be clear as it relates to your proposal on this 20 cents per subscriber put into a fund, when I read your comments I understood them to say that the 20 cents that has been earmarked to support the accessibility channel should be redirected.
4413 Is that what you have proposed?
4414 MR. EADIE: Well, here is the ‑‑ you know, in the original intervention that I made I was trying to bring across the point that people get very upset when you increase their bills and the BDUs and the networks will tell you that. They know that.
4415 The problem now is I hear The Accessibility Channel will be coming online December 3rd. It is already established. I don't know how you can hold back there, I think it was 20 cents on digital subscribers under whatever class.
4416 I tried to find out a lot of detail in terms of class and how many potential people are going to be charged for that and that sort of thing and so in my paper you notice I make estimates.
4417 But I do think it needs to be redirected honestly. I really ‑‑ like in their original proposal they said they did a consultation across the country. I didn't participate in it, but they only provided one option. There was no other alternative ideas presented for people to consider.
4418 So they did this so‑called study, but it was based on finding the evidence that they wanted, not on finding out how to best achieve something.
4419 So maybe redirected. But you know what, if you can't redirect the 20 cents, then what I'm saying is then, please, we need to establish this fund. There is no way that I can see us getting to a universal design approach without establishing a fund.
4420 And ultimately, you know, I noticed that the BDUs are being asked to not pass on the cost of the money that they provide to the programming production funds, the two of them, the independent one and the other one. But, you know, they are in business. They need to pass on costs and businesses do that all the time.
4421 There are all kinds of features and people's equipment and services that they don't use but we pay for it anyway. So we need to charge that 20 cents, I think.
4422 On one hand I'm saying there are limited resources and we should be redirecting the 20 cents, which is going to add up to a lot more money than what was originally proposed because we are fully digital in 2009, right. I think that 20 cents was based on past ‑‑ like according to my calculations, maybe we could end up with anywhere from 20 to $26 million a year. How much money does it cost to run?
4423 But anyway, I think I answered your question. If you can't switch over to 20 cents, then we need to charge a new 20 cents.
4424 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. I'm not going to get into the details of the fund, but I would like to address some of the issues you thought needed to be addressed by such a fund.
4425 I understand your position to increase the programming and I will talk about that in a minute. But you also talked about issues related to set‑top boxes and so on.
4426 That's an issue, if you have been following this proceeding, you have perhaps heard me ask others about. And that is how easily consumers who are blind are able to access the described video programming that is in the system today.
4427 You are experienced. What are your views as to how easy it is for you to access the system and what are the more significant barriers?
4428 Just to expand on what I mean by barriers, is it because the service isn't being promoted, you don't know what programs are described? Is it issues with electronic program guides? Is it issues with the many steps you need to go through or at least it's apparent some consumers would need to go through to actually access that second audio channel, the alternative audio feed through the digital systems?
4429 We heard, you know, the TELUS and SaskTel folks talk about a six‑step process to get to the described video feed.
4430 So what are your thoughts as to what are the key issues related to access to the video that is described today?
4431 MR. EADIE: Great, okay. I would just quickly mention ‑‑ because I am not going to talk about it in detail. There could be more information about what programming will be in described video.
4432 I know if I went to that schedule to find out described video, I know it is not going to be the programs that I listen to because I know that ‑‑ well, I shouldn't say that. PBS has some described video which, if it gets passed through, I would listen to. Nova often has described video and various programs.
4433 But the ‑‑ so scheduling is good.
4434 I also want to mention, I really want to thank MTS Allstream. They are now passing through ‑‑ as far as I know, they are passing through all described video service that is available on whatever channel.
4435 Like you say, the access to turn that on or off is the issue now, I think.
4436 And because MTS I think has found a way to do it without a separate channel or whatever, it is encoded within, the way they are passing it through as I think I understand it, the real issue then is more programming needs to be done then because it is being passed through at least by MTS Allstream.
4437 I think ‑‑ well I shouldn't ‑‑ I don't really want to comment, but I think that some of the BDUs have made decisions based on utilizing bandwidth for other types of services without consideration for people with disabilities.
4438 Like the old SAP, I think that Shaw wanted to save its bandwidth so that it could compete in the telephone market.
4439 But there are technology issues which they brought up which ‑‑ solving technology issues like hardware, software, firmware, those things, if the human mind is put to it, they can fix it. That's not the issue. We know that the human mind can come up with many things.
4440 So what I do at my home, just so you know right now, I don't like to be defined as some poor helpless person who heaven forbid I can't turn on a DVS because it's a hardware switch, and I have to push a button and I've got to go through a menu ‑‑ and actually with MTS you can have three television services in your home, which is a great idea. So for each one you would need to turn DVS on or off if you wanted to listen to whatever is being passed through.
4441 Now, I can't access that but what I have done in my home is the television ‑‑ our main family television does not have DVS turned on because, frankly, my kids don't like to be interrupted with voice and stuff sometimes. They like the visual experience without too many words often, as well as my wife.
4442 So upstairs we have another television. I am lucky enough to have a second television and lucky enough to afford to pay for the telephone service. But the one upstairs we have it just permanently set to do DVS. So MTS Allstream is passing through all DVS. So if a program comes on with DVS, I can listen to it.
4443 Now, there have been issues in the past and I haven't checked out The History Channel lately. But The History Channel, if they were passing through DVS and you have DVS on, you couldn't hear the regular programming because it was a separate channel of information.
4444 Well, you definitely couldn't hear the commercials, which I think if you are paying to have advertisements people should hear it anyway ‑‑ not that I was unhappy that I didn't have to listen to advertisements.
4445 Anyway, as I understand, advertisements are getting quite artistic now, though. Sometimes I'm missing some. But anyway, I digress.
4446 So the difficulty there, also using menus. MTS Allstream has this wonderful system. You call up a menu, you can order a movie on demand, you can check the weather, you can do all these things through software. That's not accessible but you don't really have to ‑‑ in order to hear anything that is being passed through on DVS, you don't have to do that.
4447 On that in‑home terminal equipment it is a matter of setting that DVS on. And once it's on and something is being passed through, you can hear it.
4448 The thing is, though, I can't turn it on and off downstairs, so maybe it is inconvenient for me to try to listen to a television when somebody else is trying to sleep, because the other television is in our bedroom.
4449 I mean, there are those issues. But again, I think that these things are solvable in the not‑too‑distant future. You know, if we had looked at this back in I think 2006 when NBRS first put in their thing, and if we started charging the 20 cents and we put out some R&D money for the equipment companies to come up with ways of doing this, it would be done, because it's not coming out of their profit line; right?
4450 And maybe we could point them to the T.V. Ramins and the Matt Campbells of the world who, you know, people designed ‑‑ iPods are not accessible with voice menus. You know what they did? Somebody designed a Linux fix for that and now I can, on an iPod, listen to the menus and use an iPod. But I can't use the Apple software because they protected the software and wouldn't let the programmers in to trying to solve that situation, right, because that's kind of a proprietary thing.
4451 I think that in order for us to get access we need them to sort of uncover some of this stuff for people with the ability to have real solutions for access to programming.
4452 I guess just to summarize on DVS, I know it is a problem but I don't think we should depict that it is a hopeless situation because I couldn't switch that over. I mean, there are options. I don't think that we needed to move ahead so quickly with The Accessible Channel based on that research that they did.
4454 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
4455 MR. EADIE: I mean access ‑‑ if I could just mention, though, like ‑‑ well, I guess somebody will ask me about what kind of programming to do and stuff like that. But you know, like I say, I listen to CBC for the most part, CBC Newsworld. I don't listen to CTV. I listen to APTN sometimes. I understand they are doing some programming. That's a good thing.
4456 Sorry, the camera is there, right.
4457 There needs to be a way to get more programming done than is available now. So I just wanted to make that point.
4458 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
4459 You mentioned somebody will ask you about programming and I will do that.
4460 If we were to increase the amount of described video programming that was required in the system, I would be interested in knowing what you view to be the priorities as it regards the type of programming or the genres of programming that you feel should be priorities to be described.
4461 MR. EADIE: Okay. So prerecorded programming of any type I think should be a priority.
4462 I heard somebody mention on Monday, I think it was, they mentioned the concept about who is picking the priority of what gets done first, and so on.
4463 In terms of priority, I think that ‑‑ like I talked about establishing a fund, but I'm not saying that you have to have separate administration. Let's put some extra money into the independent fund and the other fund that provides for Canadian programming content and let's give them some additional money so that they can produce it with DVS. And whatever they are producing they will supply DVS if it is possible to do.
4464 I do believe ‑‑ I don't believe there needs to be any priority for sports programs to be described in DVS, frankly. If you really want such a detailed play‑by‑play of sports, listen to the radio. It's there.
4465 I mean, we are in Manitoba here and I can listen to the game in detail. Actually, when the Jets were here, I used to attend a game and I would listen to CJOB on the radio while I was at the arena to get that real feel of the hockey game, you know, the excitement and all that. But I was listening to the play‑by‑play.
4466 So the sports program, like I listen to baseball and yes, I guess I do listen to CTV once in a while. I like to listen to the Blue Jays play a baseball game or two.
4467 But the people who are describing the game do quite a good job. So I don't think it is a priority.
4468 I think that many items on the news ‑‑ like I would really like to know the stock quotes but, you know, I listened to Paul Kangas first when they had this specialty finance channel and then he moved over to PBS and he has this finance program, and he is reading off the stock quotes. And I mean that guy is moving fast and he's really good at it, although he is slowing down; he's getting older. But he can move fast.
