Until now, viewers with low or no sight only knew what television sounded like. And for many other Canadians living with disabilities and seniors, enjoying TV viewing often is a challenge. Now there is a new and unique TV channel that will respond to the many access challenges faced by more than 5 million Canadians plus their families, relatives and friends. It’s called The Accessible Channel or TAC for short, and it goes on air coast to coast at 6 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, December 3rd, the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities. All TAC programming will be broadcast in open description and closed-captioned. This will allow blind, low-vision, deaf, hard of hearing and many others to tune into TAC at any time during the day or night and KNOW that they will be able to enjoy television.
TAC was licensed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in the summer of 2007 as a mandatory basic digital open description specialty TV service. That means it will be part of the basic digital service of all cable and satellite services distributing TV programming. The service will be operated by an independent not-for-profit company controlled by The National Broadcast Reading Service Inc. NBRS is a charity set up in 1990 to operate VoicePrint, a mandatory audio programming service that enhances access to print publications for blind Canadians and low-vision, print-restricted and senior listeners. The mission of both TAC and VoicePrint is to enhance access to media for millions of Canadians. Each is operated without government funding.
“People shouldn’t be excluded from media just because they are visual impaired” says John Capobianco, NBRS Chair. “NBRS was created two decades ago with a mandate to enhance media access for millions of vision-restricted Canadians and on December 3rd The Accessible Channel will take place a step farther to ensure everyone is included”.
On the current basic cable TV set-up, people who want to access description must change the audio setting of their televisions to S.A.P. (Secondary Audio Programming). This process can be difficult, if not impossible, for many persons with vision and mobility challenges 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 as the only soundtrack provided is the described track. The Accessible Channel will also provide closed captioning for all of its programs, which is in excess of the CRTC’s current regulations.
Orville Parkes, Chair, The Accessible Channel added, “This is not only about convenience, but a key to social integration. The Accessible Channel will make broadcasting history allowing millions of visual impaired Canadians to be included in everything that was and is television”.
Thanks to the extensive cooperation of Canwest, CTV Globemedia, Rogers CityTV, CBC, Audio Vision Canada, the National Film Board and many other program suppliers, TAC will help impaired Canadians to get access to described and closed-caption programming. With more than 700 films, countless TV programs, documentaries, children’s programs, there will be programming of interest for everyone. The TAC launch is being marked by a gala (at Palais Royale, 1601 Lakeshore Blvd. West, Toronto) on December 3rd at 5:00 p.m.