Electronic programme guides still play a primary role in the navigation of television services, so it is important that they are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Many platforms available in the United Kingdom have made progress in providing accessibility features, but some are doing more than others, says a report from the communications regulator Ofcom. The regulator is also proposing to extend its access service guidance to include online video services.

In the last year, Ofcom says most providers have improved or extended the availability of accessibility features in electronic programme guides, such as text-to-speech, highlighting or filtering programmes with audio description or signing, support for magnification or enlarged text, and high-contrast displays.

All four of these features are available on Freeview through its accessible television guide, although only one is available in full on certain Freesat devices. Virgin Media also offers all four features, while Sky offers three of them but not magnification. Only two of the features are available on YouView devices and the regulator has made it clear it expects more in any future updates, although it has been several years since YouView was available in any new products.

The Draft Media Bill proposes legislation in the United Kingdom that includes a new requirement on providers of internet connected television selection services, such as smart television manufacturers, to ensure their services incorporate features that support people with disabilities, particularly in relation to sight or hearing, and that they can make use of any assistance provided by apps included in the service. This would place a new regulatory requirement on TV selection service providers to consider accessibility beyond the electronic programme guide.

Ofcom is also consulting on proposals to expand its accessibility best practice guidelines to include advice for providers of online video services and to account for ways of watching other than on television devices.

The consultation on Ensuring the quality of TV and on-demand access services is available from the Ofcom web site.