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Ofcom opens up EPGs to the visually impaired

A picture showing the Freeview Play Electronic Programme Guide

Providers of Electronic Programme Guides (EPG) will now have to ensure that visually impaired people can benefit from additional accessibility features.

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has amended the EPG Code to ensure that those will visual impairments will be able to use the programme guides "in the same way that people without such disabilities use them". Ofcom noted that so far, it's been difficult for visually impaired people to find programmes that carry audio description using current EPGs.

The amendments to the EPG Code sets a new practice for EPG providers to use reasonable endeavours to secure, so far as practicable, that their EPGs include facilities for users to do all or as many as possible of the following, or to introduce accessibility features that would be equally effective: 

  • render text needed for EPG navigation and the provision of information on channels and programmes included in the EPG as speech (‘text-to-speech’ functionality or ‘TTS’); 
  • highlight or list separately programmes with audio description, and with signing (‘filtering or highlighting’ functionality); 
  • adjust the display of EPG information so that it can be magnified, or the text enlarged (‘magnification’ functionality); and 
  • switch between the default and ‘high contrast’ displays (‘high contrast displays’). 

Ofcom says the changes to the EPG Code that it has decided to make, following a consultation earlier this year, will take effect from today. 

However, the practice to provide the new accessibility features (or to introduce equally effective measures) will apply to EPGs made available, via all consumer TV receivers, beginning development after 27 July 2018 (i.e. one month from publication of this statement), and any subsequent models. 

Additionally, Ofcom will require EPG providers to submit an annual report on the accessibility of their EPGs and their future plans. The regulator says it will use this report to monitor progress and to give consumers comprehensive information on the accessibility of available EPGs. The first annual report under the revised rules will be due by 30 November 2018.