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Disability Community Disadvantaged By U-Verse

Today's Communications Daily reports that CAN TV is urging the FCC to adopt rules that assure the disability community can access local community television.

"The FCC should adopt user accessibility rules to compel AT&T's U-verse system to carry listings for public, educational and governmental (PEG) channels in order to make it easier for the disabled to find 'helpful local programming,' said the Chicago Access Corp. in an ex parte filing Wednesday. Under the name CAN TV, Chicago Access operates five noncommercial public access PEG channels that feature content for people with visual, auditory and other disabilities." (Communications Daily, 7/12/13.)

In its comment to the FCC, CAN TV notes that AT&T carries no listings for CAN TV programs on its electronic or print guides, so it is impossible for anyone from the disability community to make informed local choices. The only identification of a multitude of different channels is a generic listing for "Local Government, Education and Public Access" on U-verse Channel 99.

ADAPT of Chicago Productions (ADAPT) is a bi-weekly television series created by members of the disability community who have been educating the public about disability rights through CAN TV for 14 years. In order to reach the broadest audience, ADAPT productions are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

"Our whole purpose in doing the show is to communicate about accessibility issues," said Gloria Nichols, an ADAPT member. "But what good is it if people we're trying to reach can't find our program on CAN TV?"

CAN TV concludes its filing by urging the FCC to prevent discrimination against the disability community as evidenced by AT&T's U-verse product. The difficulties in finding PEG channels and programs on U-verse are demonstrated at www.keepusconnected.org.

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CAN TV's Comment To The FCC

July 10, 2013
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554

Re: In the Matter of Accessibility of User Interfaces, and Video Programming Guides and
Menus, MB Docket No. 12-108, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 13-77)

Dear Commissioners:

Chicago Access Corporation ("CAN TV") files this letter in response to the above mentioned Notice regarding the accessibility of user interfaces, and video programming guides and menus.

CAN TV administers five local, noncommercial public, educational and government (PEG) access channels in Chicago. Thousands of local groups and residents create an average of 140 new, original hours of programming each week for cablecast on CAN TV, more than Chicago's local broadcast stations combined.

CAN TV's channels reach over a million potential viewers in 493,000 cabled homes within the Chicago City limits. CAN TV channels are carried on Comcast, RCN, and WOW systems as well as on AT&T U-verse.

CAN TV carries Chicagoland Radio Information Service (CRIS Radio) for listeners with a wide range of disabilities. This is a valuable service for the visually impaired as local volunteers read to the listening audience from a variety of local news sources.

Carriage of this service on CANTV enables CRIS to reach more people via cable television.

A locally produced disability rights program on CAN TV is ADAPT of Chicago Productions (ADAPT.) This bi-weekly television series has been cablecast on CAN TV for 14 years, with local, original programming created by a group of Chicago residents who are themselves disabled.

Producers, hosts and crew for ADAPT are committed to creating programming of and by the disability community and to educating the public about disabilities. The director is quadriplegic, the technical director is legally blind, and members have a range of other physical and developmental disabilities.

In order to reach the broadest audience, ADAPT productions are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

Past programs have featured a protest against state budget cuts affecting the disability community, how to secure housing for people with disabilities, a look at difficulties people with disabilities encounter in the workplace, and a program urging the Governor to close down an abusive nursing home.

CAN TV program titles and descriptions are carried by Comcast, RCN and WOW in Chicago. While CAN TV's program descriptions can indicate which programs are closed captioned, people with auditory disabilities are not made aware of that distinction.

Even more problematic for the disability community is that AT&T carries no listings for CAN TV programs on its electronic or print guides. AT&T's U-verse system clearly discriminates against people with disabilities who are seeking helpful local programming like ADAPT or CRIS Radio. It is impossible for anyone from the disability community to make informed local choices based on AT&T's treatment of hundreds of PEG channels via Channel 99. The only identification of a multitude of different channels is a generic listing for "Local Government, Education and Public Access."

To make matters worse, the process to find a specific program is cumbersome, technologically regressive, and discriminatory. The difficulties AT&T's U-verse system poses for the disability community are evident, as illustrated in a real-time video demo at www.keepusconnected.org.

The visually impaired are clearly disadvantaged on AT&T's U-verse system in terms of finding and benefiting from CAN TV local channels and programming compared to how simple it is to simply remember the right channel number in order to locate programming of interest on other channels.

On March 6, 2009, ADAPT member, Gloria Nichols, filed comments addressed to Ms. Marlene Dortch in relation to CSR-8126, ACM et al, MB Docket No. 09-13. In those comments, ADAPT urged the FCC to grant the ACM et al Petition in that docket. But the FCC has failed to act on that Petition to date.

With the FCC's commitment to localism and diversity, we urge a response to this enquiry that affirmatively acts on behalf of and in service to the disability community. Carriage of program titles and descriptions in an accessible manner is an essential link for the local community. We urge the Commission to adopt rules that prevent the kind of discrimination against the disability community evidenced by AT&T's U-verse product.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

Barbara Popovic
Executive Director

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DISCLOSURE: Barbara Popovic is a friend and landlord to Beachwood editor & publisher Steve Rhodes.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on July 12, 2013


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