Hear, Hear...CRTC Says "Yes" to NBRS Proposal for "The Accessible Channel" - And More Described Popular TV Programming for Vision-Impaired Canadians

    TORONTO, Aug. 2 /CNW/ - The Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has given the green light to an exciting
new development in Canadian broadcasting.
    In a decision issued July 24, the CRTC approved an application from The
National Broadcast Reading Service (NBRS) for The Accessible Channel,
furthering the unique charity's mission to make media accessible.
    States the CRTC on its website: "The Commission approves an application
by the National Broadcast Reading Service Inc. (NBRS) for a broadcasting
licence to operate a national, English-language digital specialty described
video programming undertaking to be known as The Accessible Channel."
    "The beneficiaries of this NBRS visionary initiative will be persons
living with vision loss," says Jim Sanders, CNIB President and CEO. The CNIB
was just one of many disability-related groups that supported NBRS's
application for a broadcast licence for The Accessible Channel.
    Adds Betty Nobel, NBRS Board Secretary and Chair, National Program
Committee: "The availability of more described programming - not to mention
simpler accessibility - means that more and more blind and vision-impaired
viewers will be able to enjoy the most popular TV programs and participate in
those water cooler discussions about these programs and other television
    Hundreds of Canadians participated in the application process, submitting
their comments about The Accessible Channel to the CRTC, many of which
included moving personal testimonies on why it was important to them and how
it would enhance their lives.
    As one supporter told the CRTC: "I say this is not a 'perfect world,' but
one in the making - with more opportunity for participation and easier access
to entertainment and education for everyone."
    The Accessible Channel will feature a range of programming - some that
already has been described, much more that will be described for the first
time. The new channel will seek to broadcast shows from such well-known
networks as CTV, CBC, BBC, CanWest Global and more. The Accessible Channel
plans to program to all age groups - from children to seniors.
    Description is a process by which a narrative description of the "visual
elements" of a story is added to a soundtrack, painting a picture in words of
what is happening on screen. All description on the new service, which may be
in operation early in 2008, will be in "open format."
    On the current basic cable TV set-up, people who want to access
description must change the audio settings of their televisions to S.A.P.
(Secondary Audio Programming). This process can be difficult, if not
impossible, for many persons with vision impairments since it usually works
through a series of on-screen menu prompts. But with "open format" on The
Accessible Channel this process is eliminated: description is available on the
primary audio setting and the only soundtrack provided is the described track.
    The Accessible Channel will also provide closed captioning for 90% of its
program schedule, which is in compliance with current CRTC regulations.

    For the CRTC's official notice of this approval, visit:

    The National Broadcast Reading Service Inc. (NBRS) is a remarkable
registered charity that enriches lives by providing highly valued news,
information and entertainment to 4.5 million vision- and print-restricted
Canadians. In addition to working with others, NBRS (www.nbrscanada.com) does
this through its two divisions, VoicePrint and AudioVision.

    Because of VoicePrint, newspapers and magazines can be "heard," allowing
people who can't independently access print due to, for example, blindness or
physical impairment, low literacy skills or just getting older, to listen to
in-depth articles from over 600 newspapers and magazines. VoicePrint can be
accessed on the Secondary Audio Program of CBC Newsworld; on Star Choice
(ch 825), ExpressVu (ch 49 & 967), Look TV (ch 400); Rogers Digital (ch 196)
and Eastlink Digital (ch 394); and at www.voiceprintcanada.com.

    Because of AudioVision, people who have vision restrictions can now "see"
the action in movies and TV programs due to description. Many people have said
description does for people with no or low vision what closed-captioning does
for people with hearing impairments: it makes on-screen entertainment more
accessible www.audiovisioncanada.com. AudioVision is a description pioneer and
continues to offer quality described products and services.

For further information:

For further information: Bob Trimbee, President, NBRS, 1-800-567-6755
ext. 240, (416) 422-4222 ext. 240, bxt1@nbrscanada.com; Arlene Patterson,
Director, VoicePrint Operations, 1-800-567-6755 ext. 222, (416) 422-4222 ext.
222, appatterson@voiceprintcanada.com

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