Many Canadian Broadcasters and Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) Must Post Their Initial Accessibility Plan by June 1, 2023: Now Is the Time to Start Working on Your

Was your company required to publish its initial accessibility feedback process description (“Feedback Description”) last year and notify the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)? If yes, it must develop and publish its initial accessibility plan by June 1 of this year, in compliance with the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) and its implementing CRTC Accessibility Reporting Regulations. As explained below, ACA accessibility plans require significant information, so we strongly encourage covered entities to start developing their initial plan now.

If your company filed CRTC Attestation Form 860 last year because it had 10-99 employees, it must publish its Feedback description and notify the CRTC by June 1, 2023, but has an additional year to finalize its initial accessibility plan. For more information on the Feedback Description requirement, as well as a summary of ongoing ACA filing deadlines, please refer to our May 2, 2022 ACA advisory. Failure to comply with accessibility-related obligations, including compliance with CRTC regulations pursuant to the ACA, may subject TSPs to administrative monetary penalties (AMPs), which can apply to both TSPs and individuals, such as directors.

Accessibility Plan Requirements
A Canadian broadcaster or TSP’s accessibility plan must describe how the company will identify, remove, and prevent access barriers for people with disabilities in each of the following areas:

• Information and communication technologies;
• The procurement of goods, services and facilities;
• The design and delivery of programs and services; and
• Communication, other than information and communication technologies, as it relates to the procurement of goods, services, and facilities, and the design and delivery of programs and services: including the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages.

Broadcasters who are not required to comply with Canada’s Employment Equity Act must also discuss employment equity in their accessibility plan.

The ACA further requires that accessibility plans be developed and updated in consultation with people with disabilities. To that end, the accessibility plan must specify the ways in which the regulated entity consulted with persons with disabilities in preparing the plan. To satisfy these consultation requirements, we recommend developing and maintaining relationships with Canadian consumer advocacy disability rights organizations. Examples of such organizations include the Canadian Federation of the Blind and Canadian Association of the Deaf.

Finally, the ACA imposes a number of requirements aimed at ensuring that consumers with disabilities can access accessibility plans easily and independently.

Action Items
To ensure compliance with the June 1, 2023 deadline, we encourage covered entities to start developing their accessibility plan as soon as possible. If your company is unsure whether its products or services are accessible to customers with disabilities or has never considered accessibility in its design and implementation process, we can help arrange testing of your products for accessibility to identify compliance gaps and remedial solutions. We also recommend connecting and collaborating with key Canadian disability stakeholders if your company is not doing so already.

Additional Disability Access Considerations (Beyond CRTC / ACA Compliance)
We also always welcome any concerns or questions about your company’s compliance with the more “substantive” Canadian disability access responsibilities or perhaps even under U.S. laws & regulations arising from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Disability access laws and regulations exist in both Canada and the U.S., and the U.S., in particular, has become rife with civil litigation arising from businesses whose websites and mobile apps are claimed to be non-compliant.

In Canada, the substantive Canadian disability access responsibilities include providing federally mandated message and video relay services to customers with hearing and speech disabilities; maintaining a website that is compatible with screen readers, screen magnifiers, and other popular assistive technologies; and offering accessible customer service and technical support options accommodating a wide range of disabilities. In the end, accessibility always benefits everyone: not just those who absolutely need it due to their personal limitations.

If you are interested in proactively exploring how you can make your offerings more inclusive for everyone (and safe from enforcement or, more likely, the costs and burdens of defending against claims in civil litigation), we are always delighted to help. In addition to advising on applicable accessibility laws, we can connect you with trusted accessibility vendors who can evaluate your products (including your website), identify specific access barriers for people with disabilities, and implement appropriate remedial measures. In short, we can work with you to transform your company into an industry leader in accessibility, enabling you to tap into a market of millions of people with disabilities.

Contact Our Firm Today to Ensure Compliance with Canadian and U.S. Accessibility Requirements
If you have questions about the applicability of the Accessible Canada Act or CRTC Regulations Implementing the Accessible Canada Act, need assistance with preparing your initial feedback process description or accessibility plan, or otherwise need to ensure you are meeting your accessibility obligations in Canada, please reach out to Michal Nowicki at 703-714-1311 or mjn@commlawgroup.com.

For questions about or assistance with other CRTC compliance matters, including registration, BITS Licenses for international traffic, or STIR/SHAKEN, please reach out to Ron Quirk at (703) 714-1305 or req@commlawgroup.com.

For questions about or assistance with accessibility in the United States and before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including telecommunications relay services (TRS), the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), or the ADA, please reach out to Michal Nowicki at 703-714-1311 or mjn@commlawgroup.com.

 

 

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