Communications and Disability Rights: How Litigation before the CRTC Can Make a Difference

  • July 29, 2014
  • David Baker

From The Silent Film to YouTube

This summer, Bakerlaw is pleased to host Julia Munk, Osgoode Hall Law School’s 2014 Kreppner Plater Fellowship winner. Julia is researching how effective advocacy before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) can make gains for the rights of persons with disabilities generally. Bakerlaw will feature some of Julia’s work on the website over the summer, beginning with her first blog post on the historical development of telecommunications regulation and successful advocacy before the CRTC – by both lawyers and non-lawyers – in favour of disability rights:

The introduction of audio dialogue to film is but one example of how accessibility can mean different things to different people. With the replacement of silent films with those involving spoken word to tell a story, the deaf community was excluded from an activity that was once fully accessible to them.  It was only once close captioning developed that films became accessible to the deaf community again.

Relative to other groups within the disability community, organizers in the telecommunications sector, who have advocated for increased accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, have found success using the CRTC legal process to achieve their goals, for example, in one case,  the CRTC decided that, “it is in the public interest that telephone sets attached to the networks of the federally regulated telephone companies be hearing aid compatible” (link to decision). Later, the CRTC mandated 100 percent closed captioning for all programming (link to decision).

Unfortunately, these achievements have still not resulted full equal access. Quality of relay services and captioning services remain an issue, despite the requirements mandated by the CRTC . Additionally, this requirement does not extend to new social media or any form of broadcasting over the internet, creating yet another barrier to accessing technology that has become an important part of everyday life.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, please feel free to share them with Julia directly at julia.munk@gmail.com.

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