July 14, 2011
Attorneys General in eight states have been asked to investigate how AT&T delivers Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television on its U-verse platform. The letters to the Attorneys General highlight the fact that people who are blind or vision impaired cannot access the PEG channels through the on-screen menus.
The letters stated:
“…blind and visually impaired persons are unfairly denied access to important and unique information provided by PEG channels. It is important to note that commercial channels (i.e., broadcast networks and cable networks) are delivered to subscribers differently, and can be accessed by blind and visually impaired individuals using traditional methods and technologies. It therefore appears that AT&T has made a conscious decision to treat PEG channels in an inferior and discriminatory manner that presents insurmountable and unnecessary barriers to the blind and visually impaired.”
“People who are blind or visually impaired shouldn’t be denied a service they are already paying for in their cable bills,” said John Rocco, President of American Community Television. “U-verse makes it impossible to access these channels without assistance and as a person who is visually impaired, my ability to independently access PEG channels is important to me.”
The letters referred to a report released by AT&T “Accessibility, Innovation and Sustainability at AT&T.” In that report AT&T stated:
“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.”
The letters also referred to a May 23, 2011 ex-parte communication to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Larry Goldberg, Director, The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM). In that ex-parte, Mr. Goldberg stated that he himself had tested the accessibility of the U-verse platform but did not state that he found PEG channels accessible to the blind or vision impaired.
“But even before the CVAA was passed, AT&T contracted outside experts to analyze its U-verse access services and features and put into a development cycle several
recommendations to improve the accessibility of its service. (I know because it was my non-profit organization which performed this analysis.)
“We believe these two documents show that AT&T knew in advance that the PEG channels would not be accessible to the blind or visually impaired,” said Rocco. “For that reason, we believe the Attorneys General should investigate the U-verse platform and ask why AT&T doesn’t deliver PEG channels the same way every other cable operator delivers them, as separate distinct channels.”
The states to receive these letters are California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee.
American Community Television educates and advocates on behalf of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television. To contact John Rocco call 410-992-4976 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also contact Bunnie Riedel, executive director at 410-992-4976 or email@example.com.
 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act” (“CVAA”)