The Neil Squire Society (new window), as part of its key mandate to enhance accessibility of emerging technologies, placed a lot of time and effort into the recent CRTC hearings on accessibility. As a result of this work we were successful in convincing the CRTC to adopting at least part of our recommendations in their ruling based on those hearings which came out in July 2009. The key part of that ruling in terms of our participation and our area focus is as follows:

“That, by 21 October 2009, all WSPs (Wireless Service Providers) offer and maintain in their inventories at least one type of wireless mobile handset that will provide access to wireless service by persons who are blind and/or have moderate-to-severe mobility or cognitive disabilities.” Additionally, “The Commission requests that WSPs consult with parties representing persons with disabilities on an ongoing basis to determine which handsets they will make available to address the needs of persons with disabilities. Also in consultation with these groups, the Commission requests that the service providers provide reasonable technical and lifecycle support of these handsets in order to address unique needs, such as those imposed by assistive technologies.”

This ruling has now opened up another major front of activity for the Neil Squire Society (new window) as we look forward to working with the cell phone service providers to ensure they have accessible handset devices across the full range of persons with disabilities. We have already had discussions with representatives of the wireless industry as a result of this ruling and we are continuing to explore ways in which we can work together to meet requirements of this ruling. It is also opened up a new opportunity to continue to work with the CRTC and we have been very active in pursuing a relationship with both senior staff and commissioners at the CRTC.

These ongoing efforts related to the CRTC and this ruling is significantly supported by our SDPP grant funding and we could not do this work without such support. We believe this work will have an important impact on a key area of a newly emerging aspect of accessibility which is crucial that it be addressed to ensure the inclusion of Canadians with disabilities. The Neil Squire Society also responded to the CRTC ruling with a widely circulated press release.

In August of 2010, the Neil Squire Society (new window) launched a CRTC Campaign to bring awareness of this issue to persons with disabilities in Canada.