A brand new feature that helps the visually impaired experience their favorite television shows and movies was just demonstrated for the first time in Miami by the blind Comcast executive who helped develop it.
Tom Wlodkowski was born completely blind – but that has never stopped him from enjoying television or movies. When he became Vice President of Accessibility for Comcast Cable three years ago, he began leading the company’s efforts to make its products more accessible to those with disabilities.
Wlodkowski was the driving force behind the creation of Comcast’s Talking Guide, the industry’s first voice-enable television interface. He demonstrated the guide and unveiled its brand new Spanish version on Thursday, November 12 at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind’s “See the Light Luncheon” at the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables.
“As someone who was born blind, I have always thought of technology as a great equalizer,” said Wlodkowski. “We want to create opportunities for people who love film and television, but who might not have the opportunity to experience it to its fullest.”
The “Talking Guide” is a feature on the X1 platform that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings, giving users the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.
With the latest update to make the feature bilingual, the Talking Guide is now available for South Florida customers who would prefer to hear program information in Spanish. Comcast estimates this offering is now available to 6 million Hispanic households in its service areas across the nation.
Earlier this year, Comcast partnered with the Miami Lighthouse to bring this new technology to more people who could use it across South Florida. The Talking Guide was installed at the Lighthouse and incorporated into the organization’s training curriculum.
“By bringing the talking guide to as many people as possible, we can help to bridge that gap and make entertainment just as compelling, captivating and fun for people with a visual disability as it is for anyone else,” said Wlodkowski.
During his presentation, Wlodkowski also showed the audience “Emily’s Oz,” the national award-winning advertisement campaign Comcast launched during the 2015 Academy Awards to highlight how people with disabilities enjoy entertainment. The commercial features a seven-year-old girl named Emily who was born blind and highlights her description of what she sees when she watches her favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz™.