World Blind Union Office 1929 Bayview Avenue Toronto, on m4G 3E

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The World Blind Union (WBU) is a non-political, non-religious, non-governmental and non-profit-making organisation, representing over 160 million blind and partially sighted persons in 177 member countries. It is an internationally recognised organisation that brings together major establishments of blind and partially sighted persons and those providing services and programmes to them from around the world.
This document specifies WBU user requirements that would make television receiving equipment accessible to blind and partially sighted people. It was commissioned by the World Blind Union and developed by its members.
The overall objective of this report is to establish a set of internationally accepted user guidelines and requirements based on the needs of blind and partially sighted people. It seeks to advise and inform television manufacturers, content providers, regulatory and standardisation bodies and other relevant stakeholders of the needs of their blind and partially sighted consumers without stifling creativity or innovation.

1. Scope

The following items contribute to the accessibility of television for blind and partially sighted people:


  • Analogue and digital television platforms: Both technologies deliver television, and because technology varies across the world, this document covers both.

  • Other television platforms - e.g. IPTV, video on demand players or internet television: These emerging technologies have the potential to introduce feature rich applications and user interfaces which need to be accessible. The requirements laid down in this document are applicable to these platforms.


  • Set top boxes, digital video recorders [DVR] and integrated digital television [IDTV]: All receivers which decode the broadcast signal and output it to a television display need to be accessible. This is irrespective of whether they are integrated into the television or external to it, in the form of a set top box.

  • Remote controls: These must also be made accessible to blind and partially sighted people. Some of the new remote controls these days are purely touch screen sensitive and thereby inaccessible to people with sight loss. In such cases supplementary access tools as provided by Apple Inc. for their touch products must be made available upon request.

  • Games consoles and personal computers with television tuners: The inclusion of television tuners within personal computers or game consoles makes it possible for these devices to receive and display television signals. The user interface requirements in this document are also, in principle, applicable to these other devices.

  • Mainstream consumer equipment: The equipment that is available in the mainstream market must be accessible, in order to ensure choice for blind and partially sighted consumers and to avoid the extra cost of buying specialist products.

  • Packaging and initial set-up: The needs of blind and partially sighted people are often overlooked when designing packaging. It is essential for the independence of a blind or partially sighted person that they are able to buy and set up their equipment themselves, without relying on assistance from a sighted person.

  • Instructions manual and documentation: As far as possible, instructional materials, whether in print or online, should be designed to be accessible to blind and partially sighted people. This will minimise the need to provide alternative formats such as large print, Braille and audio. This document covers both maximising the accessibility of standard materials and creating alternative versions when required.


  • On-screen displays: To enable people with sight loss to watch television independently, menus, instructions, programme information, alerts, programme guides and other on-screen information must be delivered in an accessible format such as spoken output or adjustable size text.

  • Audible feedback: Audible feedback or text-to-speech could in itself transform the television viewing experience for people with sight loss and is therefore essential for accessible television platforms.

Programme content

  • Audio description: Television content suppliers need to ensure that audio description is available on their programmes. Platform operators need to ensure that audio description is delivered to the viewer at home. Receiver equipment and remote controls need to provide the means for individual viewers to access description when required. It must be noted here that in some countries across the world audio description is known as video description. For consistency in this document we will use the term audio description. See also Descriptive Video Service [DVS®]

  • Spoken subtitles: Programmes originating in foreign languages are often subtitled in the official or main language of the broadcasting country. In countries with a large number of non-native speakers or countries with more than one official or language, programmes may very often be subtitled in other commonly used languages. Viewers with sight loss will need to be able to access their own language subtitles using text to speech. Like audio description, the mixing of the spoken subtitles with the programme audio can be done either before broadcast or in the receiver. Production of the spoken output can be done using synthesised speech or preferably a real recorded voice.

These access needs must be addressed in all commercially available devices used to receive broadcast television programming.

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