4469 But there is no way that he could read off as fast as that stuff scrolls across the screen. There is no way he could give us that stuff.
4470 There are other methods. I can get stock quotes on the web. I can go to the Free Press. I listen to the Free Press online, and I can go to the Free Press website and I can get stock quotes for free. I just need to go there and I can get them.
4471 So I don't know that that needs to be a priority.
4472 I heard some people asking about that. I don't think that needs to be.
4473 Movies, dramas, sitcoms, you know, the worst thing ‑‑ I mean, this is American production, but Jerry Seinfeld always had that sight joke, you know, and I never got it. I hear the laughing at the end. You know, Kramer is doing I don't know what. Some kind of sight joke is happening. It certainly would be great to know what that sight joke was.
4474 So in terms of priority programming, I think that we need to look at the foreign content that comes because, frankly, in Canada there is a lot of American content that comes and it's actually kind of Canadian culture starting to be now too, right.
4475 I just wanted to point out if Canada makes a progressive decision to create the kind of fund I'm talking about, I don't know that we have to pick priorities. I think that if the Americans see that we have come up with an idea that works, why not follow it.
4476 So that's my perspective on priority.
4477 I have a priority perspective. I want more stuff on Documentary Channel, the Independent Film Channel. APTN would be great. CBC, any programming on there. That's my priorities.
4478 The priorities are the channels that I listen to, not ‑‑ you know, like ‑‑ I also listen to Global as well. It has some good news, it is important to listen to and they have some good programming, too.
4479 So I think that we should be looking at how can we ‑‑ SaskTel said potential for 200 channels. Now, often those channels are running the same programming, at different times mind you, but they are running the same programming. If it's described, that is a good thing, but we need to focus in on making some of the content on those channels accessible as well.
4480 The Discovery Channel, man what a great channel that is, all the programming that is on there. We need more described video on that, too.
4481 So thanks.
4482 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you for your answers. Just one follow‑up.
4483 Would you agree that we should be focused on Canadian content within the Canadian system?
4484 MR. EADIE: Well, I do believe ‑‑ yes, and that's why I talked about the programming funds, right. There are those two funds and maybe there are other ways like the film ‑‑ there are other grants that are given by the government to create films and documentaries as well, and Canadian content that way, too.
4485 I don't know how these independent fund and that other fund actually work, but there are Canadian films that need to be done too. So if some of that money could be used for Canadian.
4486 So I mean there is a priority for Canadian content, I have to say. I truly believe that we need to do that.
4487 Actually, I do believe Canada has a different culture and we need to promote that, and in the Broadcasting Act ‑‑ and I would like to bring up the Broadcasting Act because there are a lot of things in there.
4488 Actually I'm saying that I actually filed a human rights complaint because I think it's discrimination to have The Accessibility Channel because I don't get to participate in the same cultural milieu that is being spoken about in that Act. It is a great achievement that we are trying to do.
4489 So yes, we have to put priority on Canadian content.
4490 But again, like I say, if we demonstrate a model for people, maybe Americans will pick up on that.
4491 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you, Mr. Eadie. Those are my questions.
4492 Before I sign off, I would just like to say good luck this afternoon. I hope everything turns out. Bye‑bye.
4493 MR. EADIE: Thank you very much.
4494 THE CHAIRPERSON: It's Len Katz again.
4495 I will just poll the Panel and see if there are any other questions from Eastern Canada out. No. No. No. No.
4496 How about legal counsel? No.
4497 Thank you very much, Mr. Eadie. We appreciate your appearance here today.
4498 Do you have a final comment?
4499 MR. EADIE: Can I make one final statement?
4500 THE CHAIRPERSON: You certainly can.
4501 MR. EADIE: Can I make one final comment?
4502 THE CHAIRPERSON: Please do.
4503 MR. EADIE: I often listen to the BDUs and they often have sage advice. I just wanted to reiterate that if we can establish this money, there is no need to set up a new separate administration unless you are going to have, like I said, a universal design consideration committee.
4504 There is no need to set up new administration for this money. The administration is already there. Just utilize what's there.
4505 That's my final comment. Thank you very much.
4506 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. We appreciate your involvement.
4507 We will now take a break for lunch and reconvene at 2 o'clock.
‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1238 / Suspension à 1238
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1400 / Reprise à 1400
4508 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon. We will resume with this afternoon's session.
4509 Madam Secretary, are there any preliminary remarks that you wish to make?
4510 THE SECRETARY: Not at this moment.
4511 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you want to perhaps inform the people listening on the web that there might be a little shift in the schedule?
4512 THE SECRETARY: Yes. We will proceed with our presentation from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association in Hamilton, and then we will move to presentation No. 17, which is the VRS Consultative Committee of BC, and we will do that by videoconference from Vancouver and come back to No. 16.
4513 Mr. Rendall, you may introduce your panel and begin your presentation.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
4514 MR. RENDALL: Hi. This is the first time I have done something like this so bear with me a little bit.
4515 I wasn't actually born deaf. I come to the hard of hearing community, deaf community in 2002 when I went deaf. That's when I realized that there was a lot of services that I was used to as a hearing person that were not in the deaf community.
4516 One of the most essential services, as far as I was concerned, was emergency services and that is what I want to produce today.
4517 We want to present to you a perception of a better communication service for the hearing disabled community for emergency services, an essential service that everybody needs.
4518 What emergency service means to the hearing disabled is police, fire and ambulance; the same as 911 would be in the hearing world.
4519 In today's world the most popular communication device is the mobile wireless handheld device. They are flexible for telephone, text and e‑mail whilst on the go pretty well anywhere in the world.
4520 In 2006 there were 18.75 million subscribers with $12.6 billion in revenue here in Canada. These devices are globally universal because they can access many services by associated carriers/providers and in most part this relates to all services previously mentioned: phone, text and e‑mail.
4521 The exception would be e‑mail where in some countries carriers have regulation and regional restrictions. Canada is covered with a network of associated carriers to provide all of the services coast‑to‑coast and within our country's boundaries.
4522 The hearing disabled, being both deaf, hard of hearing and Cochlear implanted persons need an effective service to reach the services of police, fire ambulance in times of need. These times are not necessarily only for ourselves, but also for our loved ones, friends and the general public.
4523 Hearing disabled are both young and old, but we are all human beings and need to communicate effectively for our emergency service needs.
4524 If text is the most effective tool to carry the service, then our Canadian communications system should be adapted to carry such services nationally within our borders. It is obvious on reading into the bureaucracy for this to happen, the CRTC must mandate regulations and target dates for it to effectively take place with our Canadian telecommunication carriers.
4525 We, the hearing disabled, are not the only ones that can benefit from this new service. The hearing can also greatly benefit and this has already been documented.
4526 As we have been saying for a while, it will save lives. The first was well documented by the two survivors in a light plane crash off Port Hardy, B.C. in August 2008. The person texted a friend and advised his battery was low and to text him. The RCMP did that and eventually located a plane in dense forests. Lives were saved.
4527 Another instance that is documented was the London, England transport bombings. The telephone system was knocked out during this attack and the police and rescue services communicated by text. Lives again were saved.
4528 I'm sure there are many instances that I am not aware of, but these two prove that there is a real need, not only for emergency services but also for our Canadian national security through police contact.
4529 Many deaf and hearing disabled carry mobile devices. We travel, work and live like most of the general society. We see things but cannot communicate them to the required party because of the inaccessible situation of the Canadian telecommunications services presently offered.
4530 We too need to be part of the general hearing society and be recognized with text emergency services to communicate any type of emergency to the necessary service.
4531 In July 2008 the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association held an international congress conference with the International Federation of Hard of Hearing in Vancouver. Twenty‑seven countries were represented and over 550 registered delegates. We heard many stories and new ideas for our hearing disabled community, which number 272 million around the world that we know of and 4.4 right here in Canada and another 17 million south of the border.
4532 From this congress conference a new system emerged known as real‑time text. It is a European idea and the company, 4C Telecom, are now selling their service to telecommunications carriers there in Europe. Holland has several hundred subscribers already using the system.
4533 I will briefly advise you how it works as per their work and information sent to me.
4534 Real‑time text is the open standard RFC 5194 for the provision of text‑based telephony service; in essence to provide the unique benefit of voice calling but in a text form:
4535 (a) a data connection is established between the device and the service application provider;
4536 (b) information flows in real time so the person receiving the message can actually see it being typed; and
4537 (c) participants can barge in or interject as they read the message being sent so there is no time wasted.
4538 This service would be like buying a software application for your device from your wireless application service provider just as you do for iPhone and others for downloading to your device. The service is fully hosted, managed and supported 24/7. The availability for wireless communications is well over 99.5 per cent. RTT can be deployed quickly with little investment in training on equipment.
4539 Obviously this real‑time text system needs more thorough information exchange between our Canadian carriers and its service providers to fully qualify the applicability for the use in Canada. The deaf and hard of hearing could only take advantage of the solution if supported by our wireless service providers in Canada.
4540 Admittedly, emergency services by text, whether SMS or IM, would not allow a text to be traced as a hearing 911 system is set up to do by landline. However, Bell Mobility recently announced to its customers they are perfecting a way that we will be able to detect which tower the text caller is closest to and triangulate their closest position.
4541 The initial package of texting for emergency service requirement would not be perfect, but neither are we perfect at hearing disabled. This will however give us an opportunity to get closer to a real service for emergency and possibly even an alternative for future communications with business and government.
