Though smartphones, tablets, and computers have become increasingly accessible in recent years, fully accessible televisions are a more recent phenomenon. Amazon has entered the accessible smart TV arena with two television lines from Insignia and Toshiba that use the Fire TV software as the TV’s operating system. This allows seamless streaming of high-definition content with this 50-inch Insignia Fire TV Edition smart TV. Its 2160p resolution and LED back-lighting produce stunning image quality on the LCD screen, while the 60Hz panel refresh rate eliminates motion blur for clear visuals. This Insignia Fire TV Edition smart TV has HDMI and USB ports to connect additional media sources.
This article discusses the television’s hardware and software with a particular focus on using the device’s television features and will also discuss using the Fire TV operating system and the Voice View screen-reader more broadly.
Hardware and Features
Before discussing the television’s functions, let’s first look at the hardware itself. The TV is a traditional flat-screen television with a single button that serves as both power and an input button found on the TV’s underside towards the front and left. Most of the available ports are found on the left side of the TV. From top to bottom, these are a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a Digital Optical Audio output, a USB port, and three HDMI ports (1-3 from top to bottom).
On the back of the device, you will find an area containing the coaxial antenna/cable connector, a set of RCA audio/video connectors, and an Ethernet port from left to right, respectively. To the far right of the back of the device, you will find the power connector.
The TV sits on two bases, each at the far right and left. These are slightly curved inward, and the back is slightly shorter than the front, so it is easy to determine which side should be attached. Screws hold the bases in place and the holes in which these should be inserted were decently tactile, so there is no problem attaching the bases without sighted assistance.
The remote is similar to a Fire TV or Echo remote but with a few additions that may make it somewhat unfamiliar. In addition to the buttons found on a Fire TV remote (Microphone, Left/Right/Up/Down navigation ring, Select, Back, Home, Menu, Rewind, Play/Pause, and Fast Forward), the remote contains a dedicated TV button, vertical volume rocker, mute button. Additionally, a set of rectangular buttons launch various streaming services such as Prime and Netflix. A power button is in the top right of the remote.
The TV has both a quick start guide and a manual. Both are available on the Insignia product page in PDF format.
The main setup is that diagrams tend to be jumbled while reading the manual. The manual and guide are primarily meant to provide instructions for the TV itself but have little information on the Fire TV operating system. On the other hand, the VoiceView for the TV user’s guide provides a solid description of VoiceView and an overview of the Fire TV operating system. This PDF is also tagged properly for screen readers. The TV has a few more functions than a traditional Fire TV streaming device, but most of the interface is identical.
Setting up the TV
When you first activate your TV, you will hear a series of sounds in fairly rapid succession. Once you begin hearing a tone playing on a wide interval, you can turn on VoiceView by holding down the Back and Menu buttons for 2 seconds. The “BACK” and “MENU” buttons are the left and right buttons in the row of three small buttons above the Navigation Ring. After activating VoiceView, you will be asked if you would like to listen to the VoiceView tutorial. The tutorial contains a description of the Fire TV remote, a key describer, and a series of tips for using VoiceView.
After the tutorial, you will need to set up the TV. All options here are accessible. During this step, you will connect to your wireless network, choose if you would like to sign into an Amazon account, set your language, and choose a few other minor settings.
Before diving into the Fire TV operating system, it is worth exploring the VoiceView screen reader’s functions. When you navigate around the interface, VoiceView will provide information on what you have currently highlighted and other hints and extra information. For example, when a movie or a TV show is highlighted, one will first be alerted to the item’s name and, after a pause, navigation information for the current screen or item followed by information about the selected item synopsis, rating, etc. If VoiceView is speaking, you can stop a speech by pressing the Play/Pause button or move through the extra information being provided by pressing the Rewind or Fast Forward buttons. You can also have extra information and navigation instructions repeated by pressing the Menu button. Because of this, you will need to press the Menu button twice to activate its original function.
In addition to interacting with the interface directly, VoiceView offers Review Mode, which functions similarly to the browse modes you may find in a Windows screen reader. This mode can be toggled by holding the Menu button until VoiceView says, “Review Mode On/Off.” When in this mode, you can move linearly through the content displayed on the screen with Left and Right and change your navigation granularity with Up and Down. Review Mode contains several granularity options, including Character, Word, Heading, Link, Form Control, List, and List Item. Note that the granularity options that deal with HTML elements such as Heading and Link only appear when that content is available on-screen. Review Mode is particularly helpful if you use one of the Web browser apps available for the Fire TV.
If you have low vision, the Fire TV also includes a screen magnifier and high contrast mode. The screen magnifier can be activated during setup by holding down the Back and Fast Forward buttons. The magnifier has ten different magnification levels and magnifies all non-video content, including captions. New to the magnifier is an indicator that will appear when changing zoom levels, displaying where you have zoomed to the overall screen. More information about low vision features on the Fire TV can be accessed on the Fire TV Accessibility page.
Watching Live TV
Before watching live over-the-air TV, an antenna must be connected and channels scanned. This is done by navigating to the Settings menu or by pressing the TV button on the remote. This will usually take you to the TV guide but will take you directly to scan for channels the first time you activate it. After the scan, you can view the channels through the previously mentioned On Now category in the Home tab or launch the TV Guide with the remote’s TV button.
When you launch the TV guide, you will be placed on the list of channels, and the name of the current program will be read. You can navigate among channels with the Up and Down keys and navigate through the programs on a channel with the Left and Right keys.
Once you start playback of a channel, you can press the Down key to show the On Now row from the Home screen. This allows you to change channels; arrow to the channel you want and press Select. If you press Left or Right, you will rewind and fast-forward the currently playing channel. The Select button also serves to pause the program. This means that you can use the ring and Select button in addition to Rewind, Play/Pause, and Fast Forward.
When a program is playing, press the Menu button twice quickly to open options. Here, select Captions and Audio Languages and then select the option titled Audio Languages. Now, select the item labeled “Spa Ad.” If this item is titled something else for you, the audio description track is commonly on the Secondary Audio Programming channel, sometimes labeled “Spanish.” If you would like to adjust the audio description volume compared to the TV audio, you can do so in the Accessibility menu in the Settings tab.
Fire TV is the first choice when watching Prime content. Its operating system is quite accessible, and the VoiceView screen reader is a reliable method for navigating. Thus, it is exciting to see this accessibility translated to the television-specific aspects of the device. Despite a few minor bugs like more cumbersome apps such as Netflix and the YouTube web interface, it is amazing to note that TV-specific functions were accessible. Furthermore, the TV provided speech for other advantageous features, such as informing the user if the input was connected and speaking when the television was turned off. This makes the Insignia Fire TV edition a great choice.