Making TV more accessible
There are many ways of making TV more accessible and pleasurable to watch and enjoy when you are blind and partially sighted. London Vision runs Managing Sight Loss sessions regularly, and the All Things TV session is dedicated to making TV more accessible. To find about any other upcoming sessions, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
Making the most of your vision
Consider the position of your TV and how far you sit from it. Most people with low vision find sitting closer to the TV assists them to see the picture, as does increasing the size of the screen. Try to avoid any reflected light on the screen. Sometimes reducing the lighting in the room can assist as can sitting to one side of the screen or the other. Sitting close to the TV won’t damage your eyes or make your vision worse, however if you do feel uncomfortable move away and do something a little different.
For people with a reduced field of view or hemianopia following a stroke, sitting close to the TV or increasing the screen size may not work. A smaller screen with good contrast or indeed sitting slightly further away might bring better results.
Changing the TV’s contrast and colour settings may also help. However, colour and contrast is very personal, so a degree of experimentation is required to ensure the best settings for you.
Wall mounted stands with flexible arms can allow the TV to extend towards you and the screen to tilt to avoid glare or reflection, some wall mountings for TVs are simply brackets and allow limited flexibility.
You might also talk to your low vision provider about binocular glasses which some people find useful for watching TV.
Accessible remote controls
Remote controls can be small, fiddly and difficult to see. You might like to highlight some of the key functions on your remote by using Bump Ons (small tactile bumps available from RNIB) or in brightly coloured nail varnish or something similar. Placing a rubber band under the row of buttons you use most might help you find the button you want more quickly. Alternatively, you might want to utilise one of the accessible remotes available on the market the links below provide more information about accessible remote controls:
TV accessibility features
Most Smart TVs newer than 2015 come with a range of accessibility features, however, these do vary from model to model. If you are looking to upgrade your TV, ask the salesperson to switch on and demonstrate the features. The simplest way to turn on the accessibility menu is to press and hold the mute button located on the remote control. To leave the accessibility menu press the back button.
Features you should find:
- Voice guidance/talkback: this should read any text that appears on the screen, menus, programme guides and instructions. It won’t read subtitles that appear in the programme. Often voice guidance will stop working when entering an app such as Netflix or Disney plus.
- Audio description: this provides a description throughout the programme describing, scene, and action. Audio description does not read subtitles.
- Captions: subtitles for deaf and hearing impaired people size and contrast of captioning can be adjusted.
- High contrast: the changes the menus and programme guides to appear in higher contrast colours.
- Grey scale: this can make the menus more accessible to people with limited colour vision.
- Enlarge: increases font sizes on menus
- Learn remote: this feature speaks the buttons on the remote control allowing you to learn their location.
- Learn menu screen: allows you to learn menus without changing settings
- Zoom in/out: allows you to magnify areas of the screen.
TV guides can be a challenge for many blind and partially sighted people. Below are links to accessible online TV guides for the following TV top box providers and RNIB large print TV guides.
Top boxes are the TV boxes we use to watch various tv channels which include our traditional BBC channels.
The links below will introduce you to details of the accessibility features provided by the major TV service providers.
TVs and smart speakers
Smart speakers are small speaker devices which respond to simple voice commands and can connect to supporting apps on our smart phones and TVs. Below are links on how to connect a smart speaker to your TVs.
Researching – How to search for accessible TVs
We recommend that you try before you buy or research the best option for you: research the brand and model, visit shops and seek demonstrations. Take your time, don’t rush your purchase and don’t feel obligated to buy even if the salesperson has spent hours demonstrating accessibility features to you.
List of abbreviations
- AD – Audio Description
- VG – Voice guidance
- VC – Voice control
- EPG – Electronic Programme Guidance
Want more resources? Go back to the Managing Sight Loss course resources page.
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