4542 As we know, all mobile wireless service plans at present have a fee applied to the communication carrier for 911 services, yet only those that can hear use it. What we are proposing is that these carriers also allow text emergency services for their 911 fee.
4543 If we take 18.75 million subscribers and multiply by say 50 cents, that gives these carriers $112.5 million a year to carry an equal service for all subscribers. Initially for the mobile cell phones, they would carry across centres and communicate the 911 call. These centres, then by phone line that was only known to those mobile carriers, connected them by voice to police, fire or ambulance. This is commonly known as basic 911.
4544 Since basic 911 is still available from 911 service providers, it would be just as effective in this very same format for emergency services for our community. But for us to use text, the relay center receives a text, then by voice relays the need to the service required.
4545 This relay service center could either be provincial or national and located at a telephone number in our address directory on our wireless device.
4546 As previously stated, this relay service center cost should already be covered in a 911 service service plan.
4547 We also feel that there is a more effective way to let a hearing disabled have a better cost effective service via mobile handheld devices. This would be in the form of a specific format location number and a telephone number issued to a hearing disabled person; for example, 905‑416‑519. This is for a wireless device, not landline. Therefore a provincial number could be made available for all.
4548 The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association produced a universal design barrier free access booklet for hearing disabled that was funded by the Federal Government of Canada. The experts that produced this document, both doctors and hearing specialists, said under communications section 6.12 that hearing disabled do not depend on a telephone. The organization should not rely on telephone as their primary communications tool with hearing disabled since they cannot hear or have difficulty understanding when using telephones.
4549 This means we as hearing disabled should have the same benefits for special low cost services as our hearing counterparts in our general society when used in a mobile communications device. This distinct number system would also distinguish a hearing disabled person from making an emergency service text message call to a receiving operator.
4550 In order to provide emergency services via a relay service center, the CRTC needs to put in place new mandated regulations and target dates that are not more than reasonably expected for implementing any new system service being handled by a telecommunications carrier.
4551 Emergency services, however, should be priority.
4552 Regulations need Bell, TELUS to form emergency service relay center nationally or provincially and issue a telephone number to be associated with these call centres. These numbers would be recorded by a person in an address directory on their mobile device on a speed dial.
4553 Current fee structures for 911 needs to also apply to SMS or IM messaging for emergency services.
4554 Guideline of questions to be asked by a call center such as are you disabled and what is your disability.
4555 Specific expectation for text emergency call center, remember we are not perfect and we cannot expect a perfect call center and service either.
4556 A period of no more than 12 months for implementation for text messaging service to emergency services within the Canadian borders.
4557 Lastly our federal government needs to review our age old policy on TTY as a form of communication with our hearing disabled community. It is also known and documented that many public institutions' TTY equipment are either broken or have no one fully trained to understand how to use them.
4558 It is time to bring us into the 21st century and allow us to communicate by e‑mail or text.
4559 In Canada RIM, which is Blackberry, developed a unique piece of technology. They have worked with us and have listened to our needs. Many of their devices carry all services needed by the hearing disabled community. When will the federal government give us an alternative choice or choices and the monetary assistance for other devices rather than just a TTY?
4560 Give us all a chance to have flexible communications wherever we are and be accessible to emergency services text relay service. We have great difficulty when communicating with police, hospital, doctors and other government services, both federally and provincially. It's time this changed.
4561 It's time that our federal government also addressed the need of updating the disability definition to include all those who have disabilities, not just physical or mental. The general public needs to understand the word disability. We need the identifiable wireless numbers.
4562 A distinct hearing disabled community needs effective communication tools to look after ourselves, our family and feel good about ourselves being able to be independent and a true part of the Canadian society.
4563 Thank you for listening.
4564 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Rendall.
4565 We will pass the baton over to Commissioner Denton to start the questioning.
4566 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Good afternoon. I'm Tim Denton.
4567 I have a few questions for you arising from your text and a few more arising from the general concerns that we have for the hard of hearing in this proceeding.
4568 Starting with your speech, you mentioned real‑time text as an open standard RFC 5194, and I would like to know more about this for my own curiosity.
4569 You say that:
"The service would be like buying a software application for your device from your wireless application service provider." (As read)
4570 So is this service still theoretical or does it exist anywhere?
4571 MR. RENDALL: I did say in my speech that this particular piece of equipment or application is actually in use in the country of Holland. The company 4C Telecom do have a website. You can communicate on that website directly via e‑mail for more information and they would, I'm sure, be glad to assist you in anything that you need to know about application.
4572 I am not a technical person, but I know that it's actually in working order at this present time.
4573 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you. Did you supply us anywhere with that website?
4574 Have you already supplied it or is it something ‑‑
4575 MR. RENDALL: No, I didn't. I did not supply you with the website but I can do that without any problem.
4576 COMMISSIONER DENTON: We would be very interested in knowing more.
4577 MR. RENDALL: Okay.
4578 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Now, forgive me for not having completely absorbed everything you were saying immediately, but I noticed that you were talking about a different kind of numbering plan for the hearing disabled.
4579 Is that correct?
4580 MR. RENDALL: Yes, that's correct. I believe that on listening to one of the things that was said by SaskTel this morning, when asked a question how many disabled people do you have in your vicinity, they didn't fully understand what they had and they couldn't understand how the TTY was diminishing where it was going.
4581 If we had a specific number that could identify hard of hearing disabled people, then all that information would be readily available to the CRTC or a carrier in this country.
4582 You would be able to ask them how many people in your vicinity do you have that are hearing disabled and they would give you a number.
4583 As we know, there are 4.4 million Canadians that have a hearing disability. How many of those actually have a device, we don't know because there is no way of tracking it.
4584 If we have an identical telephone number that could track that, we would have all that information available at your fingertips.
4585 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Do you conceive it as a sort of equivalent of a 1‑800, 1‑600 or is it just to be a series of ‑‑ how do you envisage this?
4586 MR. RENDALL: Yes, it could be.
4587 However, a 1‑800, 1‑600 number I believe are a national type situation. I'm not really sure whether the individual carriers want a national situation or whether they want a provincial situation.
4588 Again, I'm not a technical person and I don't have information about the carrier's services so I can't really answer that question fully.
4589 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Fair enough.
4590 My next question relates to basically the growing obsolescence of TTY and what you see as the next logical successor to it.
4591 Would you sort of talk some more about where you think the technology needs to go?
4592 MR. RENDALL: Okay. When I mentioned that we had an international conference in Vancouver, the majority of people that were either deaf or hard of hearing, they had a cellular wireless device, either a Blackberry or another form of device where they can communicate.
4593 To me, I was also asked well, what about the older people that do not want to get involved with a piece of equipment like that? When you research the Internet and ask them who are the biggest users of Internet, it's older people.
4594 The other thing is, when people get older they also have other disabilities. In other words, they lose some of their eyesight as well as their hearing.
4595 I fully understand what is going on right now in the technology industry manufacturing is they are coming up with different touch keypads which are a bigger, what do you call it, keypad for the letters so that the older people can see them more clearly.
4596 I believe that the TTY will die eventually, whether it dies with the government's approval or not, and the new technology will take over, which is mobile. People do not sit at home waiting for a TTY call. We are in hotels, we are here at conferences.
4597 I was asked specifically by someone here, "How do I reach you?" I said, "My BlackBerry. Here is my BlackBerry address. That's how you reach me."
4598 I can be anywhere in the world and be reached.
4599 So I believe that the service of the future will be a wireless, hand‑held device, and you will be able to be reached anywhere in the world.
4600 Also, you will be able to tune in to wherever you are going, to other services within other countries.
4601 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So then, clearly, you would think that the subsidy mechanisms that we use for TTY need to migrate to appropriate newer technologies.
4602 MR. RENDALL: Absolutely. I believe that a person should have the choice of what particular device they want to use.
4603 Like I said, there are many different hand‑held devices on the market right now, and it's whatever a person in our community feels comfortable with.
4604 Some of them are more technical than others.
4605 It also depends on the job, or the volume of travelling, what device they are going to choose.
4606 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Should the subsidy be invariant, or should it vary with the level of calling?
4607 How would you imagine it to work?
4608 MR. RENDALL: I believe that, right now, we should have a set package, much the same as if we have a hearing assistive device.
4609 You are given X amount of dollars by the Ontario government, for instance, for a device every so many years, and you go out and buy your assistive device with that, plus you add money to that.
4610 I believe that we need a set amount to be put aside for what packages can be given to the hard‑of‑hearing community or the deaf community by government, and allow the person to buy whatever device they feel comfortable with.
4611 Some people, for instance, may be in a very high profile job, making thousands of dollars a year, while another person may be on disability benefits. So they need to have accessibility to everything, but they also need to be able to choose what device they want to purchase.
4612 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Fair enough.
4613 I note that the IP relay service is not yet available in Canada. Are you aware that it is available elsewhere, such as in the United States?
4614 MR. RENDALL: Yes, I have been told in a number of situations that the IP service is available in the U.S.
4615 But I believe, when I attended a conference in Vancouver, that the Americans at that conference said that the Europeans are so far in advance of the Americans, and the Americans are taking notes of what the Europeans are doing.
4616 So, if Canada really wanted to work on a platform of what to do, we should be looking at Europe, not south of the border. The Americans are following the Europeans.
4617 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Is this a European‑wide standard, or is it in particular countries?
4618 MR. RENDALL: Actually, what is happening in Europe, on a country‑by‑country basis, is that they are looking further and further into an IP situation of communication.
