Blind people watch tv?

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At midnight tonight, I know of at least one of my local stations that is going all digital and will no longer broadcast an analog signal.  Congress delayed the deadline until June of this year, but some stations are prepared and are going to embrace this new way of broadcasting sooner rather than later.  You can get details and a list of all channels in the U.S that are affected by going to channel3000’s web site.

There has been much debate over how this change will affect TV viewers with disabilities.  Of course they offer the converter boxes that you can hook up to your analog television in place of your rabbit-ears, but some have said that these are difficult to set up, particularly for those who are blind or visually impaired.  You can of course continue to use cable or satellite if you have and can afford that, but what would happen if those services are disrupted?  And it’s no secret that most cable boxes, DVRs and satellite receivers are also very difficult to use if you are blind.  I have long thought that and been frustrated with the menu-driven options that are not available at all to me.  This change to digital broadcasting will also make the TV radio inoperable, something that many blind people use rather than a television set.  So this change could possibly keep people from being informed and yes entertained by television.

One solution could be watching TV on your computer.  I spent quite a bit of time looking for accessible sites that offer TV shows, both local and National.  What I found is that most of the National stations, such as ABC.com are very inaccessible.  ABC forces you to download and use their special player, which is impossible to work with using the keyboard and jaws, trust me, I tried everything.  So any show that is on ABC and nowhere else is not available to me.  Most of the local station’s websites are also inaccessible, or at best difficult to get around.

One site that works pretty well is hulu.com.  Most of the popular shows are available there, but not all shows.  For example, I can watch 24 right from this site, but if I want to watch Lost or other ABC shows, I have to use ABC’s player and website.  However, hulu’s platform is reasonable and you can find and play the available shows using your keyboard and jaws.  WwiTV is another site that you can find stations from all over the world, some of which you can stream directly from their site, but many local stations referenced here will link you to that station’s website, which are most often not accessible.  Of course these sites operate best if you have access to a high-speed connection, which many disabled people do not.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Do you delay progress?  Can this change be made easier for the disabled somehow?  At least there is more than one option out there and maybe through one of them, everyone will continue to take pleasure in one of the oldest past times around.

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