There’s something that’s been bugging me recently, and that is that blind people haven’t really got it that easy when it comes to television in the UK, accessibility wise, that is.
This includes seeing what is on now, or flicking through the TV guide to see what’s on later.
If you don’t pay for your TV through a service like Sky or Virgin Media, where you can’t control your box through the mobile apps provided, you’re kind of stuck. Unless you buy a TV in the Panasonic Viera range of TV’s that have in built speech, that makes the EPG and most of the TV’s features accessible.
The other alternative is to buy a Freeview box, which acts like a satellite or cable box, accept it uses your regular TV arial to deliver the FreeView service. Most TV’s come with Freeview built in, but you still can’t access the EPG guide and other features. You can change channels, if you know the numbers, and turn it up and down, and that’s about it unless someone sited has sat with you and gone through button presses and whatnot. The RNIB used to have a solution to this, which was called a Goodmans Smart Talk freeview box
As I am registered blind on my TV licence, I was offered the opportunity to buy one of these for £40 as the analog channels were being switched off. This was a few years ago now, and it’s still just about working.
Then, the RNIB had another product. This was the TVonics DTR-HD500 talking Freeview HD recorder. As the name suggests, it is a talking FreeView HD box that also has a 500 GB hard drive built-in so shows can be recorded.
i wasn’t really interested in this when it came on to the market, as my current Freeview box was doing just fine. I decided to google around for it a few months ago, as my smart talk had started to become slow at changing channels, and was just generally showing its age by forgetting settings, ETC and I couldn’t really find much info on it. The RNIB know longer sold it in their online shop, however it was still mentioned on their accessing TV page. (No longer the case)
Can you get to the point please?
Fine. I emailed the RNIB, and asked them why they no longer sold it. At the time, it was still listed on the TV page, so I asked them why it was still listed. I also used the opportunity to have a little bit of a rant, and I’m going to have that rant again, but on my blog this time.
So if you’re still reading, odds on you’re interested in my rant. Well here goes.
This is the email I sent:
“I would like to know why you no-longer sell the TVonics DTR HD500 Free-view HD Recorder: . It is a great shame because you are basically forcing people who want to have an accessible TV to go out and spend hundreds up on hundreds of pounds which they may not be able to afford on a Panasonic TV with talking features instead.
I was glancing around at new free view boxes since my smart talk is a few years old now and is starting to get slow (well it always was), and preferably wanted to stick with a talking one, and wanted one with a hard drive so I could record shows. I’d get sky plus, but I’m currently a student at the Royal National College in Hereford, so this is not at all feasible.
We have a Panasonic talking TV at home, and I think it is brilliant, but it cost us £800, and I’m quite happy with my little 19 inch TV that I currently have sitting on my desk.
We also have sky plus at home, and I can manage to control that fine with a combination of iPhone apps and the remote itself, but again, it’s not feasible; plus, I really can’t afford it.
Yes, I know, I could just watch things on catch up services like the iPlayer, etc, but 4OD is a joke for accessibility on the mac, as is ITV player.
It also really irritates me that audio described programs aren’t put in the iPlayer apps, which I have contacted the BBC about, and got a very closed response.
SkyGo is ok on android and iOS, as is netflics, but neither of these offer audio described content.
Please write back soon.
I have also been told now that Virgin media’s television service is accessible with its iOS app, but that still doesn’t help my situation.
Did you get anything back?
As a matter of fact, I did.
I’ve cleaned up some of the formatting, but here it is:
“Dear Kiiran, (Notice the incorrect name)
Thank you so much for your E-Mail.
Appologies for the delay but we’ve been moving offices and are a bit
behind with responding.
It is not our choice believe us all of a sudden we found out that the
TVOnics is discontinued therefore we won’t be selling it anymore. It’s a
great shame, we know that and we ourselves really regret that we are not
selling it anymore. One of our comments has always been that it’s the
best thing after sliced bread. We are in communication with other
providers and hope to offer an alternative product in the future.
So not much comfort at the moment but atleast you know our position.
(RNIB employee; name removed, (call them XXX))”.
So not the response I was really hoping for, but it’s a response in any case.
The delay in question was approximately 11 days, so I’m not complaining about that, it didn’t really bother me, I just wanted to make my feelings known.
I will continue to enjoy sky Go and Netflics, and as much of catch up TV as I can, but as I am at home for the summer now, Sky has taken over as my main source for watching TV.
I will also point out here TV Catchup, but that doesn’t have as many channels as it used to.
In conclusion, I think a lot more could be done to make TV more accessible for visually impaired people in the UK, especially those on a budget who don’t have a high amount of income to have services like Sky, or Virgin Media.
I believe that visually impaired people have as much right to access as much television as they choose, as I believe quite a few of them would like to. However they still have this massive barrier in the way of finding out what is on now or later, unless they use the internet or a smart phone app, but I am yet to find a good TV listings app for FreeView channels that is accessible.
Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment section below.