May 19, 2011
American Community Television (ACT) sent letters today to Randall Stephenson, the President of AT&T, and to Jacquelyn Brand, the chair of the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access & Aging, asking that AT&T deliver Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access channels the same as all other channels on the U-Verse system.
“AT&T’s U-Verse platform discriminates against persons who are blind or visually impaired,” said John Rocco, President of ACT. “We cannot access PEG channels through the Channel 99 on-screen menu.”
Mr. Rocco, who himself is visually impaired, manages the Charlotte Mecklenberg Public Access Corporation and Access 21, the Public access channel.
“I cannot navigate to my own channel,” said Rocco. “This impacts all persons with visual disabilities, particularly the elderly.”
“AT&T has gone to great lengths to position itself as a company that cares and responds to persons with disabilities and the elderly by establishing an advisory panel to address issues of access to their telecommunications products,” said Rocco. “There is no doubt that when they developed the U-Verse system and the Channel 99 platform for PEG channels, they knew it would not be accessible to persons who were visually impaired.”
AT&T puts all PEG channels in a region on Channel 99 and through a series of on-screen menus viewers access the PEG channels. No other cable operator treats PEG channels this way, PEG channels are usually treated the same as the other commercial channels, accessible by selecting the number of the channel through the remote control.
In a recent report “Accessibility, Innovation and Sustainability at AT&T” AT&T noted that it has a “Human Factors Group” that studies its products in the development stage to make sure they are accessible for person with disabilities.
The report states the following:
“The Human Factors Group at AT&T conducts customer research, analysis, design and usability testing to help develop products and services that are accessible, useful and usable for customers with and without disabilities. The fundamental goal of the Human Factors Lab is to learn and adjust product design in the lab from inception, rather than after a product or service is deployed to tens of millions of customers.”
“We believe this report is the smoking gun that shows AT&T knew in advance of its roll out of U-Verse that PEG channels would not be accessible to the visually impaired,” said Rocco. “Did AT&T believe that blind people didn’t need to get city or county council meetings or educational programming? The irony here is that PEG channels provide more programs by and about persons with disabilities than any other television medium.”
To interview Mr. Rocco, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Bunnie Riedel at Riedel@acommunitytv.org or call 410-992-4976. ACT educates and advocates on behalf of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television. http://acommunitytv.org