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Breaking Barriers: Crafting an inclusive TV experience for All... Beyond Audio Description and Captions

taught by: Alpesh Danabhai Ahir
co-presented by: Sam Joehl

Session Summary

This session will explore some of the barriers, limitations, and solutions around creating inclusive experiences for television and streaming media interfaces. We will offer practical best practices with demonstrations and examples of ways to make these experiences more enjoyable for everyone.


As technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed, it is important that individuals with disabilities are not left behind the ever-changing landscape of entertainment.

In this session, we will be discussing and demonstrating (with examples and video clips) the challenges that the users may face including assistive technology support, the information being conveyed only visually, navigation using the remote control, and challenges with orientation. Also, some limitations on various platforms include inconsistent accessibility features, repeating screen reader announcements.

Televisions, set-top boxes, media players, and gaming devices have only begun to include features that allow greater access by individuals with disabilities. The feature set and degree of access can vary among platforms, models, and ecosystems. This can present challenges in creating equitable experiences for all users across the entertainment landscape. Thanks to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), text-to-speech is now included in all TVs and media players made or sold in the United States, but how do you take a complex, immersive visual experience and make the same information available in a nonvisual form that is easily understood and operated? How do you guide a user to navigate a complex visual interface using a 4-directional remote control? How do you decide in which order information on the screen should be spoken? And how do you accommodate the absence of features critical to screen reader operation such as the ability to repeat or spell information, read areas of the screen that don’t receive focus, and enter and review text using an easily navigable keyboard?

In addition to discussing the challenges and limitations presented in the media space, we will provide various solutions to overcome these barriers including whether to use platform-provided screen reader and APIs or create custom text-to-speech strings prioritizing the order in which information is spoken, providing multiple modes of input, grouping related information that appears on various parts of the screen, locating a QR code or other visual information using speech, providing hints to better understand different layouts and orientations, providing text alternatives for UI elements, and adapting color contrast to the big screen.

Practical Skills

  • Understand challenges and limitations in various TV ecosystems and their impact on users with disabilities.
  • Understand the differences between designing and developing interfaces and experiences on TV as compared to web and mobile interfaces and experiences.
  • Learn best practices and practical guidelines to create more inclusive TV interfaces and experiences.