Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) needs your help to reduce the barriers to telephone communication for people with speech and language disabilities (SLDs). It will only take you a few minutes and may have a major impact on increasing awareness of the needs of this population.

The Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is conducting a public consultation on the use of Message Relay Services (MRS) for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing or who have a speech disability. This is an operator-assisted service for people who can type their messages. It is primarily used by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Telephone access is important for everyone. However, for many people who have severe physical and communication disabilities, it is essential; being the primary way they contact their personal support service providers. These services allow people, who would otherwise live in hospitals and institutions, to live with dignity in communities and to access their support services for safety, as well as personal services such as dressing, hygiene and meal preparation. Yet, many people with physical, speech and language disabilities cannot use the existing telephones, such as RC200 and Fortissimo due to unclear speech, quiet or no speech and / or physical access issues, as well as issues relating to cost and reliability. Because of lack of access they remain in hospitals and institutions, and are denied opportunities to live in their communities. For some people who rely on ventilators to breathe at night, this lack of access can be life threatening.

Other people who can access phones, experience significant barriers that could potentially be addressed through improved message, video or speech-to-speech relay services.

At this time, we are asking the CRTC to bring a national focus to the needs of people with SLDs in terms of the provision of reliable, affordable, accessible telephones and appropriate services such as message relay services, video relay services and speech-to-speech services.  Please see CDAC Executive Director Barbara Collier’s letter (as a PDF) for details about why this is important as well as our past dealings with TELUS and the CRTC.

How you can help?

To draw attention to these issues, we need as many people as possible to post their comments on the CRTC site before the deadline: June 29, 2015.

To post your message on the CRTC site, you will be prompted to set up a log in and password.  Under “Active Conversations” choose Message Relay Services.  You can choose to add your comment in a reply to one question or to all 4 question areas. The more exposure the better!

If you like you can hit reply to the comments submitted by CDAC or add your own. You can also copy and paste from suggested texts below.

Suggested text #1

People who have speech and language disabilities have the right to access telecommunication services.  At this time they experience major barriers that impact on their ability to maintain social contacts; call for help in an emergency and, in many cases, it impacts on their ability to live independently in the community. We want the CRTC to address this by establishing a national focus on the needs of this population in terms of the provision of reliable, affordable, accessible telephones and the extension and development of telecommunication services such as message relay services; video relay services and speech-to-speech services. I am asking the CRTC to fund the initiative put forward by Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) to TELUS, January 2015 to address the telecommunications needs of this population.

Suggested text #2

People who have communication disabilities, not caused by hearing loss can experience significant communication barriers when using telecommunications. Some of these barriers include:

  • People not understanding their natural speech or the speech they generate from their communication device.
  • People hanging-up on them because they think their unclear speech is due to being drunk or that their device is an automated sales call.
  • Not being able to physically access a telephone from a wheelchair or bed, which may impact on one’s ability to safely live in the community or use personal support services.
  • People not accepting assistance from a communication interpreter that they authorize to assist them communicating on the telephone and/or people assuming their assistant has power of attorney to make decision for them in critical communication situations.
  • Not being able to use automated prompts (numbers to navigate the phone system) due to physical disabilities.
  • Not being able to participate and effectively communicate in teleconferences.
  • Not knowing about message relay services that are typically marketed to people who are Deaf or have a hearing loss.
  • Not being able to effectively use message relay services because operators are not trained in facilitating people who have unclear speech or who use AAC.
  • Increased cost of telephone services due to slow rate of communication.
  • Businesses and organizations not accepting ways other than the telephone to access services (e.g. text, email, or assistance).

I am asking the CRTC to fund the initiative put forward by Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) to TELUS, January 2015 to address the telecommunications needs of this population.

Thank you for your participation on this important initiative.