There are lots of options for accessing TV, books, radio and the arts to keep you entertained. We've put together some suggestions for you.
Fancy watching something on TV?
There are many ways to access TV listings online from BBC iPlayer to TV guide. If you have some remaining vision, the RNIB offers an annual subscription to either their weekly ‘Big Print TV’ or ‘Big Print Freeview TV Guide’, posted to your house. You can subscribe by calling 0303 123 9999 or by emailing email@example.com.
How do I watch the TV?
There are two main ways of watching the TV. If you have remaining vision, you may be able to watch it visually. If not, then you could use audio description.
Watching TV with remaining vision
Have you tried moving your chair nearer to the TV? If you halve the distance between your chair and the TV, you’ll make the images twice the size. Alternatively, could you buy a bigger TV? Again, if you increase the screen size, you’re magnifying the images.
You can also buy TV viewing glasses that magnify the image (usually to around x2 magnification). These could be prescribed by your local Low Vision Service - In England or Scotland this would usually be via a low vision clinic, and in Wales this would be available from an optometrist. Alternatively, they can be bought from places such as Optima Low Vision Services.
Audio description tells you what’s happening on the screen. The visual elements of the content are described by a narrator who speaks when there is no dialogue. Not every programme is audio described on TV but there is a very good range of accessible programming.
There’s a host of accessible TV streaming content available on BBC iPlayer, particularly for those with sight loss. You can use the settings to customise your experience.
BBC iPlayer is particularly accessible if you use a screen reader on your smartphone or tablet. However, full audio description options are better on the iPlayer website rather than on the app. You can read details about the audio-described content on BBC iPlayer here
Netflix is exceptionally accessible either through the website or through the various apps on iPhone, Android, Apple TV or smart TV. You can also enable audio description on any device and one subscription will enable use on all of your devices. Netflix offers a large amount of audio-described content. Find more details of their audio description service, including how to set it up, titles available and more.
Apps and smart TVs
Apple TV is among the most accessible systems out there. It has a range of accessibility settings to allow you to change the contrast and size of printed text, and it also has a VoiceOver screen reader and can link up to 70 different types of Braille displays. Apple TV allows users to access content from the Apple Store such as movies, audiobooks, music and the Apple TV service, as well as Netflix, Spotify and YouTube.
Samsung Smart TVs come loaded with accessibility features that allow you to navigate using high contrast and an accessible voice guide. Some apps, such as Netflix, are also accessible through the in-built smart TV features as it links up to your broadband. At the time of writing (March 2021), however, other apps such as iPlayer and ITV Hub did not work with the voice guide.
Synapptic offers an all-in-one TV, home shopping and entertainment system with large simple menus and in-built screen readers. It also has magnification software that allows you to go online shopping, browse TV, etc.
Radio is arguably the most accessible format for people living with sight loss. Traditional FM and AM radios are usually easy to navigate even if you have no sight but you can also get adapted radios from the British Wireless for the Blind Fund
If you have a smartphone, you can access radio stations using apps such as TuneIn Radio. If you have a smart speaker, just tell it to play the station you want to listen to, for example, "Alexa play Heart Radio".
The BBC has an audio content app and service called BBC Sounds, where you can listen to BBC radio stations, podcasts, and other audio content such as plays, comedies, and dramas.
There are several services available from the traditional CD to web streaming, including:
- Calibre Audio, a free audiobook service for anyone who struggles to read printed material. Currently, it has over 11,000 unabridged books and adds around 700 titles each year.
- The RNIB offers a wide selection of newspapers and magazines in a range of formats
- Audible isn’t aimed specifically at those living with sight loss but provides various levels of subscription service for access to audiobooks and more. Although this is a general commercial service, it offers excellent access via a smartphone app and via smart speaker systems.
These can be used with personal voice streaming devices such as the Victor Reader Stream, which works with any Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format book to be a complete audio equivalent for printed books and materials.
If you have some remaining vision and prefer to read rather than listen to your books, then technology such as a Kindle could be a good option as you can increase the font size to suit your needs. Some libraries stock large-print books and the RNIB has a library where you can access books in various formats, including Braille.
If you are looking for large print books for children, then don’t forget to take a look at our CustomEyes Books! Membership is free and the books cost the recommended retail price no matter what the format.
Arts and culture
VocalEyes shares accessible ways to enjoy arts and culture from innovative audio-descriptive functions on YouTube, to streamed theatre performances with audio description and tactile museum tours.
Vision Buddy is a smart set of glasses that lets people with low vision see more of the environment around them. You can connect it to any set-top box and many different media devices and watch and listen to any content whilst choosing what you wish to enlarge. It also lets you use real-time magnification, to watch a theatre performance for example, and an in-built optical character recognition (OCR) system means you can hear text read aloud.