Blind and partially sighted people face significant barriers in using television products. Where content is concerned, the DTG and the UK have been pioneers in the provision of audio description, a major feature to give this user group an equivalent experience in consuming television programmes.
However, in addition to content accessibility, the television product itself, its User Interface (UI), also needs to be accessible to people with sight loss. A talking interface can provide a substantial improvement in accessibility and usability for this group of consumers.
Such talking features provide a spoken alternative to the visual menus and other components of the default interface. By using text-to-speech in a television solution, a person operating the product via the spoken interface will receive the same feedback and be able to perform the same tasks as someone using the default (visual) interface.
The Digital TV Group, working with organisations representing blind and partially-sighted users, has been a pioneer in this field. It started work on text-to-speech in 2007, bringing together industry and other stakeholders to write a technical specification for Text to Speech (this has since been included in the U-Book). This initial specification was referred to in the UK Government’s Usability Action Plan.
Later, this excellent piece of work by DTG was adopted by DigitalEurope and taken to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This led to the IEC setting up a project group and creating International Standard IEC 62731:2013: Text-to-speech for television – General requirements.
As a result of this work, we have seen more and more solutions with integrated text-to-speech (talking features) being introduced to the UK market.
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