I had a blind friend growing up, who navigated the channels on his cable box by memorizing how many clicks it took to get to his favorite channels. But back then, there were maybe fifty or sixty channels to deal with. These days, with literally hundreds of channels (and nothing on), even those of us with the benefit of eyesight can easily get lost in the sheer deluge of content.
That’s why Comcast is testing a version of its channel guide software that literally reads the listings out loud. A team lead by a blind executive at Comcast is building on research he did while at WGBH in Boston.
Of course, don’t think this is all about virtue. As Philly.com points out:
The Twenty-First Century Communications and Accessibility Act of 2010, passed on the 20-year anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, is forcing technology companies to integrate accessibility functions into products. It’s believed that, in three years, talking interfaces will have to come with TV products.
Wlodkowski thinks he also can drive business. People with disabilities account for $200 billion in discretionary spending power, and catering to their needs, he believes, can boost brand loyalty.
Either way, good for Comcast. It’s pretty amazing how much of a difference these accessibility features can mean to those with disabilities. For example, my vision-impaired friend finds the iPhone’s accessibility features absolutely indispensable. So kudos to Comcast for taking the initiative to do the right thing before being forced to do so. Now if the company could only get descriptive video service on more channels.