Thursday 8 December 2016

Sponsored feature: Digital TV switchover 2012 - don't be left behind if you have weak eyesight

Published 13/02/2012 | 16:43

At the end of 2012, all television in Ireland will be broadcast on digital only and analogue broadcasting will cease. While many consumers have already switched to digital services, recent figures from RTÉ (September 2011) reveal that 600,000 (37%) of Irish TV households receive some television services through an aerial and 335,000 (21%) receive only free analogue television through an aerial.

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But what does this changeover mean for you if you have weak eyesight? In order to ensure that you are not left behind in the switch-off of analogue television 2012, the key will be to ensure that the new equipment that you purchase includes the tools for spoken output, plus full control of the size and colour of on-screen text, menus, subtitles and Electronic Programme Guides.

Anyone who wants to continue to watch tv after the digital switchover will need to buy new digital equipment, install it and learn how to use it. A new digital set top box will cost approximately €50. Other consumers may require a new or adjusted aerial, costing in the region of €150. Saorview is Ireland’s new digital television service.

Take the time to research the best equipment for your visual needs, is the advice from the people at TV Access, a coalition of a large number of organizations in Ireland. They want to ensure that there is clear access to television in the digital age for everybody, including those with weak eyesight and visual impairment.

The TV Access Group is undertaking a range of activities in awareness raising, representation, advising, lobbying and user testing to ensure that the following requirements are met:

Digital television equipment such as ‘set top boxes’ and remote controls must be fully accessible and easy to use. The equipment should allow access to subtitles and audio description with programmes. To facilitate people with vision impairments the equipment should provide spoken output and control over the size and colour of on-screen text, including menus, subtitles and Electronic Programme Guides (EPG’s)

Broadcasters should provide more subtitling, audio description and Irish Sign Language with programmes

Information about the digital switchover scheme should be communicated in a wide range of accessible and easy to understand formats, including large print, Braille and Plain English.

People With Weak Eyesight May Have Difficulties: The TV Access Group point out that Digital television may be difficult to understand, set up and use for some people, including those with vision impairment. They say that some people may find the new equipment difficult to set up and use because digital television is more complex than analogue with many more channels and functions. People with weak eyesight may have difficulties using on-screen programme guides and menus. They point out that talking set top boxes with easy to use remote controls and options to change the size and colour of screen text are currently available for UK Freeview, but not compatible with Saorview.

A really useful tool for those with weak eyesight is Audio Description, which is a spoken running commentary inserted between the dialogue in a film or television programme to provide a verbal description of objects, actions, body language and other important visual information. Digital television allows the audio description to be sent as a separate stream alongside the programme and combined by the digital receiver at the viewers’ request. In order to access it the viewer must have a receiver that is capable of reproducing it - but not all are.

Do Your Research On the Digital TV Switchover 2012, is the main message for those with weaker eyesight. The following websites all provide useful information:

www.saorview.ie – Ireland’s new digital tv service. This includes information on the latest news, how to switch, Saorview approved products and how to find a retailer. There is an information booklet on the service available to download in clear and large print and there is also an audio copy available by calling their helpline number at Lo Call 1890222012.

www.tvaccess.ie – TV Access is a coalition of a large number of organizations concerned with access to television for people in the digital age, including those with visual impairment, particularly after the analogue switch off in 2012. This website includes all the latest developments, information and news.

www.ncbi.ie – Working for people with sight loss, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland produces an audio version of the RTÉ Guide which contains television and radio listings for the week ahead. There is an annual subscription of €10 for this service.

www.sky.com - Sky television provides an audio description channel for customers with vision impairment. Audio description helps people understand the programme or film. It offers an additional soundtrack around the original programme sound and provides descriptions of facial expressions, body language, actions, scenery and costumes. For more information contact Sky on 0818 719800

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