Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sony makes TV for the visually impaired

We are all familiar with subtitles, those little captions on TV that narrates what characters are doing and saying, but what people don't know is that a similar technology is available for the bBlind. Audio Description is like subtitles that provides additional soundtrack for blind or visually impaired people.

During a break in a program's dialogue, a voice explains visual plot points that can help visually impaired people to follow and understand the plot more fully. Sony is now providing for this technology in all of their Bravia televisions. Audio description used to be only accessible through the use of a separate set-top box or a satellite receiver.

However, audio description must also be supported by the broadcaster distributing the TV program. Most TV manufacturers provide support for Integrated Digital Television (IDTV) but only few provide audio description access. In Europe, a variety of programs offers audio description but it is only the United Kingdom that has a law that makes it a requirement for main broadcasters to provide for audio description.

Currently, BBC channels are required to have 8% of their programs audio described. According to Sony, one of the challenges facing audio description is low awareness before visually impaired viewers can claim to enjoy the same kind of service that subtitles provide for the deaf. In 2006, an Ofcom research study said that only 22% of the visually impaired respondents who have heard of audio description claims to have used it while 63% of those least visually impaired people have never heard of it.

Sony is now calling on the Television industry to join its campaign to provide products and services for the visually impaired people. With Sony's introduction of the audio description technology in its Bravia series, the company hopes to put an end to broadcasters and legislator's argument that there is limited need for channels to feature audio description because of the lack of products with the technology to play it. Sony is now on a Europe-wide PR campaign to raise awareness amongst consumers, media, legislators and manufacturers.

A lot of people welcomed Sony's initiative to make blind and partially sighted people enjoy television. Andreas Ditter, Vice President of Sony's TV Operations in Europe said, "With the opportunities presented by digital broadcast channels today, Sony believes that the ability to enjoy a great televisual experience should not be the preserve of those that can see, but should also be accessible to blind and partially sighted people."

SOURCE:Sony press release, Sony Introduces Television For The Blind. URL: (


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