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Ofcom extends investigation into on-screen TV guides for blind people

Monday, August 10th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

An Ofcom consultation into how to make on-screen TV guides more accessible to blind and visually-impaired people has been extended for an extra month.

Any interested parties now have until the end of October to give their input on how to make the guides, known as Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs) more accessible.

Ofcom announced it was launching the consultation last month, saying that while people with visual impairments watch a similar amount of TV as other people, on-screen guides are often difficult for them to use.

It means they cannot plan their viewing, and so find it unnecessarily restricted.

Ofcom plans to amend the code of practice for Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs), making them easier for blind and visually-impaired people to use.

The telecoms watchdog is calling for input and feedback from interested parties including the RNIB and EPG providers, before it decides whether to proceed with a series of proposed improvements.

The potential improvements could include having EPG information on channels, programmes and navigation menus read out as speech to help visually-impaired viewers; magnifying parts of the EPG display to make it easier to read; and adding the option of a high contrast display.

Highlight programmes with audio description

Another possible change could be to highlight or list separately programmes with audio description or signing, making these easier to find.

The consultation was previously welcomed by blind musician Andre Louis, who told Cable.co.uk that better accessibility to audio description was “definitely needed”.

Mr Louis has previously called for a simpler system to access audio description, simple to the simple way that deaf people can access subtitles.

Ofcom has ruled that 83 UK channels, accounting for 90% of the UK’s TV audience share, will have to provide subtitles, signing or audio description on a percentage of their programming in 2016.

Most channels will have to provide subtitles for 80% of their programming, audio description for 10% and signing for 5%.

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky (excluding Sky’s sports channels) have committed to audio describing 20% of their content rather than the statutory 10%.

The closing date for responses to the Ofcom consultation on Electronic Programme Guides is now 30 October 2015.

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