4619 However, again, I am not fully aware of how dramatic that is. We can only go on the stories told to us at that conference in July of this year.
4620 The one incident that I brought to your attention, which is in Holland, is an application that has already been approved. It is working, and it is being sold to other countries in Europe.
4621 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Is the record of that conference on a website anywhere?
4622 MR. RENDALL: That I'm not sure of, but I am sure that CHHA, my national office, does have some notetaking, so I am sure that there is dialogue from that conference of all the different levels and all the different things that were presented, which you could have access to.
4623 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I think we would probably want to know more about this. If you could send all of the information you have on that, that would be very good.
4624 MR. RENDALL: Okay, will do.
4625 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
4626 The question arises for us as to whether gaining access to 911 services through IP relay ‑‑ would this, if available, address some of your concerns?
4627 MR. RENDALL: I have sat down with many carriers, and an IP system is not really what we are looking for at the present time.
4628 I specifically said text messaging. A text message is outside of a 911‑related service. A 911‑related service goes through a very complex system, I am told, and text messaging would have to be a stand‑alone system.
4629 An IP system would also take far too long to integrate, and it would probably cost a lot more money to integrate at the present time.
4630 I believe that what we need at the present time is a service where we can communicate with emergency services.
4631 An IP system will come as technology progresses and it becomes easier to integrate the information into the 911 that we presently know.
4632 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So it is your position, then, that any IP‑based technology is not yet able to be integrated with current 911 service technologies.
4633 MR. RENDALL: That's correct. That is what I am told, and, like I said, the costing would be very high, and the complexity would be extremely long in trying to work the IP system into our present 911 system.
4634 Therefore, I am not looking ‑‑ or the hard‑of‑hearing and deaf communities are not looking for service 10 or 15 years down the road. We would like to have a service now, and the only way to have that service is to have a service that can effectively give us communication capabilities to emergency services.
4635 As I said in my presentation, it won't be perfect, but neither are we.
4636 Right now we have zero.
4637 As you can fully understand, we can see, but the sight impaired can't. We have no way to communicate with any service, to advise that service that there is something happening where we are.
4638 We could see a fire, we could see an act of violence, we could see an accident ‑‑ there are all kinds of things that we could see, and we are not necessarily sitting at home when we see these things. Therefore, we need some way of communicating what we see.
4639 And, like I said, it's not just for us, it could be for anybody in society.
4640 The text messaging service could give us that capability right now. All of the basic situations are there. There is nothing that has to be developed, it's there. It's existing.
4641 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
4642 I am going to switch my questions to a set that we have prepared for several intervenors, so we are going to leave the subject of 911 for a moment and move on to other issues related to accessibility.
4643 One of those issues, of course, is equipment ‑‑ handsets, telephones, various devices.
4644 I would like you to address the issue of the inaccessibility of equipment that you deal with, handsets or otherwise. In particular, if you can, I would like you to describe such barriers as you may encounter in dealing with telecommunications equipment.
4645 MR. RENDALL: I am not too sure what the question is, whether it is the accessibility of the equipment, or whether it is the barriers of having the equipment and the carriers.
4646 To me, the availability of the equipment seems to be adequate. The thing is the barriers that we have with the carriers of having that equipment to service our needs.
4647 For instance, most carriers out there have cheap services for the hearing, but they don't seem to have any cheap services for the hearing disabled.
4648 They can't identify "Here we are" for one thing.
4649 For instance, the Hon. Prentice actually had an article in the Globe and Mail about text messaging to his children, and why should he have to pay for these text messages.
4650 We don't have that type of free ability to have a $19.95 telephone for all the numbers we want to call, for any hours we want, for the month. We don't have that type of service available to us by a carrier.
4651 However, if we could be identified as being disabled with a certain specific number, that carrier might be a bit more lenient in giving us some different services, and different price ranges for the services we require.
4652 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I just want to say that all of your answers are perfectly adequate, and you can answer the questions in any way you would like. Anything that gets your views down on paper is helpful to us.
4653 Some of the questions may not exactly fit your situation. I would just encourage you to answer in a way that makes sense to you, so that you get across your point.
4654 So, in that sense, your answers are just fine. Thank you.
4655 In this situation, what I hear you saying is that, though some equipment may be suitable, it's the service you get out of that equipment which is your barrier, and that seems to be, largely, economic in nature ‑‑ price.
4656 MR. RENDALL: That's correct.
4657 For instance, right now, or at least last month anyway, Rogers was doing a situation where they were offering a BlackBerry for zero, and a communication package for $43 a month.
4658 I told my membership in CHHA in Hamilton, and they all went in saying, "What type of service can we get?"
4659 But it wasn't necessarily for a text messaging service, it was for a hearing service.
4660 You can have a BlackBerry, but the text messaging on it was going to be a different type of package.
4661 That is what I am trying to get across to you.
4662 If it was $40 a month for hearing, why can't we have $40 a month for texting, period? Unlimited text messaging.
4663 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
4664 The second question: Are there solutions to problems of access that would not require regulatory solutions?
4665 MR. RENDALL: When I first joined Emergency Services in 2007, I was told by Bell, the only company that supposedly carries the 911 emergency services in Canada ‑‑ by the CRTC ‑‑ that it would be 10 light‑years away before we have a system that we can actually access for emergency services for the hearing disabled.
4666 So I put my ideas on the table, and I sat back and listened, and then they started to open up, and they said, "If this is a stand‑alone service, we simply aren't able to do something here."
4667 What we need is not necessarily what you call 911. We have to make it crystal clear, it's emergency services by a relay system.
4668 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
4669 I am going to set up for your consideration three different ways of going about increasing access. There might be increasing access by means of accessible information, such as operator guides and user information; there might be improved customer support to assist in understanding how the machinery works; or specific technology that gets around the problem created by inaccessible equipment, or a component which is inaccessible.
4670 What I am asking you to consider is the degree to which, in your opinion, changes might be made either to getting better information into the hands of the disabled, customer support, with assistance in how to operate, or a specific technology.
4671 It's a bit of an essay question, but I leave you to answer, as best you can, where you think the balance might be in terms of customer support, better equipment, which are work-arounds, or better information.
4672 MR. RENDALL: If we are talking about wireless technology, I believe that if a carrier did as much advertising as they do for the hearing community, the hearing disabled would pick up on the advertising.
4673 After all, Bell, TELUS, Rogers ‑‑ they all do a lot of TV advertising, newspaper advertising ‑‑ all kinds of advertising to tell us about the specific packages that they have to offer.
4674 People with hearing disabilities would definitely pick that up if it was advertised on what was available to them, and they would definitely take advantage of those packages.
4675 Like I said, my membership in Hamilton immediately responded to what I said about a specific situation with a BlackBerry for zero and $40 a month. They all went out, and some of them got them.
4676 The other thing is, I believe, also, that some of the carriers could provide a little service assistance to the hearing disabled community, especially the elderly, in regards to giving them a demonstration, within their facility, of how to activate and follow certain procedures to make that communication device effective for accessibility in the community.
4677 Accessibility, like I said, doesn't have to be just emergency services, it can be people that they are related to, community services, government services, et cetera.
4678 A lot of e‑mail is being used today, and on most websites they have "info@" whatever the website address is, and you can send in your information, you can send in questions, you can ask them all kinds of things, and they get back to you.
4679 That is a customer service capability.
4680 When it comes down to a communication device, you can read about it, but you can't necessarily follow the instructions that easily, especially when you are an older person. Sometimes you need a little bit of assistance to understand fully how it operates.
4681 I have, on a number of occasions, gone into Rogers and said, "I have done this, and I can't seem to get it to work," and they sit there and explain it to me, and it works fine.
4682 So those are the things ‑‑ I think, if it was advertised effectively by the carriers, the hearing disabled community would respond and take advantage of the situations offered to them.
4683 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Noted.
4684 I also hear you saying that, essentially, e‑mail has provided, in some sense, a technological work-around. You can now get information in print from organizations that you were not able to get before.
4685 MR. RENDALL: That's correct.
4686 For instance, on websites, as you read through the website and you have questions on what the website might be asking you, you can go through the info e‑mail access and ask them a question, and, like I said, most times they get back to you straight away, particularly the government now, provincially and federally.
4687 I have had fabulous response from governments. When I ask them a question, they usually get back to me within 24 or 48 hours, with a response by e‑mail.
4688 COMMISSIONER DENTON: One of the questions we are trying to probe concerns where the disabled get their information, where it is useful to get their information.
4689 You have pointed out how you get some information from relevant websites of companies. Do you find that you can also obtain useful information from specialized sources, such as ‑‑ I mention here the CNIB for the blind, but are there other specialized sources of information coming from the disabled community that allow you to distribute useful information, find out useful things?
4690 Tell me more, if there is something to be found out there.
4691 MR. RENDALL: If your question, what I am reading here, means how do I get information on disability access in the community ‑‑
4692 I sit on a city accessibility committee, and I am having a wonderful time with my city. They don't really understand accessibility for the disabled.
4693 And when I am talking about the disabled, I am not just talking about the hearing disabled, I am talking about all disabilities.
4694 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Who are these people? What place are you talking about?
4695 MR. RENDALL: I am from the City of Burlington.
4696 I have asked them to do a needs assessment for the accessibilities required by the disabled in the community.
4697 First of all, they didn't even understand what questions they should be asking. They do now. We have a needs assessment set up.
