Accessibility Rocks

Power on!

In Accessibility Rocks

By Jimmy Podsim
Feb. 7, 2018 at 4:50 p.m.


“Power on.” Those words are music to my ears.  As a visually impaired person, I spent many years trying to watch TV only to be frustrated by not knowing what channel I was on and fumbling through the input options to try to get to the items connected to my TV.  To be perfectly honest, it made TV watching not worth my time.  However, there was a law passed that stated that all TV sets made after December 20, 2016 that had the hardware to support talking menus must do so.  Now I can enjoy TV along with the rest of the world.  


TVs with talking menus can tell a person who cannot see the screen, or have problems reading the screen many things   Knowing when the set turns off and on is only one example.  While changing channels the set tells you what channel you are on as well as any other text information provided by your TV provider.  The input or source button also allows a person to change between inputs an no longer have to guess at where they are.  As if this wasn’t enough to make my wife very happy, the setup menus and control menus talk as well.  This makes simple things like scanning for new channels, changing sound settings more easier for people who have trouble reading the screen or just cannot see it at all.  


Why am I telling you this?  Maybe you know somebody who is blind or is older and has trouble operating their TV simply because they have issues reading what is on the screen.  A simple thing like talking TV menus can make their lives a little more enjoyable.  


Now, here is the sad part.  My wife and I spent many hours going from place to place trying to find a TV with the talking menus before we got smart.  Nowhere on the box does any of these TVs tell you that they have talking menus.  We did internet searches and found TVs but when we went to the stores to check them out, we couldn’t find the particular models we found on the internet.  As a blind person who has dealt with talking products all my life, I’m not buying something I can’t make sure works like it should.  No disrespect, but sighted people looking at a screen while the TV talks does not tell me that that set is accessible.  Sighted people always see things that the speech does not say that makes things work for them, but because the speech did not say that one thing, it’s now not accessible.  We found that the best way to find a TV that works for us was to go to a store where they were on display and my wife was allowed to look through the menus.  


If you know somebody who might benefit from a TV with talking menus, here is what you need to do.  Go to a store that will allow you to take a look at the menus on the TV.  All TVs are different, but the main thing you want to look for is an accessibility menu.  If you find this menu, then more than likely you have found a TV that can have talking menus turned on.  Open the accessibility menu and look for either talking menus or screen reader.  If you find one of these, click on it and your TV should start talking to you.  In some menus you have to click on or off, it all depends upon how the menu structure is set up.  It changes from models and brands.  


Now you have your talking TV, but this does not mean the items connected to it are going to have talking menus.  Most cable companies can upgrade you to a cable box with talking menus if the one you have don’t already have them.  DirecTV and Dish Network have talking guides if you have the proper receivers.  Tivo’s newer receivers also have talking guides and menus.  And, of course, the Apple TV has always had talking menus.  There are other companies that make things with talking menus, you will just have to do a little research to find them.  Oh, and don’t let people tell you that Siri and Ok Google are for the blind.  They help the blind, but without a screen reader beside them they are almost useless to anybody who cannot read a screen.  


If this blog helps just one person, then I have done what I have set out to do.  In the future, I hope to post more blogs that might help people with vision problems.  So, stay tuned here and let’s see what my brain comes up with. 

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