Most mainstream televisions available today have accessibility features and tools built into them which help to make these devices accessible for people who are blind or partially sighted.
Panasonic, Samsung and some other manufacturers include a built-in Voice Guidance feature in their latest digital televisions. Voice Guidance works by announcing on-screen information like channel names, numbers, television guides, menus, upcoming and recorded programs, and various settings.
Some televisions from manufacturers like Sony and a number of others have the Android operating system preinstalled. These televisions include accessibility features like TalkBack for speech and closed caption subtitling. The Android operating system also allows access to the smart features of a television like catch up and streaming services.
Separate add-on devices like Apple TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick also have accessibility tools built in which enable access to video on demand services and TV catch-up apps. These devices do not show standard broadcast TV.
Accessibility features like Voice Guidance, TalkBack, VoiceOver and closed captions can be set up by going into the relevant menus of the television itself and making the required adjustments. Some television remotes will have a dedicated button for the accessibility settings.
The accessibility settings may not be obvious or easy to navigate. Sighted assistance may be required for initial activation and configuration.
Accessibility settings on the television are used by people who are not able to view features like channel names and numbers, program information and television guides from their device. The built in accessibility means that they can get access to information on their favourite programs, turn on features like audio description and subtitles and use smart functions independently.
The Technology for Life team at RNIB is always looking out for helpful resources that we can recommend to our customers. We think this short film from Canadian not-for-profit media company, AMI: Accessible Media Inc provides a useful introduction to accessible televisions, their features and benefits. In the film the reviewers discuss the accessibility of Sony, Samsung and TCL TVs.
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Sighted people can easily access their television, scroll through channels and find the programmes they want. Accessibility settings that are included on new televisions give blind and partially sighted people the same level of control, making the viewing of content on television accessible and enjoyable.
More in depth information about accessible televisions is available from RNIB in our guide to television for people with sight loss.
Updated: 23 August 2021