4698 But governments, whether they be provincial or federal, should have specific websites, I believe, designed for the disabled, and in those websites they should give all of the things that are available to the disabled in any community across Canada, and how to get more information on those particular situations or devices for that disability.
4699 If we had a specific website set up for the disabled, then I believe there would be a lot more openness, not just for the disabled, but also for provincial and municipal governments to access.
4700 A lot of these people, who can hear, and who have never experienced a disability before in their life, don't fully understand what the disability is.
4701 Like I said, I was sitting on your side of the table up until 2002. I now find myself in a disabled‑type situation, and it is very restrictive on my lifestyle. You become very frustrated.
4702 And when you try to get your frustration and your restrictiveness across to a person who lives a normal lifestyle, they do not understand those restrictions. They do not understand the frustration you go through.
4703 I believe that, in general, if there were a specific, like I say, federal or provincial website with all of the disabilities listed, and all of the availability of either assistive devices or avenues or channels of where to look for certain things, the disabled community would be able to function far easier and better, and they would understand where to search for whatever they require.
4704 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
4705 So far we have been talking about service providers and governments. In your experience, have you found that the actual manufacturers of equipment provide useful information to you to assist in overcoming problems of access?
4706 Say, Erickson, Nokia ‑‑ the makers of equipment.
4707 MR. RENDALL: In some instances, yes.
4708 Again, they usually have a website where you can have e-mail access and ask questions. That is about the only thing they do on their website.
4709 They don't specifically mention assistive devices for the disabled, and I am not just talking about telecommunications, I am talking about any type of manufacturer that does any kind of assistive device for any disability.
4710 You can always ask them a question. For instance, my mother had a disability, and I went into a certain website that dealt with her disability, and I was able to find information through access of e‑mail, and I finally made a conclusion of what she required for her disability.
4711 Those things are available on nearly every website now, but they don't specifically mention all of the things that they do for the disabled community.
4712 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Noted.
4713 And is there any group, body, person, organization that collects such information and makes it more easily available?
4714 MR. RENDALL: I have not actually found one particular body or group that collects all the information on any one particular disability to provide access on statistics, for instance, in Canada. The only statistical information I usually get is from Statistics Canada and that can only be done from what the local constituents write in on their census about where they are disabled, what disability they have got, et cetera, et cetera.
4715 I have not come up with any particular avenue where I can put my finger on any particular numbers which are either hearing impaired, deaf, CI, et cetera.
4716 COMMISSIONER DENTON: We have spoken earlier about access to 911 emergency services being, you know, more advanced in Europe than here.
4717 Are you aware of any other jurisdictions where better, more advanced, either equipment or services, are currently available, and should we know about them?
4718 MR. RENDALL: Yes. Sweden seemed to stand on top of nearly all other countries represented in our conference, in July, in Vancouver. The Swedish government provided our particular disabled community with a lot of funding and different ways to provide services for our disability.
4719 The other jurisdictions, the other countries, they were somewhat moving along, but not as far as Sweden. Sweden stood head and shoulders above everybody else.
4720 COMMISSIONER DENTON: If you have more information on that, I hope you will be sending it to us, along with your reports from that conference.
4721 MR. RENDALL: I can make that information and contact available to you. I have the person's name.
4722 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Good man. Thank you very much.
4723 I'm going to switch the topic on you. We are going to talk a bit about universal design.
4724 Has your association had any contact with organizations within Industry Canada that can assist with standards development in relation to accessibility?
4725 MR. RENDALL: I have not had any access to any person of that nature. I don't know whether CHHA National has, but I'm sure if they have they can pass the information on to you.
4726 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay.
4727 And generally, from where you are coming, you have not had experience in standards development and implementation that you could tell us about?
4728 MR. RENDALL: The only standard and implementation I have been involved in so far is at my city level, where we are building a new performing arts building and the universal design was supposedly put in by the contracted architects.
4729 After talking about bathrooms, walkways, ramps and everything else, they kind of closed their books and said, "Well, we are finished". And I said, "No, you haven't finished yet". And they said, "What do you mean?". I said, "Well, there's other disabilities other than wheelchair accessibility". So we went over the hearing.
4730 And then he thought he was finished again and somebody else jumped in and said, "Well, the colours that you have just presented are not very good for sight impaired. They are going to think there's all kinds of holes all over the floor with these big black squares everywhere". So before he really understood what accessibility was about. He just thought it was purely wheelchair accessibility. It wasn't.
4731 There is a lot more disabilities out there that you have to think about. He didn't think that the sight impaired would ever go to the theatre. He didn't think that a hearing impaired would ever go to the theatre. Why not?
4732 We heard today that the sight impaired like to hear things, so they get as much from it as what we do. I can't hear very much when I go. I watch a performance. So I can see things that they can't, but they can hear things that I can't.
4733 We get something from being out there in society. We get enjoyment from different things.
4734 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes, I'm in complete agreement.
4735 I'm going to ask you to give us the three biggest issues, as you see them, and I want you to tell us, roughly in order, what are the biggest issues that we need to address.
4736 MR. RENDALL: For my disability?
4737 COMMISSIONER DENTON: In any way, in any order, in any type you want to give them, what are the three biggest issues?
4738 MR. RENDALL: Okay.
4739 The first biggest issue for me is the frustration of communication industry with the hearing world. I believe with today's technology advancements, we definitely need building blocks of a better communication system for the hearing disabled.
4740 The second thing, we need to make all people in Canada and around the world understand what disabilities really mean. We do not want to pick up disability benefits, we want to go out to work, we want to enjoy life just like everybody else does. We want to be accepted, that a disability doesn't mean that we are restricted in how we live.
4741 We want more accessibility, obviously, but we want the general public to accept that a disability has as much right in any place, whether it be workplace, play place or just lifestyle, as theirs.
4742 The third thing is we need to make the accessibility of different things for the disabled readily available, as we have already brought up and talked about today. We need to have an accessibility to the general information of what government will do for certain disabilities, and also the assertive devices available.
4743 They can have links to the different manufacturers, for instance, that assertive devices. Manufacturers are always trying to push their wares. The government could have links directly to those assertive devices so that the disabled person could go straight to the link, look at what device they want to purchase and go that route.
4744 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you.
4745 Now, the first of your points were basically general issues, the third one was a tool to a solution. I would like you now to describe, focusing now on solutions, as the three most important organizational or technical solutions that need to be found or realized to get where you want to go.
4746 What are the solutions, the three most important solutions you would see?
4747 MR. RENDALL: Okay.
4748 In regards to emergency services, first of all, we need accessibility to emergency services in a format that will actually give us accessibility immediately, and that is a technical issue of text messaging. It's all readily available.
4749 The second thing is this solution of text messaging has to go through a relay system. The relay systems are already in place. They still exist. Basic 911. It's not an issue.
4750 As far as the costing currently, like I said before in my presentation, that issue has already been covered and the fees are already charged by the carriers.
4751 I think if a carrier or carriers in Canada charged $112.6 million a year for 911 service, then I can't understand why text message call centres can't be instituted into that costing.
4752 Secondly, I just want to say that in the City of Hamilton, where my branch is located, there's approximately 450,000 people. Last year, they had 260,000 emergency calls of 911. Out of that, 31,000 come from cellphones.
4753 So when you look at 31,000 as a part of 260,000, I can't understand, if we are getting charged $112 million a year, why we can't have text messaging. They have definitely got the coverage in their costing.
4754 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Mr. Rendall, thank you very much. Those are my questions. I appreciate your answers.
4755 MR. RENDALL: Thank you.
4756 THE CHAIRPERSON: Mr. Rendall, it's Mr. Katz again.
4757 Thank you very much, Commissioner Denton.
4758 I have one question, and perhaps a couple of our other commissioners have a question, as well.
4759 If I heard you correctly, Mr. Rendall, you were suggesting that a dedicated group of telephone numbers be created in order to address those people with the unique difficulties of disabilities. Is that correct?
4760 MR. RENDALL: That's correct.
4761 THE CHAIRPERSON: We have heard over the last two days, and probably read in the proceeding documentation, that an awful lot of people with disabilities don't want to be identified and registered as being disabled, and so I think your proposal probably would meet with some comment by those other people.
4762 Can you comment on the views that you expressed relative to their views that those people with disabilities should not be singled out and separately identified?
4763 MR. RENDALL: Okay. I fully understand what you are saying. There's a lot of people out there that refuse to accept or want to be viewed by others as being disabled in the community. However, I have attended employment focus groups in the Province of Ontario and I sat down with people that are mentally handicapped, physical, sight impairment, deafened trying to get work. I asked them why would they resist being called disabled if they could get work, and they all agreed they are disabled.
4764 The second part to my answer is: if there was a situation where a telephone number would be given to a disabled person, it would give them certain added benefits to communicate, especially in my case, I'm wondering how many people would turn around and say, "I'm not interested in being disabled".
4765 I'm sure if they got the benefits that would give them full accessibility to the outside world as a hearing person has, I don't know whether they are going to bite the bullet and say, "Well, I don't want to be disabled", I think they would join the bandwagon and saying, "I don't mind being disabled if I'm going to get special benefits so I can communicate with the rest of the world exactly like a hearing person can".
4766 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Rendall.
4767 I'm sure we are going to hear from other parties over the next several days and hear their response to your views. Those are all my questions.
4768 I know that Commissioner Molnar, on my left, has got some questions.
4769 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
4770 Mr. Rendall, I just want to make sure that I do fully understand what it is you are proposing regarding the relay service, SMS relay service.
