By Snookie Lomow, CHHA Executive Executive Director

Ottawa, July 29 -The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) wishes to acknowledge the ruling by the CRTC brought down on July 21, 2009.

The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) is the voice for Canadians who are hard of hearing. It is the only national not-for-profit consumer driven organization that advocates for the needs of the over 3 million Canadians experiencing hearing loss. More than ten per cent (10%) of Canada’s population is hard of hearing, and for senior citizens age 65 and above this figure increases to 40%. A hearing disability has a serious impact on the quality of life of the person experiencing it, and may result in low self esteem, social isolation and anxiety or depression. It also has a significant impact on everyone who comes into contact with a person who is coping with hearing loss, such as family members, friends, teachers, co-workers and employers.

CHHA was created in 1982 by a group of dedicated individuals, many of whom still remain active in the organization today. These individuals envisioned an organization that would be a leader in raising awareness, advocating and supporting Canadians living with hearing loss. CHHA has successfully built a network across Canada that includes nine provincial Chapters and 50 local and regional Branches serving close to 3000 members.

From the CHHA perspective we want to bring to the attention of the CRTC our appreciation for all the work and support the Commission undertakings have demonstrated to help the needs of the hard of hearing community. CHHA fully supports the following initiatives:

  • All Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and Voice Over Internet (VoIP) Protocol providers will be required by July 21, 2010 to provide a relay service 24 hours a day; 7 days a week similar to the TTY relay service currently provided by telephone companies. CHHA acknowledges that this is a necessary advancement to meet the communications needs of hard of hearing Canadians. We look forward to its implementation.
  • In the future all Broadcasters are required to provide closed captioning for all promos, advertising and overnight programs along with the 100% of the daytime programs currently in place. Therefore access has to be provided 24hours a day, 7 days a week! It has also been determined that the French Broadcasting networks must now provide captioning to the new standard imposed on the English Broadcasting networks as well. We are pleased to see that the Commission has stated that renewal of Broadcast licences will be subject to compliance. This is an excellent step forward!

However CHHA would like to comment on the following items in the new ruling that are of concern to our stakeholders.

  • All IP services (Internet Providers) are required to make accessible 9-1-1- services, however there are no standards set to make available services to persons with hearing loss. The IP providers are required to file a report by Jan 21, 2010 on benefits uses and limitations on such services. CHHA hopes that IP providers will work with the hard of hearing community to achieve positive results so that our stakeholders can have access to emergency 9-1-1 services.
  • All IP providers are required to improve accessibility of call centres to all Canadians however the course of action recommended is not specific enough and voluntary standards were not successful in the past, therefore more vigorous standards are needed. It is our view that these call centres need more specific direction and that a real-time text communication system would be the ideal solution.
  • Broadcast providers will need to provide information on all products and services that are accessible to the hard of hearing via the telephone, web or television by July 2010. However it has not been stated clearly how the providers will comply.

CHHA wants the Service Providers to recognize the fact that our stakeholders are hard of hearing Canadians who can provide support in the area of testing of products or services when they become available. Due to our expertise and consumer access, CHHA is anticipating that service providers will consult with CHHA to help determine the appropriate formats and accessibility alternatives before making a decision. CHHA is encouraged by the 100% requirement for Broadcast captioning 24 hours a day and that this ruling will be monitored and enforced.

CHHA has in the past been part of a Working Group reviewing caption issues and we anticipate we will be given the opportunity to help determine the assessment of pop-ups versus rolls-ups for the delivering of captioning. CHHA believes that a National standard for closed, open and blocked captioning needs to be established so that all broadcasting networks can deliver uniformity and consistency in the services provided.

CHHA is both encouraged and delighted with the determination and devotion set out by the CRTC to find appropriate solutions to meet the accessibility needs of Canadians who are hard of hearing.