Canada’s telecom commissioner has approved the use of $1,335,909 CAD of deferral account funding for improving access to wireless services by people with disabilities.
For wireless customers who are blind, the CRTC approved Telus’ application to offer a lower-price, easy-to-use phone for at least five years, drawing on $273,636 in funds. Telus hasn’t named the phone yet, but has specified that it will include a built-in screen reader, a tactile, audible and physical keypad, as well as an adjustable font size.
The CRTC states that Telus must report what type of device it will offer within 30 days.
Telus also successfully applied for $92,500 in funding to cover the costs of making accessibility standards and guidelines for its Android and iOS My Account apps.
Additionally, the CRTC approved roughly half of the proposed budget for wireless device accessibility audits ($69,773) — cut down due to overlap with another approved proposal for $900,000 by the Neil Squire Society (NSS), a not-for profit dedicated to empowering Canadians with disabilities though technology, research and employment programs.
The NSS proposal — which Telus protested was sent in too late in the process to be considered — lays plans for a pilot program in BC that would include a compatibility guide for using products across the spectrum of assistive technologies; a support hotline for Telus agents, distributors and clients; and the development of best practices for tech support services.
For wireless customers who are blind, the CRTC approved Telus’ application to offer a lower-price, easy-to-use phone for at least five years.
Telus was further approved to offer and support a smartphone with USB On-The-Go (OTG) technology for at least five years. USB OTG technology is a specification that allows USB devices — like smartphones and tablets — to act as a host to other USB devices like mice, keyboards and joysticks. Since the carrier already carries sufficient phones that meet USB OTG support requirements, it did not request any funding for the project.
The CRTC also issued a few denials to Telus’ proposals. The Commission nixed a project for creating wireless device accessibility guidelines, a customer insights study completed with differently-abled persons and an NFC-based accessible product information project for retail stores that would have cost $834,593.
It did allow, however, for Telus to reject using funds for two accessibility initiatives currently in use by Bell: offering the Android screen-reading Code Factory App with a compatible smartphone packaged as a lower-priced bundle for at least five years and offering Tecla accessibility software and a compatible smartphone packaged as a lower-priced bundle for at least five years.
In the case of Tecla, which recently debuted a second-generation device, the CRTC stated that “the advent of new technologies has allowed other means for mobile device users with mobility impairments to use their devices.”
Previously, in May, Telus was approved to use 399,091 of spending for website accessibility upgrades to its telusquebec.com, add an accessible website section for Koodo and improve its web portal, among other things.