In order to bring the benefits of Comcast’s new voice guidance technology to more people, the company is partnering with Philadelphia organizations dedicated to serving those with visual disabilities. 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.
Comcast is working with the following organizations in Philadelphia: Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inglis, and Overbrook School for the Blind.
“We are grateful for Comcast’s X1 system which is a great fit for our students because it encourages independence and self-sufficiency,” says Gerald Kitzhoffer, Executive Director and CEO of Overbrook School for the Blind. “Our students can now have immediate access to information and entertainment just like everyone else. As one of our students said about the X1, it’s ‘better than magic!’”
Comcast launched 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 Accessibility 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.”
“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.
“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 in Philadelphia. “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 and CEO. “We look forward to the development of new ways for people with complex physical disabilities to access digital information and entertainment.”
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.