Two weeks ago I purchased myself a Samsung Smart TV. In my final part of the Assistive Tech Tips series, I’m going to review the accessibility features that support people with sight loss navigate the Smart TV.
The product I purchased was a Samsung 43″ 4K Ultra HD Smart TV. My reason for choosing this model was because Samsung were given the Inclusive Society Award by RNIB for their work in making their Smart TV range accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
The first feature I want to mention is the voice commands.This isn’t specifically an accessibility feature but is still a valuable tool for people with sight loss. Rather than having to learn the entire layout of a TV remote, you can simply press one single button and dictate what you want to select. For example you can say “Channel 1, 2, 3 etc”, “TV Guide”, “volume up/down”, “Netflix”, “BBC iPlayer” plus much more. Unfortunately voice command is not compatible with external apps except to open them. In addition, voice command can be used to ask alternative questions such as “what time is it?” and “what’s the weather today?” – almost like a Samsung virtual assistant. The remote with the voice command microphone also has a control pad, select button, return button, Smart Hub button, timelaps button which pauses and rewinds live shows and channel changer/volume buttons. There is also a regular TV remote but so far I’ve navigated the TV mostly with the voice commands. This feature is already enabled when you begin using the Smart TV.
To open the accessibility menu you can either dictate “Accessibility” into the voice command microphone or on your remote press Smart Hub > Settings > Accessibility where you will see 10 accessibility features listed.
This feature reads aloud menus, buttons and other text information. To enable Voice Guide go to Accessibility > Voice Guide and turn Voice Guide on. You can also adjust the volume, speed and pitch. This feature can be used on live and recorded TV, Netflix, Youtube and the internet. However it is unavailable to use on the catch up services including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4. I have been trying to find a way to access these services via my iPad onto the TV but so far no luck. Therefore, at present, I’m having to ask a sighted person to select a programme on the catch up services.
This feature describes events on a television programme when there is no dialogue. For example “He stares at the woman in shock”, or “She picks up her phone and types ‘Yes I’ll be there'”. To enable Audio Description, go to Accessibility > Audio Description and turn it on. You can also adjust the volume of the audio description. Not all programmes will provide audio description. To see if a programme does have it, go to the programme description and find an AD symbol at the end..
High Contrast/Greyscale/Colour Invert
These three items are seperate tools but provide similar support. High Contrast turns the TV menus to white text on black background and is my prefered setting, Greyscale turns the menus black & white and Invert Colour inverts the colours on menus, apps and images (e.g blue turns orange). You can only use one of these features. To enable one of these, go to Accessibility then turn on either High Contrast, Greyscale or Invert Colour.
Learn TV remote/Menus
Due to me using the voice commands feature, I’ve not really needed to learn the TV remote or menus. However if you prefer using the TV remote and scrolling through menus, I suggest you use the Learn TV remote and menus feature. This will give you a audio orientation into the remote buttons and on screen menu layouts.
This feature can enlarge the text on the menus. However there are no multiple choices in text sizes; just an on/off switch. For my vision the larger size makes no difference but it may help other partially sighted people. To enable it go to Accessibility and turn on Enlarge.
Hard of hearing support
In addition, there are also a couple of features to support people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The first is subtitle settings and the second is multi audio output where you can connect to Bluetooth headphones and speakers.
Due to not being able to access some of the catch up services independently, I chose to try the old-fashioned recording avenue instead. However there has been a couple of technical problems with this too. To do this, I first had to purchase an external hardrive to plug into my TV. Then I went to TV Guide to schedule programmes I wanted to record. Unfortunately, many of my schedule recordings have not been successful and not appearing in my hard drive folder. After doing a little research online, many other people say they have had difficulty recording programmes too. I’m aiming to research this in more detail soon but for now I will just have to stick to sighted people helping me access catch up services.
Overall, I am enjoying my experience of my Samsung Smart Tv so far. I love using the voice commands, voice guide and accessing Netflix and YouTube independently. I’m eager to resolve the issue of accessing catch up services and being able to record programmes but I understand this can take some time. If you have a Samsung smart TV yourself and can suggest any further accessibility features or ways to resolve the issues I’ve mentioned, please let us know in the comments box or on social media.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series and gained some useful advice and tips. To see the full series please check out Assistive Tech Tips here.