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A photo of a family sitting on a couch watching a television screen that reads "This program is avaialble in described video for the visually impaired."

Described Video

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What is described video?

Described video is the narrated description of a program's non-verbal elements that may include surroundings, costumes, and body language. The description is added during pauses in dialogue and allows audiences who are blind to form a mental picture of what is happening in the program or on stage. First introduced more than 25 years ago, described video provides viewers who are blind or partially sighted with access to both digital and live entertainment.

Background on described video in Canada

For the 1.5 million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, Described Video levels the playing field by enhancing the viewing experience and bringing everyone into the same conversations about popular culture. Additionally, Canadians who are blind or partially sighted pay the same subscription rates as other Canadians and as such are entitled to a viewing experience that meets their accessibility needs. Similar accommodations have been made for audience members who are Deaf or hard of hearing. CNIB Foundation advocates for the same level of accessibility through Described Video.

In 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced an increase in the availability of Described Video in certain Canadian broadcasters to provide four hours of Described Video per day during prime-time (7 to 11 pm) by September 2019. Months before this requirement was to take place, three Canadian broadcasters – Bell Media Inc., Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Media Inc.– petitioned the CRTC to exempt them from providing described video to non-Canadian programs received less than 72 hours prior to broadcast without described video. Canadians with sight loss will have to wait until the program airs later, or on a specialty channel before the program will be described.

In December 2019, the CRTC granted an amended approval to the three companies – the CRTC now requires Bell, Corus and Rogers to provide described video to all English or French language programming that is broadcast during primetime, with the exception of programs received from the United States less than 24 hours before air. Programs that cannot be aired in primetime with described video, must be broadcast in described video, at a later date.

CNIB’s advocacy for increased described video

CNIB Foundation has been working with Bell, Corus and Rogers to ensure they’re doing their part to increase described video for subscribers who are blind or partially sighted. Bell, Corus and Rogers are hosting semi-annual tele-townhalls to provide an update on described video programming. These Townhalls are an opportunity for consumers to hear from Canada’s largest broadcasters as to how they are addressing the needs and availability of described video. There is an opportunity to ask questions. 

Part of CNIB’s collaboration with the broadcasters is the creation of a described video working group, consisting of representatives from the broadcasting companies and the community. The purpose of this working group is to highlight and discuss issues related to described video. 

Your feedback is critically important to improving the viewing experience for Canadians who use described video. On our November 2020 Town Hall, Bell, Corus, and Rogers provided email addresses for customers looking to contact them with described video questions, comments, and concerns. The email addresses for each broadcaster, and a list of each broadcaster’s specific service offerings is listed below.

Described video can be easily enabled through your set top box. If your set top box is not accessible, this may require sighted assistance to turn on. Visit your cable company’s website or call their customer service line for instructions on how to enable your described video.

Described Video email addresses

Accessibility customer service telephone numbers

  • Bell Accessibility Services Centre: 1-866-310-2355
  • Corus Entertainment Accessibility Compliance Officer: 1-866-537-2397
  • Rogers Media Call Centre: 1-877-508-1760

Bell Media’s Services:

Animal Planet
BNN Bloomberg
Crave + HBO
CTV Comedy
CTV Drama
CTV Life
CTV News Channel
CTV Sci-Fi
Discovery Channel
Discovery Science
Discovery Velocity
ESPN Classic
Fashion Television
Investigation Discovery
Canal D (FR)
Canal Vie (FR)
Cinépop (FR)
Investigation (FR)
RDS Info (FR)
Super Écran (FR)
Vrak (FR)
Z (FR)

Corus Entertainment’s Services:

Global TV
ABC Spark
Adult Swim
BBC Canada
Cartoon Network
Cooking Channel
Crime + Investigation
DIY Network
Disney Channel
Disney Junior
Disney XD
Food Network Canada
History 2
HGTV Canada
Movie Time
National Geographic
Nat Geo Wild
W Network
La chaîne Disney (FR)
Historia (FR)
Séries Plus (FR)

Rogers Sports and Media Services

OMNI Regional
Sportsnet One
Sportsnet 360