Hi,

Two weeks ago Google Chromecast launched in the UK with BBC iPlayer on Android and iOS adding support on the same day. On Friday of last week we added Chromecast support to the new version of BBC iPlayer on desktop and laptop computers using the Chrome web browser. For those that have not come across Chromecast before it offers an easy way to stream media to your TV by plugging a Wi-Fi enabled HDMI dongle into your TV set. When you cast from BBC iPlayer you can then stream audio and video to your TV from your device via apps that have the Chromecast feature enabled or from the Google Chrome browser when the Chromecast extension is enabled. Chris Yanda’s blog post explains more.

Chromecast on an iPad

Chromecast allows you to use your device as a remote control and cut out using TV remotes and user interfaces. This is a significant step in providing additional choice in how disabled audiences can consume BBC iPlayer content as for many disabled people using a remote control or navigating a TV interface can be problematic. Using an already familiar device such as Android or iOS that offer a multitude of accessibility settings that allow mobility, vision, hearing or cognitively impaired users to effortlessly cast content to their TV could be a significant step forward.

Obvious beneficiaries are blind and partially sighted users who would otherwise have to invest in TVs with talking menus, which can be costly, or rely on sighted assistance. A wide variety of other users may also benefit: older users, people with low vision or cognitive impairments who may find it hard to understand a TV interface or what button does what on a TV remote. If you use a smartphone or tablet it is arguably easier to learn how to use one device that you can use for multiple tasks rather than a variety of devices for a multiple tasks.

For blind and low vision users, as well as some users with cognitive impairments, both the BBC iPlayer iOS and Android apps have labels on all the Chromecast buttons that can be read out. Using Android Talkback and iOS VoiceOver you can expect to be able to connect Chromecast to your TV, play/pause content, rewind and forward-wind content and adjust the volume. Subtitle users can also switch subtitles on and off from their device and stream them directly to their TV.

Our approach to accessibility in BBC Future Media is to not just make products accessible but to also look at how new features can enhance access to our content. While we aim to follow BBC Accessibility and Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines and embed accessibility from the outset during the design phase of a project, we also think about how proposed new features might positively impact disabled audiences. Chromecast is an obvious candidate as it affords many benefits to a wide variety of users.

This is a first pass. The potential for Chromecast, and other technology like it, is significant. We will be fine-tuning this implementation and seeing what else we can do with it and as such we’d be interested to hear your view. Either leave a comment below or email us at accessibilityteam@bbc.co.uk.

Henny Swan is a Senior Accessibility Specialist, BBC Future Media

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