Comcast today announced it is partnering with organizations dedicated to serving people with visual disabilities to bring the company’s new voice guidance technology to more people. The "talking guide" is a feature on the X1 platform that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings, giving users the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.
This Sunday, Comcast will launch a national campaign during the 2015 Academy Awards called "Emily’s Oz" that is intended to spark an even bigger conversation about how people with disabilities enjoy entertainment.
"We want to create opportunities for people who love film and television, but who might not have the opportunity to experience it to its fullest," said Tom Wlodkowski, who was hired as Vice President of Audience in 2012 to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities. "By bringing the talking guide to as many people as possible, we can help to bridge that gap and make entertainment just as compelling, captivating and fun for people with a visual disability as it is for anyone else."
Comcast is working with the following organizations and evaluating additional groups within the company’s service area:
- Associated Services for the Blind – Philadelphia, PA
- Carroll Center for the Blind – Newton, MA
- Colorado Center for the Blind – Littleton, CO
- Inglis – Philadelphia, PA
- Miami Lighthouse – Miami, FL
- Overbrook School for the Blind – Philadelphia, PA
- Perkins School for the Blind – Watertown, MA
"Emily’s Oz" features a seven-year-old girl who was born blind and highlights her description of what she sees when she watches her favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz™. Some of Hollywood’s top directors, set designers and make-up artists then went to work to bring her vision to life. The voice over for the commercial is provided by two-time Academy Award winner Robert Redford.
Here’s what some organizations are saying about Comcast’s new talking guide:
"One of the most important things we can do at Miami Lighthouse is to give blind and visually impaired people the tools to be independent, and help them navigate their world," said Virginia Jacko, President & CEO of The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. "The X1 talking guide from Comcast represents a huge leap forward in helping the blind and visually impaired learn how they can experience and enjoy their television entertainment in ways they could not even imagine before, and it reinforces what we teach here at Miami Lighthouse, that it’s possible to see without sight."
"With X1, Comcast has taken the initiative to break barriers and change the way we look at television," said Patricia C. Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. "The new talking guide will open doors to entire communities of individuals who are blind or sight impaired, providing them the opportunity to have immediate access to information as well as entertainment."
"As a leader in supporting people with disabilities, Inglis is pleased to be able to work with Comcast, a leader in technology, as a testing site for its X1 and Talking Guide platforms," said Gavin Kerr, Inglis President & CEO. "We look forward to the development of new ways for people with complex physical disabilities to access digital information and entertainment."
"We’re very excited about the inclusion of accessibility in the X1 entertainment operating system for Comcast’s blind and visually impaired customers," said Dan Burke, Public Relations Specialist at Colorado Center for the Blind. "The talking guide means that we can now have the same information and control with menus, settings and programming as anyone else. It makes watching our favorite shows and movies all about the entertainment, rather than about trying to find them."
The talking guide is the latest in a series of innovations created in the Comcast Accessibility Lab. In addition to voice guidance and one-touch access to closed captioning, Comcast created an online help and support resource for Xfinity customers looking for information about accessibility-related topics.