Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Entertainment

This new remote is helping blind people watch cable

Comcast demonstrated a pair of accessibility-minded products this week at a tech meetup for people with visual impairments.

Members of the Maryland State Library for the Blind Technology User Group get a tutorial. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Full disclosure: Comcast was the title sponsor of Philly Tech Week 2015, a major event organized by Technical.ly's events team.

When you say “Let it Go,” Comcast’s new remote calls up “Frozen.” As Jerry Price found out, you can even sing it.
For many, the X1 Talking Guide and voice remote may be cool toys. For the blind community, however, it’s a crucial accessibility tool.
For blind people, watching TV is part of full participation in society. But as anyone who has faced down a channel guide knows, digital advances in cable have made it increasingly more difficult to navigate.
“Cable’s been around for about 50 years now, and finally someone is taking an interest in making it accessible,” Price said.
Price runs a technology user group at the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The group meets on the second Saturday of each month at the library, which is located near the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s central branch. Usually, the group draws about 15-20. On Monday, the meetup drew more than 40 people to Comcast’s Innovation Lab in White Marsh for a demonstration of the new remote.

Comcast's new voice remote. (Courtesy photo)

Comcast’s new voice remote. (Courtesy photo)

The voice remote uses technology that enables people to say what they’re looking for, whether it’s a show or movie, or, in cases like “Frozen,” a famous line. Then, the X1 Talking Guide system reads choices out loud as the user scrolls through. (For more on the making of the guide, read this piece about a former Comcast dev who helped build it.)
“It allows customers to turn on the television to where the guide will actually read to you what is highlighted,” said Comcast Director of Product Management Chad McCauley.
Along with making it easier to watch TV, the new technology allows blind people to access to on-demand features and DVR for the first time, Jerry Price said.
“All these years the DVR’s been around, no one has ever come up with a talking one,” said Price.

Companies: Comcast

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