Digital TV

UK Digital Changeover Help Scheme

Under a 'help scheme' funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport with the BBC, eligible households can receive a Freeview set-top box with audio-description and other special access features for just £40, including installation and some training (see ).

For an extra charge households can receive further subsidised systemssuch as a satellite TV service.

Ultimately around 7 million UK households would qualify for support under the help scheme, including people aged 75 and over; people claiming disability living allowance; and people registered as blind or partially sighted.

However, despite the scheme's equipment including features such as a user-friendly remote control and compatibility with audio description of programmes, the electronic programme guides do not 'speak'. "This is our main concern," RNIB Media and Culture Department Manager Leen Petré told E-Access Bulletin this week. "Once that help scheme person is out of the door, how will blind people know what channel they are on?"

A joint government and BBC emerging technologies committee will review the findings of the pilot in February and make a recommendation about changes to the set-top boxes, including speaking menu options, Petré said. A decision would then have to be taken on inclusion of any new features; and also on how these would be funded, whether by the help scheme partners or by TV users. "We would hope it doesn't affect the price which users have to pay," Petré said.

Last month the charity Age Concern welcomed the help scheme, but said their own research had shown that many older people in Whitehaven had not been ready for the change. "The experience of Whitehaven residents signals that such support needs to be given earlier," the charity said.

The change over from analogue to digital TV broadcasting in the UK is starting to impact how viewers watch TV. All users - disabled as well as able bodied - will need to select TV programmes and schedule recordings using an on-screen electronic programming guide, or EPG for short.

Anyone using a Sky or Freeview set top box will already be using an EPG accessed through the remote that came with their receiver.

But individuals with limited hand and finger dexterity will likely find it difficult to press the small buttons on standard remotes and, instead, may prefer a large button or an adapted remote to select programmes on their digital TV, Sky or Freeview receiver.

To address this issue we have started work on a switch adapted, larger button, remote that will help disabled individuals navigate more easily the EPG.

We are calling these IR remotes "Domino". The one pictured above uses large buttons arranged in a convenient layout to navigate an on-screen EPG. We can also made it switch accessible for individuals that may need to select programmes using a switch adapted remote.

CE testing has been completed successfully and Domino-EPG will be available in August 2008.

Switch Accessible Remotes

Domino infra-red remotes

Domino is a programmable infra-red (IR) device that can "learn" the control codes from a wide range of TV, DVD, video recorders, toys and environmental remotes.

Each Domino remote has four "mode" buttons (yellow) and six "action" buttons (white) that can be used to control any series of actions the user selects. For example, if one of the mode buttons was programmed to control a TV then the user my choose to assign these functions to the six action buttons:- on / off
- channel up
- channel down
- volume up
- volume down
- mute

Similar actions could be assigned for a wide range of other household appliances.

If the user wishes to re-assign one of the mode buttons to another appliance all that is required is to teach Domino the new codes.

All of the buttons can be made switch adapted so that any standard 3.5mm switch can be used to control the same appliances through Domino.

CE testing has been completed successfully and Domino will be available in August 2008.

Image: Domino-EPG

Accessible Remote Controls

Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote

A new device to replace the usual clutter of remotes lying around the house.

Install the software from the included CD, create a member login for your Harmony remote, then follow the step-by-step instructions. The online set up wizard will guide you through the process of getting the Harmony to work with your system—just pick your components from the list of more than 5,000+ manufacturers and 175,000+ devices, and Harmony will do the rest. Your preferences will automatically be saved online, then transfered to your remote via the included USB cable.

Online setup
Connect your Harmony remote to your computer, and the set up wizard will walk you through the step-by-step process. Enter the model numbers for your components, answer a few easy questions about how you “Watch TV” or “Watch a DVD,” and Harmony does the rest.

More about how the Logitech Harmony . . .

Logitech Harmony One Review

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