If you are finding it hard to see your television and enjoy your favourite programmes then we have information to help.

Audio Description on TV

If you're struggling to see your favourite television programmes then Audio Description (AD), a free service, may be for you.

AD is commentary that describes body language, expressions and movements, making the programme clear through sound.

Most major broadcasters (like the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky) provide AD on 20 per cent of their programmes. AD is also available in Welsh on selected Welsh language programmes.

Accessible TV devices

Panasonic television with Voice Guidance

With advice from RNIB experts, Panasonic launched the world's first range of digital talking televisions in 2012. The built-in Voice Guidance works by announcing on-screen information and the most important menus. As you become more familiar with your TV you can change the level of Voice Guidance from beginner to expert if you want fewer instructions.

The latest range of Panasonic TVs use the Freetime TV Guide by default which does not speak, so you will need sighted assistance to select the talking programme guide. This is "the banner & TV guide selection" option in display settings in the setup menu.

The feature is called voice guidance and is available in TVs with CS in the model number.

Samsung Televisions with Voice Guide

Samsung have now built speech into the majority of their new televisions. The feature is called Voice Guide and is available on all series 7, 8 and 9 models and most series 6 models. All functions of the TV should speak, although there is currently no speech support on third party apps such as iPlayer or Netflix.

Apple TV

Apple TV was launched with a feature called 'Voiceover' which is a screen reading technology and helps people with sight loss to find out what's happening on the screen without having to ask a sighted friend for assistance. Apple TV enables access to video on demand services and TV catch-up apps but does not show standard broadcast TV.

Fire TV

Amazon’s Fire TV in the UK now has speech. Users can browse Amazon’s catalogue, using the voice search function and view content. Third party apps are currently not supported. Fire TV enables access to video on demand services and TV catch-up apps but does not show standard broadcast TV.

Sky+ app

The Sky+ app is Sky's replacement for the Sky Talker. The app enables you to search, browse, select and record all your favourite shows. For more information and to download the app for iOS or Android go to the Sky accessibility pages for the Sky+ app.

Sky have also developed an easy grip remote control with high visibility buttons and can contact customers using alternative formats.

TV listings

Sourcing accessible TV guides and especially those highlighting audio described TV programmes can be difficult. There are web based, large print, audio and Braille TV guides available.

RNIB's Big Print Freeview guide has the full listing of the top ten Freeview channels. The Big Print weekly newspaper contains a TV supplement listing programmes on BBC1, 2, ITV1, Channel 4 and channel 5.

RNIB magazines for UK customers gives details of listings for:

  • DAISY audio CD, electronic text by email and braille formats
  • radio programmes
  • other general leisure titles.

TV License concession

If you watch or record television programmes from your TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder, you'll need a TV Licence. However, you can get a 50 per cent reduction on your TV Licence fee if you're registered blind or severely sight impaired. To find out whether you qualify and how to apply for a TV License concession go to the TV Licensing website.

Useful resources

Please visit our useful resources page for other TV listings and other helpful downloads.

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