4771 The relay, would that be relay similar to what we have for message relay today?
4772 MR. RENDALL: I believe so. I'm not exactly sure what you are talking about as a message relay system. If you are talking about TTY, it would be very similar to TTY, except the incoming message would be in text form, the outgoing message from the operator to the emergency service would be voice, obviously, from them to the emergency service.
4773 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Some of the telephone service providers today just integrate message relay, the TTY‑based message relay today, with their visiting operator service functions, an operators answers a TTY call. Conceivably they would just accept an SMS message, is that what you are proposing, and then they would interface with the 911, with the PSAPs? That's what you propose?
4774 MR. RENDALL: No, I'm not suggesting that they interface anything. What you are saying is integration, again, into the normal format of 911. It's not going to happen within a short space of time. It's not going to happen maybe for $100 million. If we are looking for an inexpensive format and an immediate format, then it can't be integrated with the present 911, it's got to be stand‑alone.
4775 It would simply mean that the operator has to relay the voice message directly to the emergency services on the text message that they are receiving from the person in distress.
4776 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thanks, that's what I understood.
4777 I assume you are aware of what the telephone companies say are the limitations to the SMS today, as it regards an emergency service. They say, for example, there's no location identification, they say it is not a priority service, it's a storing forward service, there's no guarantee the message arrives, no guarantee it arrives in a timely manner, and when it arrives you don't know where it's come from.
4778 Do you believe with those limitations it's still of value or benefit?
4779 MR. RENDALL: Okay, like I mentioned once before, I'm not a technical person, but I'm well aware from the carriers that there's alternatives out there rather than just SMS. They can answer those questions better than I can, but there are other formats that can be used just as well as an SMS‑type system, which are more effective.
4780 So I can't answer that question for you exactly why SMS is better for some other format, but they know the technicalities and they believe it can actually work. I have been in contact with Bell on a number of occasions and they have said that there's no reason why they can't have an effective tool by a relay system.
4781 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, I think I better understand. So you are not proposing simply to use text messaging as it exists today within the wireless world, you are proposing that there be a next generation of text messaging that would have addressed some of these issue?
4782 MR. RENDALL: That may be. When you say "next generation", maybe there's a generation already out there that I'm not fully aware of. So when we say "next generation", I don't know whether it's a next generation that hasn't been invented yet. I'm saying they said there's other systems out there that can be integrated into forming that text capability into a relay system that would be more effective.
4783 Now whether that's an SMS or IAM, or whatever else it might be called, I'm not fully aware of that. But they did say that the text‑message‑type system into a relay system and voice out can be accomplished in a short period of time with this present systems that's already set up called basic 911.
4784 So for cost effectiveness, like I said, there's no real reason why we can't have this system in place in a reasonable time.
4785 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thanks.
4786 Those are my questions.
4787 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.
4788 Commissioner Lamarre.
4789 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Merci, monsieur le président.
4790 Mr. Rendall, I'm Suzanne Lamarre.
4791 I want to touch on an issue that you briefly touched on in paragraph 16 of your presentation, and that is that when we deal with the issue of an emergency call, what makes an emergency call complete are links between different parts. So, obviously, the CRTC can look at the question of the telecommunications part of it, but there's also a receiving end that's under the jurisdiction of public safety agencies.
4792 And as you pointed out, there are some institutions right now who have TTY equipment that are either broken or that they don't even know how to make it work. So I'm wondering, in regards to this new proposed application that you have put forward here today, have you had any discussions with public safety agencies or associations such as the Association of Public‑Safety Communications Officials, also known as APCO, here in Canada? And if so, what's their reaction to the feasibility of this new way of receiving emergency calls, but from their receiving end?
4793 MR. RENDALL: No, I haven't spoken to the association that you have mentioned there. Where I have been in communication with is actually 911 emergency call centres. In eight municipalities in and around where I live, all of them say that they do not see any reason why this basic service can't exist.
4794 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Okay.
4795 MR. RENDALL: Right now, like I said before, because we don't have specific numbers of how many people have my disability, so we cannot communicate, we do not know how many calls that could have been placed by those people that cannot communicate into the 911 system. We don't know that right now.
4796 We do not know either how many situations where a person with the disability that I have has suffered some grievance because they could not call a 911 emergency service, either for themselves, a family member or an emergency that they are seeing is in need of assistance.
4797 For instance, I have travelled the roads in many areas of this country. I ski, I travelled on business, I have witnessed an enormous amount of accidents. I was even involved in a very big accident myself, but at that time I could hear. There's certain times now when I travel and I see something, I can't communicate. The only way I can communicate is through my wife or someone that I know. I have to text them and they have to call 911.
4798 I was involved in an accident a few years back, where I was in the middle of an intersection in an icy storm. I couldn't move and neither could the other person. The police were held up because of the ice storm and the only way I could communicate was through my wife.
4799 I had to text her with the message, she had to relay the call to 911, then she had to text me back what they were saying. If you think that's a good enough situation, then why can't I have a text message service via relay system? It's the same principle.
4800 COMMISSIONER LAMARRE: Thank you, you answered my question.
4801 THE CHAIRPERSON: Counsel, have you got any follow‑ups?
4802 MS LEHOUX: I just need to review the undertakings.
4803 Hi, I'm Véronique Lehoux, legal counsel.
4804 So you undertook to provide the website of the 4C Telecom company, but I think we found, we just need confirmation. So I'm just going to show it to you or you can come up, and then...can I show it to you?
4805 THE CHAIRPERSON: Why don't I suggest you do that at the break?
4806 MS LEHOUX: Yes?
4807 MR. RENDALL: Yes, I can. That looks like it, yes.
4808 MS LEHOUX: Okay.
4809 MR. RENDALL: Hang on a minute, I do have it here. Can I...?
4810 MS LEHOUX: Yes.
4811 Thank you very much. Yes, that's it. Okay, thank you. Thank you very much.
4812 I'm just going to wait till you sit down.
4813 And you also undertook to provide all available information related to the July 2008 conference. So would you be able to provide that by Friday, November 28th?
4814 MR. RENDALL: I'm sure my national office put on that conference. If they have got that relevant information, they should be able to do that for you ‑‑
4815 MS LEHOUX: Okay.
4816 MR. RENDALL: ‑‑ but I have to speak to them first.
4817 MS LEHOUX: Okay. That's going to be fine.
4818 Thank you very much.
4819 THE CHAIRPERSON: I want to thank you, Mr. Rendall, and Mrs. Rendall, I believe, as well, for being here today before us.
4820 We will take a 15‑minute break and set up for the VRS Consultative Committee of BC videoconference, after which time we will come back to Ryerson.
4821 Thank you, and we will start again at 3:30.
‑‑- Upon recessing at 1512 / Suspension à 1512
‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1529 / Reprise à 1529
4822 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please.
4823 Madam Secretary.
4824 THE SECRETARY: We will now proceed with our next participant, VRS Consultative Committee of BC who are joining us via videoconference from our Vancouver office.
4825 Mr. Hardy, are you ready to proceed?
4826 MR. HARDY: Yes, thank you.
4827 THE SECRETARY: Okay. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and proceed with your 15‑minute presentation. Thank you.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
4828 MR. HARDY (interpreted): I would like to thank the CRTC, the hearing panel, to allow us to hear our presentation from B.C. and to consider our concerns. So we would like to thank you for that.
4829 My name is Monte Hardy and I am one of the members of the group, the Video Relay Service Consultative Committee for BC, representing our deaf community. And with me is Susan Masters and Wayne Sinclair.
4830 To start, I just wanted to let you know that my first language is ASL, American Sign Language. We as a group have had a discussion about how I would present and I felt that it was important that I use English ‑‑ we felt as a group that it was important that I use English because we felt that I needed to ensure that my points were clear to the panel.
4831 So I will now switch from American Sign Language to English. And please don't misunderstand, that that means all deaf people are able then to use their voice and speak English, that isn't the case. Thank you.
4832 So now I am going to use English.
4833 MR. HARDY: Okay, we are on the first slide here.
4834 We as the deaf community of British Columbia have a dream. We have one of a society that we attain a level of functional equivalency and what that means is that we are on an equal basis with other Canadians in all arenas of life, including social, recreational, financial, employment, and specifically for today access to communication and information.
4835 This road is long and work is hard but the rewards for our efforts are really beneficial, not only for us but for all Canadians.
4836 To achieve this requires everyone in our Canadian society to willingly participate with passionate motivation to achieve this dream. Sadly, our community continues to struggle with barriers, misunderstanding and many unwilling participants. The very fact that we continue to have hearings such as this demonstrates to us that we have a long, long way to go.
4837 Next slide.
4838 The VRS Consultative Committee of British Columbia was formed as result of a community caucus on April 10, 2008. We are a group of diverse people representing a community.
4839 The purpose of this group was to provide TELUS with a contact point for discussion and consultation in the formation of a VRS service meeting the needs of British Columbian deaf people.
4840 Canadians who identify themselves as deaf, hard of hearing, deaf‑blind constitute a large segment of Canadian population. The deaf and hard of hearing and deaf‑blind Canadians experience barriers in accessibility, discrimination, misunderstanding, missed opportunities, higher employment, underemployment, as a result of lack of accessible information and meaningful communication avenues from the larger population. One of our biggest areas is often ignorance and/or negative attitudes about accessibility.
4841 Next slide.
4842 Many of us want the same opportunities as others. Although many already contribute to the communities, they are limited by communication barriers. We want to participate in many of the activities enjoyed by the average Canadian. We want functional equivalency as our hearing counterparts.
