I often say that technology can be a great equalizer. And my two decades of experience working on accessibility has taught me that new innovations can really serve to bring all types of people together, especially those with disabilities.
This was our vision when we launched the industry's first TV talking guide and after just a few months in the market, the early results are encouraging. In April, the talking guide feature was activated on more than 650,000 X1 boxes nationwide. We tracked more than 73 million utterances – the announcement of a channel, show title or menu item being read aloud – during that same month.
While these stats are exciting, the thing that continually inspires our team is the feedback we get from people who are using the talking guide. One of our Pennsylvania customers, who has been blind since he was three, wrote about what the feature means to him:
"It is very difficult to express the feeling one gets from independence. It’s something I fear is often taken for granted … Comcast has not just provided a new feature, they’ve made a bold move to send a powerful message - a message of hope - a message that every person matters."
Similarly, a disability advocate who was part of our talking guide trial, shared how a little thing, like being able to set your DVR for the first time, can make a huge difference:
"Programming my DVR is one of the most empowering things I have ever done with my TV. My wife and I are both blind so thanks to this new feature, we no longer have to choose between going out to dinner or catching our favorite show."
Feedback like this is causing others to take notice too. Just last night, I was proud to accept the FCC’s Advancement in Accessibility Award, which honors companies that develop products for people with disabilities. The award is part of the FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, an effort that encourages dialogue between companies, developers, government and consumers about accessible solutions. The talking guide received similar recognition from the Associated Services for the Blind, the American Association of People with Disabilities and the American Foundation for the Blind.
While awards and recognition are great, we know we are still just scratching the surface of what’s possible. Technology can be a big part of the solution in making that happen and also play a role in opening new doors to independence. Moving forward, we’ll continue to make our entertainment, communications and smart home products just as meaningful for people with disabilities as they are for anyone else.