A Guide To Making TV Streaming Services More Accessible

A Guide To Making TV Streaming Services More Accessible

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A Guide To Making TV Streaming Services More Accessible

Fri 03, 02 2023

Digital Accessibility is one of the strongest focuses in the current decade. As TV Streaming becomes commonplace, technology and apps need to be less challenging… This article illustrates some examples of what should be considered to make TV Streaming services more accessible.

According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some sort of disability. Not only is that number dramatically increasing, but as we age, we will all start collecting disabilities. Our vision will begin to decline, we will be more likely to have a mobility impairment, and so on. To top it all off,  almost everyone will experience some form of temporary disability throughout their lives, such as a sprained wrist.

 

Digital Accessibility within Smart TV or Connected TV Apps

In order for you to quickly understand why it is so important, we suggest you try to test how it is to navigate based on what you hear rather than what you see. Are you ready for this challenge?

Go into your Smart-TV setting and turn on the built-in screen reader most devices have. For example, if you use a Samsung Tizen SmartTV, the steps to turn on the screen reader/voice guide settings are:

Navigate to Home > Menu > Settings > All Settings.
Go to General & Privacy and select Accessibility. Here you will see a bunch of different settings you can play with in order to get a feeling of how different users might use the app.
Click on the first option Voice Guide Settings and turn it on by clicking On.

These steps may vary depending on the exact device model and software version you are using, if that’s the case you will be able to easily find online how to turn on the screen reader. Once you have successfully enabled it, close your eyes and try to navigate your TV using only what you hear to guide yourself. What does it feel like? Does it differ from the experience you are used to?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines make a great starting point as it is one of the most widely accepted standards that will help you create accessible content.

I am a software engineer at Norigin Media in Norway; and I am a part of the team that helps create TV Streaming Apps and Websites. As I learned more and got a deeper understanding of how consumers interact with apps; I started to wonder how to improve their experiences, especially keeping digital accessibility in mind.

At first, it might feel overwhelming to realize all the ways in which your app is not accessible, but the standard will help you break it down into four main principles:

 

 

Having these principles in mind will put you on the right track toward accessibility. One of the easier ways to start addressing the challenge is by focusing on one of them and building it up from there.

PERCEIVABLE

The answer is pretty simple, we start by trying to learn and understand the enormity of all of this. Its need and scope.

For instance, many people with mobility impairments rely on their keyboards to navigate through apps. But have you ever tried to experience how that feels, by turning off your mouse and ditching your trackpad?

At this point, I hope that the usefulness and importance of making digital accessibility content start to seem obvious to you as well. Being aware is the first step, but you can make a bigger difference by supporting people with disabilities and disability communities. It’s easy to make quick changes, like bringing up the topic within your own company and having meaningful discussions about why accessibility matters. There’s frankly no reason why you shouldn’t make an effort not to forget. Start caring for an accessible and inclusive digital world, do yourself a favour!

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Example of poor contrast ratio (2.49:1) is caused by foreground color #403f3f on top of background color #877878.

Example of a poor contrast ratio (2.49:1) is caused by foreground color #403f3f on top of background color #877878.

Example of a great contrast ratio (15.09:1) is caused by foreground color #272626f on top of background color #ffffff.

Example of a great contrast ratio (15.09:1) is caused by foreground color #272626f on top of background color  #ffffff.

If this is a topic you want to dig into so that users with visual disabilities can easily perceive content on your app, WebAIM Color Contrast Checker is a tool that you might find useful.

OPERABLE

The operable principle guarantees that users can interact with and make full use of the app.

As a specialist in creating TV Streaming Apps, our company Norigin Media focuses on tackling the operable principle by creating development tools that help build better and easy navigation across TV Apps or Websites.

Navigating within an app to find the right content needs to be simplified not only for people with disabilities but also for any average viewer. People use simple or clunky remote controls, or even to view content on Connected TVs (CTVs) or  SmartTV Apps like Apple TV, Samsung Tizen Apps, or Roku Apps.

The Norigin Spatial Navigation is an open-source library to be used while developing javascript React Applications. This library automatically determines which components within apps to focus on next while navigating with the directional keys in keyboards or remote controls.

The open-source code itself is accessible to all who build websites, and apps that use keyboard navigation on computers or remote control navigation on connected TVs or Smart TVs, as well as joysticks! We made this code available to all to make sure it´s the first step to building simple navigation within apps and websites for all using different tools.

From a business perspective, using this library in our projects has shown that it not only helps to build a better user experience for consumers but also helps improve brand perception and reputation, boosting SEO, extending the market reach and even reducing legal risks – in many countries accessibility is a legal requirement.

UNDERSTANDABLE

The understandable principle guarantees that users can read and comprehend the content without excessive effort.

One of the most important aspects to consider within streaming TV App accessibility is to offer captions and subtitles for all content. To help people with a range of related disabilities like being deaf or people not being able to understand accents – the reasons are extensive.

To make sure that video content is simply “understandable” and consumed by more people, one of the biggest focuses are already on subtitles with many language options. This allows people with different abilities to understand the audio content of a video by displaying a transcript of the spoken words on the screen.

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Subtitles in a film on TV2 Play App (Commercial Broadcaster in Norway)

Subtitles in a film on TV2 Play App (Commercial Broadcaster in Norway)

Subtitles can also be extremely useful for people with temporary disabilities, such as not being fluent in the language that is being spoken or being in a noisy environment where the audio might be difficult to hear. Subtitles make content more accessible and inclusive for a wider audience, which can lead to an increase in revenue through subscriptions or advertising.

Similarly, many streaming platforms offer audio descriptions which provide a verbal description of the visual elements of a video. These descriptions allow users with visual impairments to understand what is happening on the screen and to enjoy visual media. Including them can not only lead to an increased viewership but can also improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. In other words, it will not only be beneficial for the users but for the organization’s reputation as well.

Audio description selection on the Netflix App

Audio description selection on the Netflix App

ROBUST

The robust principle guarantees that content can be interpreted reliably by assistive technologies and other user agents.

The robust principle makes sure that the name and role of elements such as buttons or links are programmatically determinable. This would help the users who rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies to understand the purpose of every relevant element on the App or Website.

For example, make sure you use ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) labels to provide additional context and information about elements that may not be immediately apparent to screen readers. This can make the interface more understandable and usable.

Buttons created by using diverse HTML tags and ARIA labels (CodePen)

Buttons created by using diverse HTML tags and ARIA labels (CodePen)

Code of buttons created by using diverse HTML tags and ARIA labels (CodePen)

Code of buttons created by using diverse HTML tags and ARIA labels (CodePen)

Streaming TV Apps should take into account many things in order to be more and more accessible. The important thing is to start tackling them slowly, but surely.  It is all our jobs, broadcasters, technologists or consumers to make sure that content is accessible and viewable to the largest possible audience – so pick one of the four main principles and analyze what you could do in the near future to improve access to apps for all!

Digital Accessibility has endless meaning and potential. If you are new to this subject in general my previous blog introduces and explains the need for Digital Accessibility.

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