4843 Information and communication are certainly considered commodities in our society. Access to timely information pave the way to employment promotion, opportunities, financial independence. Accessible communication builds relationships between us and the rest of the world in personal, recreational, and business realms. For example, many businesses succeed or fail to timely information. We want that same opportunity.
4844 Many of us have experienced refusal to be provided a job because of imagined or real concerns around communication from people who are ignorant.
4845 Often, we are excluded from information in many, many circles, including social, recreational, employment, even the staff room where there is often discussion around promotional opportunities.
4846 Next slide.
4847 The foundations of an accessible Canada. Our previous decisions of law provide those foundations for an accessible Canada and you see listed here: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Supreme Court of Canada Eldridge decision 1997, the Federal Court of Canada Canadian Association of the Deaf decision 2006, the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, yet to be ratified by the Canadian government.
4848 Next slide.
4849 The characteristics of an accessible model of service, number one, is involvement of Canadian citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf‑blind, blind, visually impaired. To this day, we don't see that.
4850 Number two, decision‑making in technology, standards, service models and other related issues are made by those who benefit from telecommunication, video communication and electronic information. We still feel excluded.
4851 National standards that are set to ensure consistency, compatibility, quality that meets consumers' needs, and we are consumers.
4852 Next slide.
4853 We believe that the sustainable funding of services such as VRS, message relay centre, captioning, described videos, is important to us so that we can be assured that quality services are maintained.
4854 That responsibility lies with the Government of Canada and the CRTC to ensure that a model of financial sustainability exists for such services. This does not necessarily mean that it comes from general revenues but the cost of such services should be borne by all Canadians if we truly believe in the decisions and acts that I have mentioned.
4855 There are challenges when companies are left to comply with CRTC rulings. Sometimes we experience tokenism on consultation committees. Companies will render services that are most cost‑effective, and often quality or quantity of service will suffer.
4856 Companies are accountable to their shareholders and not to Canadians who require accessible service and that is not meaning that we begrudge them the right to make a profit.
4857 Next slide.
4858 We are all not in the same area when it comes to communication needs. We are diverse. We use a variety of avenues of communication and information and we need those variety of avenues. We are certainly, clearly, early adopters of technology, and companies certainly would benefit from accessing our experiences.
4859 Access to emergency services is a privilege that most Canadians enjoy. Canadians such as us still struggle to access communication to emergency services such as 911.
4860 Wayne, could you share an experience?
4861 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): Yes, hello. I am a Vonage user and there was an incident at my home, so I called 911. It was the enhanced 911 and it was answered promptly through the TTY, which was fine, but what I learned is they didn't have my address. So I had to then provide them with my address and they said that they would then refer me to a local 911 line. So nothing ended up happening after that. So I had to hang up the telephone.
4862 Several hours later, I decided to call 911 again and then there was no response at all. No response at all. Two hours after that, an RCMP officer came to my home asking me if I had made that call.
4863 So that is my example.
4864 MR. HARDY: Thank you, Wayne.
4865 I ask the Commission here if you consider this acceptable. I would imagine that you don't.
4866 Next slide, please.
4867 The impacts of providing accessibility through technology for us means that the VRS enables deaf citizens to be integral part of society in a significant way.
4868 Consider all those jobs that require communication. Those are not accessible for us as deaf citizens. It allows for greater selection of economic, cultural and social selection of activities. Portable videophones allow instantaneous communication between the deaf and non‑deaf, even in coffee shops, on the street.
4869 It makes the deaf business person or deaf employees a more valuable human resource in the economic infrastructure. It helps to reduce the possibility of welfare for deaf citizens. It enables deaf workers and owners to contribute significantly to the deaf economy.
4870 Deaf citizens often to have to pay hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for various assistive devices, including videophones, specialized cell phones, hearing aids. The high costs have discouraged prospective employers from hiring deaf workers.
4871 The high expense involved in securing interpreting services have hampered the efforts of deaf citizens from setting up their own business. VRS services eventually could be expanded to include interpreting, mitigating the current and potentially ongoing interpreter shortage.
4872 Next slide.
4873 Canadians expect a standard of life, including access to emergency services such as 911. To this day we do not have true accessible communication. It is time the standardization of 911 accessible communication occur and this must be addressed somehow and in some way.
4874 The CRTC must seek to develop a plan to address this gap in the many communications that many Canadians enjoy.
4875 Next slide.
4876 We have some concerns as well.
4877 Companies are accountable to their owners and shareholders and, understandably, resistant to providing access to services because they are not a benefit resulting from the cost expended, in their view. Companies need to understand that we are consumers and wish to provide our experience, our expertise and our perspective to enhance their services.
4878 In a recent letter dialogue with TELUS, we felt they were not taking us seriously regarding our offer to collaborate with them on VRS services. Their response was simply: Tell us and we will give you the service.
4879 Meanwhile, we asked them to sit down and see us so that we could have a protracted discussion in giving them ideas. They wanted to tell us. We wanted to see them.
4880 Companies understand the technological aspect of providing services, accessible services, but they do not understand the social and economic impacts of providing those services. We feel somewhat marginalized when requests to companies are ignored or advisory committees are set up that are ineffective and largely considered tokenism.
4881 We are stakeholders who have a vested interest in ensuring the services that we receive meet the needs in the areas of quality and quantity. We want to be part of the process in supporting companies to better understand our needs and, in turn, companies benefit in innovative ideas and opportunities.
4882 Next slide.
4883 The current CRTC process ‑‑ and we do thank you for setting this up ‑‑ for addressing national standards. Issues are difficult to monitor. Complaints, concerns, take an extraordinary amount of time to address.
4884 Direct contact with companies to address issues are not accessible for us.
4885 Communication with emergency services, again, are not consistent and do not keep up with emerging technologies to ensure access for us.
4886 In our submission, we encourage the CRTC to begin examining what was happening in the U.S. with the trials under the Department of Transportation and the FCC and NG911 initiative. We believe that we can learn from these trials.
4887 Next slide.
4888 We certainly congratulate the CRTC in recognizing our needs and our needs that we need to be addressed, and we were certainly glad to see that the portion of deferral funding was set aside.
4889 Unfortunately, it is very clear that the initial application of this funding is limited to those provinces in which companies provide services.
4890 That is not equitable and that certainly is against the spirit of many of the legal decisions that have been made in Canada.
4891 We are concerned there are no plans to sustain the services financially and the costs will fall on companies providing those services, and as we have seen, the companies are certainly motivated by profit, which is certainly fine by us, but their obligation to provide accessible services are lacking.
4892 Next slide.
4893 We have some recommendations.
4894 We certainly suggest to the CRTC the establishment of an agency to develop standards and ensure consistency across Canada specifically for video interpreting and current information technology.
4895 This agency is designed to administer funding of the VRS service.
4896 This agency will develop standards, provide guidelines, consultation and support the provincially‑based VRS services.
4897 This agency will provide support to companies in development of new technologies and fund further research.
4898 This agency will collaborate with companies in providing services to ensure that service standards are maintained and to troubleshoot any issues.
4899 This agency certainly can hear complaints and attempt to problem‑solve with providing companies. Failing that, certainly, a referral to the CRTC for a hearing.
4900 I can't overstress the need for the uniquely Canadian ownership and partnership that we feel is important. We are heavily invested in the successful provision of a quality VRS service and many of our people are well positioned to provide expertise, guidance and training of these interpreters. Opportunities for us to gain employment, successful recruitment and retention of us tend to be higher with deaf‑friendly organizations.
4901 Next slide.
4902 We certainly recommend the requirement of companies to submit plans for increasing the presence of deaf, hard of hearing, deaf‑blind, visually impaired, blind consumers in their workforce, and effective ‑‑ and the emphasis is on effective ‑‑ advisory groups.
4903 We also recommend a requirement of annual reporting of these actions.
4904 We also recommend the ownership of services for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf‑blind Canadians of services provided to their communities because we do certainly have a vested interest and we want to see good quality of these services.
4905 I want to thank the panel for the opportunity to present and that ends my presentation. Thank you.
4906 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Hardy and your team.
4907 It appears as though your group has come together in an effort to try and work closely with TELUS and I guess what you are suggesting here is it hasn't worked as well as you would have liked and one of the things you want us to do amongst your recommendations is to coordinate and organize some activities.
4908 I don't know if you followed the hearing yesterday but we did have TELUS here and we did strongly ask them to consider the views of all the parties, and I am sure they are listening today as well and will likely come back in their final submission with a response to some of these concerns that you have raised as well as some of the other parties.
4909 I will pass it on to Commissioner Simpson for some follow‑up questions if there are any.
4910 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
4911 Mr. Hardy, Ms Masters, Mr. Sinclair, thank you very much for appearing before the Commission.
4912 I would like to start my questioning with a framework of questions actually to help me understand the nature of your group or your organization because it seems that you are taking or have a fairly broad mandate.
4913 Most groups we have heard from this week are approaching the Commission with narrower perspectives with respect to solution recommendations on technology or, I should say, in addition to that, try to bring a new level of understanding of the particular situations that impact their respective groups. But I am hearing from your initial presentation a very broadly‑based mandate.
4914 Is that by design or how did that come about?
4915 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): Wayne Sinclair here, I think I will respond to that.
4916 We are a deaf community‑based group. We started informally by having a town hall meeting of the members of the Greater Vancouver deaf community, and in those discussions about the TELUS VRS, the results came about that we formed a committee to start having communications with TELUS.
