Tag Archives: Diane Johnson

Descriptive Video Works Makes Case For DV At CRTC Hearings


This past week, Diane Johnson, CEO and President of Descriptive Video Works, took part in the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission – the administrative tribunal that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications) hearings discussing the future of Canadian television. Dubbed Let’s Talk TV the hearings gave Diane, who was joined by Shawn Marsolais, founder of Blind Beginnings, the chance to make the case regarding the importance of described television.

Following a submission process, Diane and Shawn were among the lucky few to be invited to the discussions pertaining to audio description (other speakers included AMI – Accessible Media Inc.).  “Over and over again I am asked why are not more programs described,” Diane said prior to Let’s Talk TV. “I don’t understand why the current mandate is only four hours a week for described video on TV, and 100% for closed captioning. I don’t understand why the blind and partially sighted are denied equal access to information and entertainment”.

During the allotted ten minute session, Diane gave the CRTC a background of her experiences with Descriptive Video Works and the kind of services the company offers, many of which are practices that we have pioneered such as Live Video Description. Also addressed were emerging worldwide trends that show availability of described video increasing, blind audiences becoming harder to ignore and how Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in the field. As a founding member of the Canadian Described Video Broadcast Committee, Diane expressed the importance of Best Practices and how these standards only have value if everyone follows them.

Shawn said to the members of the CRTC panel, “Please imagine not being able to see. We don’t know what our peers are wearing or doing leaving us at a disadvantage socially. It is difficult to make friends when can’t talk about sports, TV programs, fashion, or when you miss the action or joke because it was something visual. DV fills in these gaps”. She went on to say, “Being able to talk knowledgeably with sighted people about these things demonstrates that I am not that different from them, I just can’t see”.

Diane capped off their time speaking with the CRTC by saying, “Both entertainment and information are received via television, lack of access is socially isolating. The blind and partially sighted community deserves the same access to television as enjoyed by all viewers. Descriptive video directly contributes to a higher quality of life. We respectfully request a mandate that requires 100% described video on Canadian television programming”.

Diane and Shawn then answered questions from Stephen Simpson, CRTC Commissioner, British Columbia and Yukon who was particularly interested in Live DV and the associated costs of DV and how these costs may be reduced for broadcasters.


To watch Diane and Shawn’s full presentation to the CRTC as well as how they responded to Commissioner Simpson’s questions, CLICK HERE and jump ahead to 135:00.

It is our hope that the CRTC listens to not just Diane and Shawn’s feedback, but the feedback from the entire blind and partially sighted community across the country, a group of one million plus Canadians that is expected to increase significantly over the coming years as the baby boomers retire. The blind community is tired of being mostly ignored – a fact supported by a complete lack of media coverage during the video description portion of the CRTC hearings. Though Let’s Talk TV is now over, we can all do our part to continue pushing for increased DV. Let’s not let the importance of equality for all be overshadowed by focus on BDUs (Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings), pick ‘n pay contracts and Netflix. Let’s continue to talk TV and ensure that nobody is left out of the discussion.

For a full breakdown of the topics covered by the Let’s Talk TV CRTC hearings, CLICK HERE – Sections 20 and 21 pertain to Described Video and Media Accessibility.

We also encourage you to check out the amazing work being done in the community by Shawn and her team at Blind Beginnings.



Leave a comment

Filed under Industry News, Uncategorized, Vision Impairment

Descriptive Video Works on The Simi Sara Show with Shawn Marsolais of Blind Beginnings


Recently, Diane Johnson, Descriptive Video Works President and CEO was a guest on The Simi Sara Show on Vancouver radio station CKNW. Joining Diane was Blind Beginnings founder and Paralympian, Shawn Marsolais.

In the interview, Diane and Shawn talk about the importance of making television and movies accessible to the blind, the work that we do at Descriptive Video Works and the need to raise awareness of the massive non-sighted audience that is being ignored by TV networks, movie studios and broadcasters around the world.

Here’s the interview:


We’d like to extend our thanks to Simi Sara and CKNW for having us on the show and highlighting the need for greater media accessibility and described video services. The Simi Sara Show can be found on CKNW AM980 Monday to Friday from noon to 3pm.

About Blind Beginnings

Founded by in 2008, Blind Beginnings offer British Columbia children and youth who are visually impaired opportunities to develop skills, confidence and independence. A family-centered organisation, Blind Beginnings promotes a ‘no limits’ philosophy which challenges pervasive misconceptions about blindness by demonstrating that there is no limit to what children and youth who blind or visually impaired can accomplish.

