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CRTC takes step forward to ensure Quebec audiences with sight loss have increased access to described video

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The CNIB Foundation applauds a recent decision by the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), which will see Groupe TVA subscribers who are blind or partially sighted receive access to 28 hours/week of described video.


In a July 17 decision, the Commission denied the application by Quebecor Media Inc. on behalf of TVA Group Inc. for an amendment to their conditions of licence. Groupe TVA is one of the biggest broadcasters in Quebec including Addik TV, Moi&cie, Yoopa, Casa, Prise 2, TVA and regional television stations. This would have prolonged access to described video during prime time programming for another three years.

In their decision, the Commission reminds television broadcasters of the importance of described video to ensure accessibility to programming. "All television broadcasters, from independent to large vertically integrated entities, must promote access to programming for persons with disabilities, (…) enabling them to fully participate in Canadian society" the decision said.

Starting as far back as the early 2000s, Canadian broadcasters have been required to provide increased programming with described video. The Commission has adopted a gradual approach starting with 2 hours/week culminating in all prime time programs being described starting September 1 of this year.


If Group TVA's application were successful it would have mean an additional three years without prime time described video for Quebec viewers with sight loss. CNIB intervened in the Commission's Part I open application along with almost 100 other interventions.

“It’s an important victory for accessibility! But, even at 28 hours/week, this represents only 17% of all content being accessible to viewers who are blind", says David Demers Executive Director of CNIB Foundation in Québec. "We are hopeful that the CRTC will continue to enforce existing conditions of licence on all Canadian broadcasters so that audiences who are blind or partially sighted can begin to realize equitable access to television programming. We continue to work with Canadian broadcasters with the goal of one day, realizing a broadcast line-up where all content regardless of distribution outlet contains described video.”

For 1,5 million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, described video is not just a way to access entertainment. It levels the societal playing field by allowing everyone to enjoy popular culture and participate in water cooler conversations. Described video lets Canadians who are blind or partially sighted experience film and television in a comparable way and fully participate in society.


CNIB Foundation defends the rights of blind people for more than 100 years

As the CNIB Foundation enters our second century, we continue to work tirelessly to change what it is to be blind today. The Foundation delivers innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion.

CNIB has, since our early days, been advocating for inclusion and the full participation of Canadians who are blind. From our early days, where CNIB provided housing and employment, to our work on ensuring that Canadians were given the right to vote to postage free mail delivery of braille and talking books. Today, we work closely with governments across Canada to ensure that persons who are blind receive the same access to services as their neighbours.


More about described video

Described video provides narrated descriptions of scenes, onscreen action and other visual elements which have traditionally not been accessible to audiences with sight loss.

Described video is becoming increasingly more available with movies and a growing number of live theatres and online streaming services. AMI-Tv (offered by cable systems and satellite direct-to-home services) was the first channel in the world to broadcast all content with open format described video for individuals who are blind or partially sighted. All original Netflix shows are now offered with described video too (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, etc.).

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