Low Vision Blog
X1 TALKS: COMCAST LAUNCHES INDUSTRY’S FIRST
VOICE GUIDED TV INTERFACE
“Talking Guide” Reads Aloud Channel Names, Show Titles and DVR Commands;
Allows For Independent Search and Discovery For People With Disabilities
Philadelphia, PA – 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 visually impaired, 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.
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 visual 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.
“Television is universally loved, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast “The talking guide feature will enable all of our customers to experience the X1 platform in a new way, and give our blind and visually impaired customers the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies. We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible in the accessibility space and we are thrilled to have Tom and his team leading the charge.”
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.
“The talking guide is as much about usability as it is about accessibility,” said Mr. Wlodkowski. “We think about accessibility from the design of a product all the way through production and this feature is the result of years of work by our team including customer research, focus groups and industry partnerships. For people like me who are blind, this new interface opens up a whole new world of options for watching TV.”
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. Here’s how it works.
“Programming my DVR is one of the most empowering things I have ever done with my TV,” said Eric Bridges, Director of External Relations and Policy Development at The American Council of the Blind (ACB), who participated in a Comcast customer trial over the summer. “My wife and I are both blind, so thanks to this new feature, we no longer have to choose between going out to dinner or catching our favorite show. The talking guide encourages independence and self-sufficiency; it’s a real game-changer for anyone who is blind and loves TV.”
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.
“TV is such an important and integral part of the fabric of our culture that to be excluded from that experience in any way makes it more difficult for blind people to participate fully in society,” said Amy Ruell, a Comcast customer. “I had a chance to test this feature over the summer and I probably watch more TV than ever thanks to the talking guide. Comcast’s commitment to accessibility is encouraging because it means there will be tremendous progress in developing technology that is universally accessible.”
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.
The company also has a service center specifically dedicated to customers with disabilities. Comcast’s Accessibility Center of Excellence is based in Pensacola, FL, where a team of specially trained care agents handles about 10,000 calls each month.
About Comcast Cable:
Comcast Cable is the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds, and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings. Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.
Decreased contrast sensitivity is typically secondary to many low vision eye diseases. The ability to see a white bar of soap on a white shower shelf or the ability to identify mashed potatoes on a white plate requires contrast sensitivity. People need to distinguish changes in contrast in order to carry out activities of daily living; activities that most of us don’t even have to think about. However, someone with low vision may feel apprehensive towards tasks such as seeing the edge of a step, filling a glass full of liquid, or signing a check or credit card receipt. All of these activities require perception of contrast.
Treatment may include very simple instructions in how to increase contrast in daily activities, such as using a black bold marker to write with instead of pencil or blue/ black ink, using a light colored cutting board for dark food items, and vice versa, or simply using the correct kind of lighting. Adaptive aids are also available to increase contrast in one’s environment, such as yellow glare filters, and/ or natural-spectrum task lighting.
If you are struggling with decreased contrast sensitivity due to cataracts, macular degeneration, or another low vision-causing eye disease, please call me to schedule an appointment for an assessment that can identify helpful strategies, and adaptive aids.
Jennifer C. Zack, M.S., CLVT
Clinical Director & Certified Low Vision Therapist
High power readers, or magnifying spectacles, can be a great alternative for reading if you have low vision. We have readers in higher powers than what you will find at the drugstore, Wal-Mart, or over the counter at local retailers. Typically, you can find up to a +3.50 at a local retail store. ForSight Vision carries up to +6.00 readers, and can special order up to as high add as +12.00 readers. The benefits of using high power readers as opposed to magnifiers are hands-free ability and the use of prisms to assist with converging when holding reading material close. Keep in mind that readers will not work for everyone. However, I do encourage you to set up an appointment to come in and give them a try. I would be happy to assist you with selecting the correct strength.
Jennifer C. Zack, M.S., CLVT
Clinical Director / Certified Low Vision Therapist
This information is courtesy of visionaware.org. Please visit their website at www.visionaware.org
CVS/pharmacy Now Offers "Talking" Prescription Labels for Individuals with Vision Impairments Through its Online Pharmacy
Date Posted: 03/18/2014
New service on CVS.com is the result of a collaboration with state and national organizations for the blind
Woonsocket, Rhode Island (March 18, 2014) — CVS/pharmacy announced today that it now provides ScripTalk talking prescription labels for prescriptions ordered for home delivery through its online pharmacy, CVS.com. The ScripTalk labels provide a safe and convenient way to access information on prescription labels for individuals who cannot read standard print. The ScripTalk labels are free to CVS.com pharmacy customers who are blind or visually impaired. Customers can also obtain a free ScripTalk reader from Envision America that will enable them to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label.
"We are pleased to offer the ScripTalk service to our online pharmacy customers who are visually impaired," said Josh Flum, Senior Vice President of Retail Pharmacy at CVS Caremark. "Enhancing access to important information about prescriptions is in keeping with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health."
Today's announcement is the result of collaboration between CVS/pharmacy, the American Foundation for the Blind, American Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind. These groups applauded CVS/pharmacy's actions.
"The lack of accessible labels on prescription drug containers puts people with vision loss at serious risk of medication mishaps,” said Paul Schroeder, Vice President of Programs & Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind. "We applaud CVS/pharmacy for taking steps to provide speech access to label information for customers with vision loss along with its willingness to evaluate methods to improve large print labels."
"This agreement is a positive step that allows for a greater level of privacy, safety, and independence for blind and visually impaired Americans of all ages who take prescription medications," said Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind.
"The California Council of the Blind applauds CVS's willingness to offer access to the information on prescription medication labels. As a result of this initiative, persons who are blind or visually impaired who use CVS mail order to fill their prescription needs will have the same direct, and independent access to label information as do sighted customers," stated Donna Pomerantz, President, California Council of the Blind.
CVS/pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE: CVS), is America's leading retail pharmacy with more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy and Longs Drug stores. CVS/pharmacy is reinventing pharmacy to help people on their path to better health by providing the most accessible and personalized expertise, both in its stores and online at CVS.com. General information about CVS/pharmacy and CVS Caremark is available at http://info.cvscaremark.com.
I'm passing along what seems to be some helpful information for those of you interested in accessible cell phone service. Please see below:
Odin Mobile is proud to announce a cell phone service dedicated to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. We make available accessible cell phones, including the ODIN VI, a basic cell phone that is one hundred percent accessible to individuals who are blind. The ODIN VI speaks everything that is on the screen, speaks the keys that you press and prompts you to perform functions. The ODIN VI is incredibly easy to use and is ideal for seniors and others for whom a smart phone is "too much phone" or too expensive. Please listen to a great podcast demonstrating the ODIN VI, created by one of our customers.
Odin Mobile also offers the Nexus from Google, which has the latest in Android accessibility. Our customers are provided tutorials on the Nexus from our expert in android accessibility.Learn more about our phones and service at www.odinmobile.com. The ODIN VI is also available at www.perkinsproducts.org. Articles in the media regarding Odin Mobile can be read here.