Here’s a terrific video about the organisation:


As founder of Blind Beginnings, Shawn Marsolais truly embodies the ‘no limits’ philosophy of the organization. Born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare eye condition that caused her vision to deteriorate through her childhood, Shawn has had less than two percent of her vision since the age of 18 but this has not stopped her from leading an exceptionally active life. A former competitive swimmer who still holds three Canadian records, Shawn represented Canada at the Paralympic Games in Athens in tandem cycling and has won several medals in Goalball, a team sport designed specifically for blind athletes. Over the years she has worked for CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), the Western Association for Persons With Vision Impairment, Canadian Blind Sports Association & Recreation Association and Access for Sight Impaired Consumers.

Leave a comment

Filed under DVW Team

ITU Focus Group on Audio Visual Media Accessibility

Last week Descriptive Video Works President and CEO, Diane Johnson, attended the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Focus Group on Audio Visual Media Accessibility which was held in Toronto, Canada.

ITU is the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communication technology and is committed to connecting  all the world’s people wherever they live and whatever their means. Conferences and focus groups are held all around the world throughout the year.

As an industry leader in Canada it was important that Descriptive Video Works attend the conference in Toronto especially in regards to sharing with the rest of the world our experience in describing Live Television broadcasts. We are extremely proud to be the first company in the world to offer the service and the only company offering training for news anchors and reporters that provides guidance in how to make their content more accessible. The conference provided a wonderful opportunity for Descriptive Video Works to stress the importance of, as Diane said, “thinking outside of the regular Described Video TV box”.

“The conference was a great opportunity for us to share with international attendees our descriptive video guidelines that we have developed over the last decade in conjunction with the visually impaired audience in Canada. It is so important to ensure that we are always meeting the needs of the end user. These guidelines, together with the high level of skill and craft that we demand from all of our writers and narrators are what makes Descriptive Video Works stand out in a rapidly growing market”.

Diane also stressed the importance of maintaining high quality described video, “Poor description that misses the mark not only alienates the audience already tuned in but makes it very difficult to attract a new audience. Another challenging aspect in growing the service in all countries around the world is how to get governments to take notice and assist in getting the word out to the blind and vision impaired organizations and communities”.

Highlighting this need to grow awareness for descriptive video services are the statistics from a recent awareness campaign launched in the United Kingdom. Prior to the campaign, only 37% of the general public and 43% of the visually impaired had knowledge of audio description services compared to 60% of the general public and 72% of the visually impaired following completion of the public awareness campaign.

The ITU conferences around the world are important in developing future standard guidelines and best practices for audio description services on an international level. “One example of how we are working together in Canada, are the listings that AMI (Accessible Media Inc.) have put together of all programming on all stations that is described. Instead of looking at it as competition, they see the value of sharing this valuable listing service”.

“The ITU conferences are a great way to get people around the world with the same goals to share their knowledge, their challenges and their aspirations regarding where we can all take descriptive video in the future. Though it was felt by the entire group that we are just at the beginning stages, it is clear that we are sure to see huge growth in audio description in the next few years with levels approaching the current reach of Closed Captioning services. This underlines the importance of continued cooperation, sharing of ideas, increased awareness and the maintaining of high quality DV”.

Descriptive Video Works will continue to be “thinking outside of the DV box” as we take the next steps into what is an incredibly exciting time in the audio description world!

Leave a comment

Filed under Industry News, Vision Impairment

An Olympic First

People arrive for the Opening Ceremony rehearsal at the Olympic Stadium in London. Photograph: Owen Humphreys

As the world waits with bated breath to see how their country’s athletes perform and which sporting records are broken, an Olympic first will have already happened before a single competition has even begun.

Descriptive Video Works will be going for gold as, for the first time in Olympic history, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will be accessible to the blind and vision impaired and we’ll be doing it LIVE as events unfold!

In order to pull this off we will be teaming with CTV who we’ve provided Live Audio Description for in the past with Live broadcasts such as So You Think You Can Dance Canada and the Juno Awards. Our founder and CEO, Diane Johnson said, “All of us at Descriptive Video Works are thrilled to be working with the Olympic Broadcast Service and CTV on this monumental event. The London 2012 Olympics will be the first time in history that people who are blind and visually impaired will be able to fully experience the splendor and pageantry of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games and we are honored to play a small role in making it possible.”

Tami Grenon, chair of the BC Chapter of CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) said, “I am thrilled that our community will be able to share in the excitement of the biggest sporting event in the world. We’ve been hearing all about it and now we will have the opportunity to fully enjoy the spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies with our family and friends along with millions of sighted viewers.”

