Comcast Talking TV Guide

Comcast today announced the industry’s first voice-enabled television user interface, a solution that will revolutionize the way its Xfinity TV customers, especially those who are blind or low vision, navigate the X1 platform. The “talking guide” features a female voice that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings.  The feature will be available to all X1 customers in the next few weeks.

A for Accessibility

About 19 million U.S. households have at least one member with a disability and according to the U.S. Census, there are 8.1 million people with a vision disability.  In 2012, Comcast hired Tom Wlodkowski as Vice President of Audience to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities. (Mr. Wlodkowski has a visual impairment.)

The talking guide “speaks” what’s on the screen as the viewer navigates the “Guide,” “Saved,” “On Demand,” and “Settings” sections of X1 and includes details like individual program descriptions and ratings from Common Sense Media and Rotten Tomatoes that help viewers decide what to watch.  Future versions of the feature will include functionality within the “Search” section of X1 and additional personalization settings like rate of speech.

X1 customers will be able to activate the talking guide on their existing set top box by tapping the “A” button twice on their remote control.  The feature also can be turned on via the “accessibility settings” within the main settings menu. Click here to see how it works.

Next year, Comcast plans to partner with service organizations and nonprofits to create awareness in the disability community of Voice Guidance and other accessibility features that offer a more inclusive entertainment experience.

The talking guide is the latest in a series of innovations created in the Comcast Accessibility Lab. In addition to voice guidance and one-touch access to closed captioning, Comcast created an online help and support resource for Xfinity customers looking for information about accessibility-related topics. The webpage includes an overview of accessibility products and services, support for third-party assistive devices, information related to Braille or large-print bills and the ability to connect with accessibility support specialists.

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