4917 And as a result of the lack ‑‑ well, not ‑‑ we didn't receive what we felt was an adequate response from TELUS. We then started working on other aspects of VRS, mainly from what we are seeing happening in the United States and we happened to encounter several or we heard of several 911 difficulties that were occurring here in Canada.
4918 So then we hosted another town hall meeting with the deaf community and gave them that information about what we had been doing and what we had been gathering and then we were receiving more feedback from them.
4919 We are acting on behalf of the deaf community in the Greater Vancouver area.
4920 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
4921 So is this committee an ad hoc group? Is it your intent to ultimately form an association of your own to represent your interests?
4922 This helps me with my line of questioning, that is why I am asking.
4923 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): I will let Susan ‑‑
4924 MS MASTERS: If I could interject here.
4925 We are an ad hoc committee. We are a grassroots organization. We were, as Mr. Sinclair says, formed in response to the announcement that TELUS would be providing a VRS service.
4926 Our main concerns and our main reason for coming together was our concern is that we want to collaborate with TELUS on the ground. We realize that this is a new service and we have expertise and we want to participate in that.
4927 Having no satisfactory response from TELUS, we didn't understand each other, and I think, as my colleague said, we asked to meet. We asked to have collaboration and they said: Maybe later.
4928 The opportunity occurred as we were trying to strategize on how to respond to TELUS, the opportunity of these hearings occurred. So we have come together.
4929 We are from different organizations but we are actually representing the grassroots community. We are empowered by their endorsement.
4930 Will we become a formal organization? Perhaps. It depends on how successful we are.
4931 But I think our recommendations and issues speak to the very grassroots perspective of, yes, we needed video relay services, no, we are not confident that the telecommunications company have the expertise to provide that service, and if they do, they are not speaking to us, so we don't know.
4932 We also have many, many years of experience of having people who are not deaf or hard of hearing established services, telling us that is a good service and we experience the damage that those inadequate services cause.
4933 So that is our whole reason for being.
4934 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): And if I could just ‑‑ it is Wayne here again. If I could just add to that.
4935 There is a wealth of information coming from the deaf community. So while we are working on the video relay service and the 911 system for now, there is a good possibility that we would continue to advocate for other areas, employment difficulties, creating partnerships with a variety of different agencies and corporations.
4936 So this is where we are starting. It feels there may be no end in sight to what we could possibly do.
4937 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much.
4938 Throughout the week, we have had several presentations on VRS and IPRS methodologies and it has been my impression that, by and large, the view of many of the groups that have presented here felt that the standards being applied in the United States right now are sufficiently adequate for introduction in Canada.
4939 Would that be your view?
4940 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): I actually moved here to Canada just last year from the United States. I am a dual citizen. I grew up here in Canada, right here in Vancouver, spent most of my career, my working career, in the United States. Now I am retired, I have come back to Canada. Oh, Canada!
4941 And I am very ‑‑ I was a frequent user of their video relay service that was provided in the United States and I am impressed by the high quality of the interpreting services that are provided through that.
4942 Several of the VRS companies are run by deaf individuals who understand the need for the high quality of the interpreter and so they mentor that quality and they can monitor that quality.
4943 There are some shortcomings in the services provided in the United States and I will give you an example.
4944 Here in Canada, hopefully, I will see this happen ‑‑ and this has not yet happened in the States ‑‑ is in the same room communication using the relay interpreter.
4945 For example, if, say, Mr. Hardy was hearing and I am deaf and he can't sign, we would use the video relay service to be able to communicate with each other while we are both in the same room.
4946 That, I would like to see be provided here in Canada. It is currently not happening in the United States. They have a separate program that does that type of work but it is not part of their VRS.
4947 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: That would be the VRI service that you are talking about, I believe, where both the individual signing and the person who is able to hear are in the same room and the other intermediary is on video?
4948 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): Yes. Yes, you can call it the VRI, you are right. But do we have to exclude the VRI? I don't think we need to. I think it needs to be included as part of the service provided by VRS.
4949 MR. HARDY: If I could also respond.
4950 There are some companies obviously now that have portable equipment that I could carry to a place that has WiFi or wireless and I could ‑‑ could you imagine if I had one of those equipment, I walked up to a teller and I put this on and I started signing, and that person ‑‑ I mean the efficiency. Again, the point is equivalent functionality or functional equivalency is what we are hoping for and I don't know if it is in the jurisdiction of CRTC to consider.
4951 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
4952 Following through on the U.S. model and your recommendation that Canada establish its own standards, again going back to my question about the U.S. model and your previous answer, are there any other aspects that you feel that we would have to consider that would create a better, more distinctly Canadian set of standards, other than learning how to sign the word "eh"?
4953 MR. HARDY: Yes. Was that a West Coast "eh"?
‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires
4954 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: You bet.
4955 MR. HARDY: Okay. There are a couple of things and I think I have already mentioned this in our presentation, was the consideration around the sustainable funding model. You know, I currently don't see a plan in place to ensure the sustainability of such a VRS service here in Canada.
4956 So I think certainly we need to take a look at the funding model. You know, some will argue it comes from government revenues. Others will argue that it should be spread amongst the consumers.
4957 The bottom line is there has to be a sustainable model.
4958 Currently in the States there seems to be a model that seems to be working. Would that work in Canada? That is something that we need to have a discussion about.
4959 The other thing is, we certainly ‑‑ what we don't like in the United States is the impact on the community. When you have a number of VRS services setting up in a certain city, you deplete the level of human resources in terms of interpreters, live interpreters that are available to attend let's say doctors appointments, bank, business meetings and that sort of thing.
4960 We have experienced this here in Vancouver certainly with the setup of a company, a VRS company that has set up here locally that is providing services to the United States.
4961 I was part of a Council of Service Providers which is a group of about 25, 26 service agencies for deaf, hard of hearing, deaf, blind. We drafted a letter to the company that set up the VRS service recognizing that they are providing services to the U.S. customers, asking them to sit down with us to have a discussion about the impact on accessibility for many of our deaf citizens here in Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and the rest of British Columbia.
4962 We sent one to the manager of the local service and we sent one to the Vice‑President of Communications for this particular company. We received no response, none, not even acknowledgment of our letter. We were very disappointed.
4963 Ironically now we find out that TELUS has contracted with the very same company who would not sit down with us and discuss the impact on our community. We find this extremely concerning.
4964 This is something we would have sat down with TELUS and said look, we have some concerns here. This is a company that does not sit down with the community. You know, it's not just about technology, it's not about service, it's also about the impact on the community and our hope for functional equivalency.
4965 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Mr. Hardy, you may not know and I don't want you to speculate, but are you aware of any other group, other than your own, that TELUS has been consulting with concerning this introduction of a VRS service?
4966 MR. HARDY: Specifically no.
4967 Certainly in our community we communicate well. We certainly have a very effective network of information, and it is our understanding ‑‑ and no confirmation ‑‑ that they may have talked with the Alberta deaf community. But we have no confirmation of that.
4968 Again, TELUS has not indicated to us anything.
4969 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Thank you.
4970 I would like to go back to the notion of national standards again.
4971 Has your group been made aware of an initiative that is going on in Europe with respect to the establishment of relay standards, particularly the efforts of what is called ETSI, which is the European Telecommunications Standards Institute?
4972 MR. HARDY: No.
4973 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay.
4974 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): But if I could comment ‑‑ Wayne here.
4975 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yes, go ahead.
4976 MR. SINCLAIR (interpreted): I was visiting my children in Maryland and at the same time I decided to attend a VRS company there, and they informed me that they are actually working with France and they are distributing phones to the French deaf.
4977 That is the extent of my knowledge in regards to that.
4978 The French government has been involved, contracted with a company to purchase videophones to be distributed.
4979 But there is one thing I would like to bring up and perhaps you may need to be aware of this. You are speaking of standards. The company has different and higher standards of technology. Some companies have different and higher technology than others. Some VRS companies are using the H.323 standard of technology, whereas the one company is using a new and higher standard.
4980 What we would like to see here in Canada, getting back to your original question, is a competitive process. We need to have good, healthy competition amongst different VRS's and producers of the videophones here in Canada. That's what we need to have happen.
4981 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
4982 Just to finish this thought and to share, this ETSI organization in Europe is contemplating, through the creation of a specialist task force which was set up originally in the beginning of 2007. They are developing standards for all European Union participating countries, also looking at all the multi‑linguistic issues, funding issues, monitoring and quality control for text relay, speech to speech relay, sign relay, lip reading, captioning, telephony, text to text and facsimile.
4983 So it may offer some promise of beginnings of what you are searching for.
4984 I would like to ask you, again going back to my initial observation that your observations and your goals seem more policy driven than technology driven. So following through on that notion, is your group advocating that the CRTC should be looking at a regulatory policy with respect to the establishment of standards and the carrying of that policy through to industry?
4985 Is that what you are looking for?
4986 MR. HARDY: Yes, we are.
4987 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. I'm sorry, go ahead, please.
4988 MS MASTERS: I'm sorry, just to add to that, I think that's exactly what we are asking for. We may be naive and may not know how to get there.
4989 I think also our underlying concern on any of those task force or regulatory bodies is you need the strong participation of the consumers you serve.
4990 I think if we have one message that we really want you to walk away with today, it is that the companies, the telecommunications, the broadcasters, if we go to others, are ignoring an important resource and that resource are the end users.
4991 The end users are incredibly techno‑savvy. As Monte mentioned, deaf and hard of hearing users are early adapters because they have to be.