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Voice controls will turn YouView apps into a TV lifeline for the blind – UPDATED

YouView updates arriving in December, alongside voice controls for mobile apps, will make the TV service the most accessible in the UK. 

Voice controls for the iOS and Android YouView apps will let blind and partially sighted navigate the YouView menus guided by voice prompts. Simple finger gestures will let customers search for programmes and set reminders and recordings on their phone or tablet. 

The updates to the mobile apps will roll out to iTunes App Store and Google Play simultaneously and will work with all devices that support voice commands. 

Voice controls will turn YouView apps into a TV lifeline for the blind
Improved zoom on YouView will let you navigate menus while they’re enlarged

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to YouViewAs well as adding voice controls to the mobile apps, YouView’s brace of accessibility updates will include support for USB keyboards, including those specifically adapted for viewers with cognitive or motor problems. 

Keyboards can be connected via USB and will be easier to use than the standard remote control for some customers. Devices like Accuratus’ Monster 2 and the Clevy keyboard have been tested by YouView, with functions such as search mapped to specific keys. 

Sticker sheets and key maps will soon be made available from YouView, letting viewers customise and familiarise themselves with the layouts more easily. 

Voice controls will turn YouView apps into a TV lifeline for the blind
The Grid 2 program with added YouView elements

Improvements to the zoom function will also benefit YouView customers with sight issues. The current zoom function only lets you enlarge a certain portion of the screen, but not select or move around the menu screens unless you zoom out again. The new version of the zoom will let you move around the screen with the arrow keys while zoomed in. Combined with the existing high contrast feature, this promises to make YouView the most accessible TV platform in the UK. 

Finally, YouView will support Grid 2, a Windows program that allows severely disabled viewers to navigate menus using switches and head pointers. 

Voice controls will turn YouView apps into a TV lifeline for the blind
The high contrast mode flattens a lot of the gradients and make the YouView menu more legible

Grid 2 breaks down the navigation options of the YouView remote into three groups clusters and then lets viewers select from one of these before finding the command they need. 

Though not a feature of the updates arriving in December, YouView also demonstrated a proof of concept where an Xbox 360 controller connected to a Raspberry Pi was used to navigate the YouView menu. Nina Del Rosario, an Interaction Designer at YouView, told Recombu Digital that viewers with particular accessibility issues may prefer to navigate menus using a gamepad as opposed to a remote or keyboard. 

All of the basic controls with the exception of search were easily accessible on the 360 controller. It’s possible that controlling YouView via a gamepad could be included in a future update but for now, it’s something that only dedicated modders will be able to experience. 

Update: YouView’s director of product Susie Buckridge and the team take us through the accessibility features available on retail YouView boxes which have received the 16.4.0 update. BT and TalkTalk TV-branded boxes will receive this update in due course. 


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