Last month I got a request to sit on a customer panel hosted by Comcast Cable Company. They wanted me to share about my experiences with their voice guide and other accessibility products they offer to blind and visually impaired customers. About 87 corporate executives from the “Big South Leadership Team” and from their main headquarters office were coming to the Atlanta-Metro area for a meeting. This panel was a part of that. So my sighted boyfriend and I went out to the Ritz - Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconeein in Greensboro, Georgia, to share the good, the bad and the ugly. But to be honest there actually wasn’t too much ugly!
Comcast has done a good job when it comes to providing accessibility with their television programming. Recently, The American Foundation for the Blind recognized Comcast for breakthroughs in making its technology and programming accessible to people with vision loss by honoring it with a Helen Keller Achievement Award. According to AFB’s website “the company made history in 2015 when it launched the industry’s first voice-guided TV interface—the X1 talking guide—which allows customers with a visual disability to operate settings and explore programming independently. Comcast made headlines again later that year with its video-described broadcast of NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” The first live entertainment program to be aired with video description.” I ended up watching it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“In addition, Comcast Cable serves customers with vision loss by making available braille or large-print billing statements, large-button remotes, and an Accessibility Support Center that can be contacted seven days a week (7 a.m. to midnight) by phone, chat, or email. Comcast’s closed captioning is adjustable by color and font size, and the company also offers online support videos with American Sign Language for customers with hearing loss.”
So in reading this news, it is clear to see that Comcast is doing a really great job. But while on the panel I shared some of the areas that need improvement. My boyfriend and I talked to the corporate executives about the large volume of movies available to watch but how little are actually available in audio description. We also pointed out that of those movies labeled “audio described” that are free to watch they don’t actually work. This means that the audio description feature is not available or working properly. Additionally, the process to even get to the audio description movie category is a bit cumbersome and complicated. We also shared that the price point for service can be a bit steep for a community that might lack financial resources and has a large unemployment rate. We noted that companies like Netflix offer a large volume of audio describe movies at a much cheaper price. I explained that blind and visually impaired people are loyal customers to companies that “speak our language” and offer services that our community needs and wants. The fact that Comcast offers these services and a customer service line devoted to the disability community is a great plus. As a sighted person, my boyfriend shared that when he went to pick up the cable box the store representative was very helpful. She explained how to install the box and how to use the voice guide remote. But we rounded out the conversation by saying that working on the audio described movies would be an excellent improvement and would enhance Comcast customer base and loyalty.
The overall experience of sitting on the panel was a rewarding one for me as I got an opportunity that is rare. To be able to speak openly and honestly to corporate executives about their company is not something that comes around very often. They were very appreciative and made a commitment to expand their audio description services to the blind and visually impaired community. I believe with the progress that Comcast has already made that this is no empty promise. I look forward to seeing these enhancements in the near future.