My favorite piece of technology in the living room is my Apple TV and it is about to see a significant update. I love the Apple TV for two reasons VoiceOver and Netflix. VoiceOver is fantastic at assisting in navigating the UI as it reads aloud all the elements and Netflix has fantastic audio described content.
However, it is limiting. I only access my media through Netflix but I have a world of other media. I have numerous DVD and Blue-Ray discs all with great audio described content. The problem is how I access this media. For example, identifying the discs or navigating the menus are both challenging and require sighted assistance. There just isn’t an a great accessible removable media device.
So the current solution is to rip these discs along with their audio described content and AirPlay them to my Apple TV. This allows me to use a screen reader to select the content I would like to listen too. But it shouldn’t be this hard and I hope the Apple TV can help in this respect.
For the first time the Apple TV has a SDK, meaning developers can create apps for the system. This brings with it the opportunity to access my other media through an accessible UI, this isn’t just hypothetical either as Plex have already announced their intention to release on the platform.
There is however one caveat, opening up apps on the Apple TV to using an SDK instead of creating an app under the strict UI guidelines of the past, gives developers free reign. With free reign may come the possibility of the apps no longer supporting VoiceOver, or if they do no guarantee all elements of the UI will be labelled. However, this would then merely be a software fix and I am confident developers would be willing to ensure their apps are as accessible as possible.
There is also another exciting feature of the new Apple TV – Universal Voice Search. This would reduce my need to interact with the UI significantly, now if I would like to watch the latest episode of a show or a movie I can just issue the command to Siri. It was also recently announced that this feature would roll out as an API, meaning apps such as Plex would have access.
This really does excite me, as instead of asking for help to find the DVD I would like to watch, then having sighted assistance to select the correct audio track and start the film, I can do all this myself. A simple voice command will allow me independence in viewing media.
The new Apple TV will retain its much loved spot, as it remains the most accessible media viewing device for the living room.