For many years, blind and partially sighted people have hoped for a solution to a very simple problem. And that is watching television independently without the need for sighted assistance.
The Story So Far
At this point in time there are no set top boxes from any of the TV, satellite or cable companies that offer accessibility in the form of spoken feedback or magnification. Some boxes like Sky Q offer high contrast options and audible beeps to alert you to programmes that are audio described, but if you can’t see the screen to navigate to the menu, or indeed know what programme it is you are focused on, what’s the point?
Other providers such as Now TV and Roku have also not managed to provide boxes with some form of accessibility built-in, however there was some good news when Amazon announced it would build in it’s Voiceview feature (available on Fire Tablets and Kindles) into Fire TV Stick. This was ultimately a step forward but only one step. The Fire TV stick gives you spoken feedback and magnification but the spoken feedback only works within Amazon and Netflix’s own content offering, meaning that if you bought a Fire Stick as a blind person with the intention of enjoying BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub or All4, you’d be sorely disappointed as these apps don’t work with Voiceview.
Up until now there has only been one serious option out there and that is Apple TV. As expected with Apple, they have put all of their efforts into making the TV box as accessible as possible. There’s spoken feedback with Voiceover, magnification, high contrast and even settings for those with colour blindness and difficulty with light perception. All of the apps (in terms of TV anyway) work fine, including all of the ones mentioned previously. Ironically, Now TV is fully accessible through Apple TV (unlike it’s own box).
The Synapptic Solution?
Recently a specialist equipment provider for blind people have stepped in with what they hope is a good solution to this problem.
Synapptic have created the TV Box which has the ability for you to view Freeview TV channels, scan the EPG (electronic program guide) and watch shows on demand through BBC iPlayer. The TV Box also comes with a remote (similar in style to the Apple TV remote) and a webcam and wireless keyboard. The webcam means you can connect to others through Skype using the TV Box which is a first for this kind of product and if you struggle to use a remote you can use the keyboard as well.
There are lots of other things you can do with the Synapptic TV Box such as listen to the radio, read or listen to newspapers, enjoy audiobooks, listen to MP3s, read and write emails, talk on the phone (via Skype), record and send voice memos and more.
It’s a fully featured offering which costs £649 direct from Synapptic.
Review Coming Soon
Double Tap is on the case with this device and one of the team hope to review it for you soon. Keep checking the website for updates.
What do you think? Join the discussion and share your thoughts in the comments below.