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Comcast says accessibility is no longer an afterthought

In 2019, Comcast debuted a unique way for people living with physical disabilities to control their TV experience using just their eyes. Now, the company is doubling down on its accessibility commitments with new features aimed at folks with reduced vision, such as increased font sizes, higher contrast visual elements, and announced text descriptions.

The cable giant says the new features are possible because of its transition to a web-based platform that runs an open-source JavaScript framework called LightningJS. Instead of needing to retrofit accessibility features into existing products, which can be a difficult and time-consuming process, LightningJS lets Comcast’s engineers build these accessible designs into its products “from the get-go, not as an afterthought.” These designs aren’t limited to the Comcast X1 and Flex platforms; the company is integrating LightningJS across its NBCUniversal, Sky, and Xfinity products as well.

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Comcast's improved accessibility features let you increase on-screen font sizes.

Just as importantly, Comcast is working on open-sourcing these components so that third-parties who develop apps for Comcast’s services can also integrate these accessibility enhancements.

“When you make a product more inclusive,” Tom Wlodkowski, Comcast vice president of accessibility, said in a blog post, “you create a better experience for everyone.” Wlodkowski has been blind since birth.

The improvements that those with visual impairments can expect over the coming months include:

Typeface and font size: The scale of type across Comcast’s entertainment products has been increased and can be easily adjusted to improve readability of on-screen menus, program guides, etc.

High-contrast color theme: A single setting change can be applied to all the components within an application, making content easier to read and navigate.

Reduced motion mode: The amount of animation on screen can be scaled back, creating better viewing experiences for those with motion sensitivities, while maintaining the default experience.

Focus state: A larger scale and increased color contrast between the background color and art highlights interactive components for accessible navigation for those with limited mobility who are using a screen reader or other accessible technology. Subtle animation will also be used to draw attention to the focus state.

Announcer capability: When enabled, this allows for relevant information to be voiced along the focus path of the application. Page Title (for example, movies), Row Title (scary movies, for example), and Entity Metadata (movie title) can be read aloud when they are the subject of the focus state. A connected speech engine can also read out contextual information, such as which arrows to press on the remote to navigate the experience or how many items are in the current row.

Text magnifier: When enabled, this will display all relevant information about the current item in a black-and-white text box with larger font.

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