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Freeview Play rolls out Accessible TV Guide

October 30, 2020

Freeview has started the roll-out of its Accessible TV Guide, available on Channel 555 through Freeview Play devices.

Freeview says this is the first time that a dedicated solution to make television easily accessible to people with visual or hearing impairments has been made available on a UK TV platform. Freeview’s Accessible TV Guide will make it easier for all audiences to find content.

The guide was developed with insight from viewers and advocacy groups, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Scope and the Digital Accessibility Centre. Even before launch, it won the plaudits of the industry, scooping a Gold at this year’s Connected TV Awards for ‘Advancing the User Experience’.

The new TV guide meets all four requirements outlined in Ofcom’s amended code for Electronic Programme Guides, with a high-contrast User Interface, screen-magnification, a text-to-speech function and the ability to customise the guide to suit the viewer’s needs with audio description, subtitles or sign language. The guide works in the same way across all Freeview Play devices and can be used straight out of the box.

Currently available on TV sets from Panasonic, LG, and Toshiba, the new TV guide will be rolling out across the full range of Freeview Play devices over the coming months. Alongside regular updates that will incorporate user feedback, more features are set to launch on the guide including the integration of Freeview Play’s on demand content recommendations, which will also be filtered according to each viewer’s accessibility needs.

Vikki Cook, Broadcast Policy and D&I Director, Content Policy at Ofcom, commented: “Ofcom welcomes the launch of Freeview’s accessible TV guide. People with visual and hearing impairments watch just as much TV as everybody else but they can face particular difficulties in using on-screen programme guides. Today’s announcement is a demonstration of how platforms such as Freeview can work collaboratively with manufacturers, charities and consumer groups to deliver Ofcom’s requirements in its updated code for programme guides. This kind of innovative approach to accessibility can help ensure that the choice of viewing for people with visual and hearing impairments isn’t unnecessarily restricted.”

Gary Thomas, Low Vision Team Leader at the Digital Accessibility Centre, commented: “This is a market leading product. I know of no other TV platform with this level of accessibility options. Freeview’s Accessible TV Guide is a one stop shop, with the option to filter programmes by subtitles, audio description and sign language. It’s easy to follow, and its default text-to-speech feature is a welcome original feature to help blind and visually impaired users. As a blind user, the Accessible TV Guide will allow me to read, plan, and access programs independently which has not been possible for many years.”

John Paton, Innovation and Technology Officer at RNIB, said: “This new guide is a truly innovative step forward in TV accessibility for blind and partially sighted people. Once the roll out is complete the guide will be available to anyone with a Freeview Play television or set-top box, and the channel number 555 is easy to find due to the tactile dot on the five button. This will make a huge difference in TV viewing for millions of people with sight loss across the UK.”

Simon Hunt, Director of Strategy and Business Development for Freeview Play, added: “Great content has the power to bring us all together. However, underpinning this is the ease in which we can all find what to watch and discover new shows. The new Accessible TV Guide will help millions of viewers with visual impairments, hearing loss and other accessibility needs to get so much more out of their TVs, and we are so pleased to be starting the roll out across Freeview Play.”

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