Guide: How to survive and thrive online

It’s important for all internet users to know how to stay safe online and avoid scams. Yet with an increasing number of unscrupulous schemes targeted specifically at those with additional accessibility needs, it’s more vital than ever to be aware of how to protect yourself. Fortunately, there’s a lot of good as well as bad online, like a wealth of on demand TV players. Here’s our two-in-one guide to avoiding being ripped off, and finding the most accessible online TV players.

How to avoid online dangers

There are a number of techniques that scammers use to trick you into revealing key information about yourself online. Whether it’s trying to get you to download free software that will secretly monitor your online activity or steal your log-in details, passwords or financial information, going online can be a risky business.

You may receive emails claiming to be from legitimate businesses. The design of the messages may look identical to the real thing, but perhaps have come from an email address that doesn’t match the company in question. Whatever the case, here are some practical steps to protecting your PC, laptop, tablet or phone.

Pick complex passwords and change them regularly

Try to avoid predictable passwords (like “password”) when you’re setting up the security for your email, social media, internet banking or online shopping accounts. While many sites will prompt you if your selected password isn’t seen as secure enough, picking something that’s a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and non-sequential numbers can help keep your details safe. Also, remember to change them regularly to increase the security of your online accounts.

Beware free software downloads

Hackers can hide viruses, spyware, malware and other data-gathering software in free downloads like screensavers, games or applications. Try to ensure that any downloads come from reputable sources, and run virus checkers on anything before it’s installed.

Look for the padlock

If you’re shopping online or doing your internet banking, keep an eye open for a closed padlock icon in your browser. This, plus website addresses that begin HTTPS rather than the normal HTTP, prove that the site you’re on is
secure.

Know what your computer’s alerts look like

A common trick to encourage you to download dodgy software is to mimic error message popups that you might get with Windows or other major operating systems. Knowing what these really look like can help you avoid clicking on these fake alerts

Password protect your Wi-Fi

While most routers come with a default password, few consumers change it once installed. To keep your Wi-Fi connection as safe as possible and to limit the chance of anyone using your internet connection illicitly, change it to something that’s difficult to guess.

Accessible TV

There’s a wealth of options available to catch up on your favourite TV programmes, but how do they measure up if you’re looking for accessible features? Whether you want Audio Descriptions, subtitles or signing, this is how the major catch-up providers compare.

iPlayer

If you’re watching the BBC catch-up service on your desktop, you should find that almost every programme has subtitles – but disappointingly, this isn’t the case for any mobile versions of the player.
Both Sign Zone and Audio Described programming is listed in the Categories menu, making shows with either facility easier to find. Like subtitling, Audio Description and signed programming isn’t available on mobile versions of the iPlayer. Fortunately, all versions of the iPlayer app are compatible with screen-reading software.

ITV Player

At the time of writing, the ITV Player doesn’t feature either Audio Description or SignPosting facilities, but the network says it “hopes to be able to offer these services in the near future”. 
According to the ITV Player site, around 70% of on demand content has subtitles, but as with iPlayer, this facility isn’t available on mobile devices.

4oD

If a programme was originally transmitted with Audio Description on, then you’ll find it will still have it on 4oD. For users of Jaws or NVDA screen readers, the 4oD player is fully compatible and can be controlled via the keyboard (Tab cycles through screen options, Shift + Tab cycles backwards while the Spacebar or Enter activate any controls, buttons or links).

A word of caution to Dragon speech recognition users: your voice controls won’t work on the fullscreen version of 4oD. 

Demand5

The Channel 5 player Demand5 is controllable via the keyboard (spacebar or enter to play and pause, arrow keys to fast forward or rewind). Any programmes with subtitles feature an ‘S’ icon at the bottom of the video player and will start automatically when you view the show.

Although there’s no list on the Channel 5 website of which shows have Audio Description, subtitles or are signed, the (S), (AD) and (SL) descriptors on the standard listings can help you find what you’re looking for.

Sky Go

We’ll focus on the positive first: Sky offers a Sky Talker set-top box, which provides speech-controlled access to programme and channel information and Sky+ play/pause functions. The £60 box means anyone who is blind or partially sighted can access Sky TV more easily.

Now the bad news: there are no subtitles, signing services or Audio Descriptions for any on demand content on the Sky Go platform. This is a major omission for such a major broadcaster.

Virgin TV Anywhere

If you’re accessing the Virgin Media player on your computer, you should find that keyboard controls, screen reader navigation and other accessibility features still work. Yet again, however, viewers seeking signed programming, Audio Description or subtitles will be out of luck: the Virgin TV Anywhere player doesn’t support any of these standard accessibility features.

NowTV

In something of a recurring theme, on demand service Now TV isn’t particularly accessible. There are no subtitles, Audio Description or signed features available for viewers who have additional needs.

YouTube

Ending things on a high note, video-streaming site YouTube takes a proactive approach to accessibility. An increasing number of videos on the service feature subtitles or auto-captioned text. Although YouTube generally uses a voice-to-text software package to auto-generate the subtitles and captions that appear on its videos, it’s an invaluable addition to a site with such a wealth of online content.

Researched and written in partnership with Ofcom Accredited broadband deals comparison site www.cable.co.uk