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Accessibility

Television, Remotes and Accessibility

My remote control was not designed to include a battery indicator. My cell phone was designed with one. My PocketPC was designed with one. My digital camera was designed with one. Nearly every electronic device I own that runs on batteries was designed to include a battery indicator to let me know when the batteries are low. The remote control was not. Why is this a problem?

An experience earlier this week established for me that electronics manufactures need a lesson in usability and accessibility. It also helped solidify my conviction to make my websites more accessible.
We rented a Hello Kitty DVD Monday for our children to watch. As usual, I turned on the TV, popped in the DVD and went to switch to “Game” mode, which allows the output from the DVD player to display on the TV.
Nothing happened.
I started my troubleshooting A/V products process.

  1. Repeatedly press the button
  2. Press random buttons repeatedly
  3. Move closer to TV
  4. Repeat steps 1-3

The process put me no further ahead to determining the problem. This left me to think either the batteries were dead or the TV was malfunctioning. Here is where things became frustrating.
My remote control was not designed to include a battery indicator. My cell phone was designed with one. My PocketPC was designed with one. My digital camera was designed with one. Nearly every electronic device I own that runs on batteries was designed to include a battery indicator to let me know when the batteries are low. The remote control was not. Why is this a problem?
First, I had no forewarning there was a power supply issue with my remote control. Had I known the batteries were getting low, we could have bought some batteries when we were out shopping earlier that day.
Secondly, without any forewarning, I am doomed to experience a barrier at the exact time I do not want it. I want to use the DVD, but because of this unforeseen barrier, I cannot.
It is no different from a wheelchair-bound customer not being able to get past a store’s front step or a blind person not being able to read text on a website that is only available in an image. As I wanted to watch the DVD, both of these individuals also want something. The wheelchair-bound person would like to purchase something from the store and the blind person wants information from the website. Yet because of barriers unforeseen by businesses in the design process, the three of us cannot access the things we want.
This is only one part of the frustrating equation.
If I am using my computer and the mouse stops working, I can usually navigate through many applications with only my keyboard. The software creators designed it in a way that allowed more than one method of input.
Not so with the TV manufacturer. There is no “Game” button on the TV. In fact, all I can do with the TV is turn it on or off, scroll through the channels one at a time linearly, bring up the settings menu and raise or lower the volume. Most of the features of the TV, however, were designed to be accessible with only the remote control. If the remote is not working, then the TV is only partially accessible.
Since I couldn’t check if there was a problem with the TV—although someone could argue given what I’ve mentioned that there was something inherently wrong with the TV—my only other choice was to take the batteries out of our phone (we had no other AA batteries in the house), put them in the remote, go back to the living room and try the remote again.
Luckily it worked. But did I have to experience all this frustration just to find out my batteries were dead? Is it any wonder why I support accessible websites?

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

One reply on “Television, Remotes and Accessibility”

I’ve had a simialr frustration recently. We have satellite TV and a majority of the functions of the DVR are only controlled by the remote. When our remote died an untimely death, we had to order another one. Still waiting since Thursday last week to get it.

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