Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2013: 8. Real Potential in Access to Set Top Boxes


It's time for another post in our annual look back at the year in assistive technology, the Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2013. This year's panel included J.J. Meddaugh, Jamie Pauls, Alena Roberts, and Joe Steinkamp. We'll be counting down the top stories of the year over the coming days and anounce the number one on Wednesday at 4 PM Eastern on Serotalk. In case you missed them, here are our earlier stories on the countdown. Number 8 involves some encouraging news from Comcast.

Well, I've done it and gone out on what apparently is a huge limb, as one of my personal best stories of the year was absent from most of the other lists. But when it comes to the big picture (no pun intended) I feel Comcast's accessibility work deserves a place in the countdown.

There is likely not a more Ubiquitously piece of inaccessible technology than the television. Nearly every home has one, but blind people are largely relegated to the simplest of functions such as changing channels or adjusting the volume. And while some companies are working on solutions to accessible television, the real turnabout will come when access is available for set top boxes, as this is how virtually all cable and satellite providers deliver their programming. With a likely prod from the 21st Century Communications Act, Comcast appears to be the first to take this challenge seriously, employing a team of usability experts including blind employees to design an accessible set top box. These boxes perform dozens of functions from loading on-demand content to adjusting audio description settings but none have been made accessible as of this writing. Comcast is aiming to change this and hopes to release a working unit in 2014. And for those of you who are not Comcast customers, technology such as this is often licensed and shared with other companies, so the same experience may hit your living room as well.

The television is often the meeting place for families and the centerpiece of evening entertainment for many. Soon, blind people will be able to be fully involved in this experience and have a true say in what is shown on the tube. It's why Comcast's accessibility work is number 8 on our list.

Category: Articles

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.


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