Options for 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. This Guide has been produced in partnership with Ofcom-accredited broadband deals comparison site www.cable.co.uk

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

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