Make that millions and millions and millions of viewers Tami… It’s predicted that the Opening Ceremony will be viewed Live by a worldwide TV audience of over a billion people!

Triathlete Simon Whitfield who will be Canada’s proud flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics

The Opening Ceremony Live Audio Described broadcast will be airing on CTV on July 27 beginning at 9 pm London local time. Check your local listings for the Live broadcast as well as the recorded broadcast which will be at a more friendly hour.

Let the games begin!

Leave a comment

Filed under Described Shows, Industry News, Vision Impairment

“Inside E Street” Shines the Spotlight on Descriptive Video Works

Last month we shared a behind the scenes video featuring Descriptive Video Works President and CEO Diane Johnson together with members of our hard working team all being interviewed by dedicated TV crew.

If you missed the behind the scenes video, you can check it out here

The finished piece which will be airing on 250 Public Television Stations and online at AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) does a fabulous job of showcasing what we do at DVW and why our service means so much to so many.

Huge thanks to the crew, AARP and Retired Living Television (RLTV) for this terrific spot.

Leave a comment

Filed under Described Shows, DVW Team, Industry News, Vision Impairment

Behind-The-Scenes at Descriptive Video Works

We recently had two film crews in our Vancouver studios, one crew shooting a news segment produced by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and the other shooting the below Behind-The-Scenes video giving you a peek at our hard-working team.

Award-winning journalist, Ray Homer, and his crew spent the day with us asking all the right questions about what we do and how we do it. The finished segment will be airing on 250 PBS stations, RLTV (Retired Living Television) and online at AARP on the show Inside E Street. The spot will help get the word out to audiences in the U.S. , many of whom suffer from serious vision impairment and who are unaware that Audio Description of television shows and movies even exists.

Inside E Street host, Lark McCarthy

Thanks to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, in just a few weeks the Big Four broadcast networks must all provide at least 50 hours of described video per quarter (roughly 4 hours per week). So, come July 1st, many, many more people will be able to enjoy lots more of the daily entertainment that most of us take for granted.

AARP is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization for people 50 and over dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as they age. Founded by the first woman to be a high school principal in California, Ethel Percy Andrus, PhD, in 1958, AARP provides a wide range of unique benefits, special products and services for their members.

1 Comment

Filed under DVW Team, Industry News

Lions Club Blind Dinner

Last week DVWorks President and CEO, Diane Johnson, was invited to speak at the 61st Lions Club Dinner for people that are blind. For 61 years members of the Burnaby Host Lions Club have picked up people who are vision impaired and taken them to dinner at the Lions Club.

The Lions Club International is the world’s largest service club organization with over 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members – they are also one of the most effective. For nearly 100 years their members have worked on projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye care for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Lions volunteers have taken part in projects that have:

  • Saved the sight of more than 15 million children by providing eye screenings, glasses and other treatments through Sight For Kids.
  • Established or strengthened pediatric eye care centers that have helped more than 120 million children.
  • Helped halt the spread of Trachoma in Ethiopia by providing 10 million doses of the sight-saving drug Azithromycin annually.
  • Prevented serious vision loss for more than 30 million people worldwide.
  • Improved eye care for 100 million people by training more than 650,000 eye care professionals and building 315 eye hospitals.
  • Distributed more than 147 million treatments for River Blindness (also known as Onchocerciasis).
  • Provided nearly 8 million cataract surgeries.
  • Vaccinated 41 million children in Africa against measles, a leading cause of childhood blindness.

Since 1990, Lions have raised U.S. $415 million through two SightFirst fundraising campaigns to help provide vision for all. In addition, their members around the world are actively involved in recycling glasses at 17 centers worldwide, supporting Lions Eye Banks that provide eye tissue for sight-saving surgeries, screening the vision of hundreds of thousands of people every year and preventing blindness by providing treatment to those at risk of losing their vision.


In 1925, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness“. The Lions accepted the challenge and then some! Today, sight programs remain one of their defining causes.




At the 61st Lions Club Blind Dinner, Diane spoke about Described Video and the shows DVWorks are presently describing and brought the house down with the screening of a clip from one of our favorite shows, I Love Lucy.

To learn more about Lions Club International, to volunteer as a Lion or to donate to their many wonderful programs, please visit: www.lionsclubs.org

Special thanks to longterm Lions Club member Kirk Dickson of the North Burnaby Lions for providing us with so much invaluable information.

Leave a comment

Filed under Described Shows, DVW Team, Vision Impairment