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CRTC announces that Canadians who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired will have access to a new telecommunications service

OTTAWA and GATINEAU, QC, April 22, 2014 /CNW/ - The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced that video relay service will be made available in Canada for users of American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). When it launches, the service will facilitate conversations between people who are Deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired and other Canadians, and vice versa.

Video relay service is a telecommunications service that will enable Canadians to conduct telephone calls using ASL or LSQ. An operator facilitates the conversation between the two parties by relaying the conversation between sign language and spoken language.

Although video relay service will be offered at no charge, users will need their own high-speed Internet service and an Internet-connected device, such as a computer, smartphone, tablet or videophone. Additional services, such as voice mail and call display, will be billed at rates similar to those charged for corresponding voice services.

Funding to support video relay service in Canada will be drawn from the National Contribution Fund, and will be capped at $30 million annually. This fund was created in 2001 to subsidize local telephone service in areas where the cost of providing this service is higher. Companies with over $10 million in annual telecommunications revenues contribute to this fund.

To ensure the perspectives of users are reflected in the decision-making process, an independent administrator will be created to oversee the implementation and provision of video relay service. The CRTC has established minimum requirements for the provision of this service to ensure that the needs of Canadian citizens are met. The administrator will have to ensure that these requirements are met.

The CRTC is seeking proposals on the administrator's structure and precise mandate, including the composition of the Board of Directors. Proposals must be submitted by May 22, 2014. The CRTC is also inviting comments on these proposals and other relevant issues until June 25, 2014.

The CRTC will conduct a review of video relay service three years after it has launched to assess whether it is meeting the needs of Canadians in an efficient manner.

Today's decision follows a consultation that included a public hearing, which was held from October 21 to 25, 2013. To ensure the full participation of Canadians who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, the CRTC interpreted the Notice of Consultation into ASL and LSQ, and accepted comments in sign language. It also offered simultaneous translation in English and French and interpretation in ASL and LSQ at the hearing.

Quick facts

  • The CRTC is requiring that video relay service be made available to Canadians who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, starting as early as in the fall of 2015.
  • Video relay service is a telecommunications service that will enable Canadians who are hard of hearing or speech impaired that use American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise to communicate with voice telephone users, and vice versa.
  • Users must sign up for video relay service, which will be offered at no charge. However, users will need their own high-speed Internet service and an Internet-connected device, such as a computer, smartphone, tablet or videophone. Users will also be responsible for additional services, such as voice mail and call display, and long-distance charges.
  • Canadians who wish to call a user of video relay service simply have to dial their number and make a regular voice call.
  • An independent administrator will be created to oversee the implementation of video relay service, and funding to support this service will be capped at $30 million per year.
  • Canadians with hearing or speech disabilities currently have access to two text-based services: Internet Protocol relay and teletypewriter relay. The CRTC may review these services at a later date.
  • It is estimated that there will be approximately 20,000 primary users of video relay service.

Quote

"Many Canadians who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired learn American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise early in life. In many cases, neither English nor French is their first language. Video relay service will make it possible for them to communicate in sign language with ease, whether it's to make a doctor's appointment, speak to a friend or make any other type of call. At the same time, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that this service is introduced in an efficient manner and as quickly as possible."

Peter Menzies, Vice-Chairman of Telecommunications, and Chairman of the hearing panel

Related links

Video: Highlights of the VRS decision (in ASL)
Video: Frequently asked questions about VRS (in ASL)

Infographic on video relay service
Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2014-187
Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2014-188
Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-155
News release: CRTC invites comments on the potential for a video relay service for Canadians who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired (March 27, 2013)

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SOURCE Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

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