With it being World Television Day today, Wednesday 21 November, I (Dave) felt it appropriate to write about televisions and in particular how they have progressed in recent years to be much more accessible for vision impaired people. I am also considering upgrading my 13 year old Sony TV with a new, more accessible one so this VIDA Insight has become a bit of a research project at the same time! J
TVs have generally been poor when it comes to accessibility. Some sets used to enable you to change the contrast of the text in the menus but that was pretty much it. Panasonic worked closely with the RNIB and released a TV in 2012 that spoke the channel number and programme title when you moved through the stations but it didn’t read the full electronic programme guide (EPG). There have been a few set-top boxes that have had screen reading capabilities with the most popular being the TVonics set-top box with built-in hard drive for recording TV programmes. I actually still have one of these and it still works well and is fully accessible but they were discontinued several years ago and can now only be bought second hand. They sometimes come up on the Disability Equipment Service website (www.disabilityequipmentservice.co.uk) – another service that Vicky and I run and also via places like eBay.
However, things are progressing and there are now several TV manufacturers that are selling TVs with built-in screen reading facilities. I’ve yet to go to a store to test them out but, from digging around on the internet and from listening to podcasts, know that some are now available.
I’m not going to go in to too much detail in this blog as it would just go on and on and on…. So I’ll mention below some of the leading manufacturers and provide a direct link to their website where you can read more information about their particular accessibility features. They are in no particular order and I’m not in a position to recommend one, however, as a Sony fan I will be looking at their range to see how good it is. It will need to be very good as the features offered on the Samsung TV’s appear to be very impressive.
Sony – offer 3 main accessibility features that they are calling:
· Vision Assist - Easy to see / convert to sound -
· Hearing Assist - Easy to hear / convert to text -
· Action Assist - Easy to use / support operation -
Samsung – Have included a range of features including Voice Guide, Audio Description, High Contrast, Enlarge, Colour Inversion and Greyscale. They also have a few features for people with a hearing impairment as well as very smart learning tools including Learn Remote and Learn Menu.
Android – There is now a screen reader called Voiceview available on smart TV’s running the Android operating system as well as on the Amazon Fire Stick. Similar to the above, Voiceview will read aloud screen menus, programme information, etc.
Apple TV – All Apple products now have a built-in screen reader called Voiceover. This is also the case for the Apple TV 4K and the Apple TV set-top box - you can navigate all of the menus without seeing the screen.
Panasonic – Although Panasonic have sold TVs with voice guidance since 2012, I can’t find any information about their newer TVs doing much more. Voice Guidance reads the on-screen text (channel and programme title) and volume levels but doesn’t read the full EPG. Sadly I couldn’t find a quick link to the Voice Guidance on the Panasonic website as it wasn’t that accessible with my screen reader and a Google search didn’t reveal much other than stories from 2012 when the Vieira range of talking TVs was launched!
In addition to surfing the internet, I have listened to a few podcasts about accessible TVs. The best ones were from the RNIB’s Tech Talk podcast. RNIB Tech Talk is a podcast and radio show (RNIB Connect Radio) for vision impaired people who are interested in accessible technology.
There have been discussions about accessible TVs recently on episodes 242, 243 and 249 during the weekly 1 hour Tech Talk programmes hosted by Steven Scott, Shaun Preece and Tim Schwart. They were talking about the Sony and the Samsung in particular and went in to some detail about how some are better than others when it comes to accessibility of the apps on smart TVs.
You can listen to all of the RNIB Tech Talk podcasts at:
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