Guest Post: Shaw Communications has recently released a “Usable by the blind” TV Service called, BlueSky TV

BlueSky TV by Shaw Communications

Here is what I learned about the base technology that Shaw has imported into Canada and are now calling BlueSky TV. It’s originally a ComCast system called X1 and is licensed by Shaw exclusively in Western Canada and Rogers in Eastern Canada for the next 3 years.

I wouldn’t call it completely accessible, however thanks to the Voice Guidance it is, for the most part, usable by blind folks. This is a service designed for and promoted to the sighted TV viewer, so not necessarily built with blind accessibility in mind.

Check out these videos.

How to use X1 Voice Guidance Talking Guide:

How to learn the X1 Remote Control Layout:

How to Program your X1 Remote Control to your TV and Audio Device:
(Sighted assistance may be needed)

Graphical Layout of the X1 Remote Control:
(Not accessible to blind) computer users)

For the ComCast Support Page in the USA:

Thx, Albert Ruel, GTT Coordinator
The Canadian Council of the Blind
Mobile: 250-240-2343


GTT New Westminster and Vancouver Summary Notes, Making TV Accessible, February 15 and March 4, 2017

Get Together with Technology (GTT)
New Westminster and Vancouver Meetings

Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind in partnership with Blind Beginnings

Summary Notes
Feb. 15 and March 4, 2017

Making TV Accessible

Feb 15 in New Westminster:
Present: Albert, Matthew, Ryan, Fay, Carol, John, Bill, Karim, Pat.
March 4 in Vancouver:
Present: Sean H, Ryan, Monty, Rita, Betty, Maria, John

Starting out with TV in general:
• Antenna or cable was the traditional way, but now you can access TV over digital, the internet, or satellite.
• IP TV is internet protocol television.
• Something like YouTube or Netflics uses an application to stream video from the internet.
• IP TV is similar in that it uses an app to access a server that broadcasts traditional live TV channels (CTV, CBC, Global, etc.).
• You need to subscribe to the service, and get some hardware like ChromeCast, Apple TV or the xBox.

How accessible is it:

• AE-BC internet corp is the only one Monty knows of, in terms of IP TV provider
• The are an internet service provider.
• They buy their bandwidth in bulk from bigger companies, so you are using the same infrastructure, but when you phone up customer service, you are talking to AE-BC.
• Internet plans are potentially cheaper, unlimited downloads as well.
• So you need the internet to have IP TV service.

So how do we watch it:

• They can sell you an Android cypher bar, which is a small Android box that plugs into the wall, and into your tv through HDMI, and it has USB inputs and a couple different audio outputs.
• It is about six inches by two inches, almost the size of a small braille display.
• Last year that box was the main option, it cost 200 dollars, and you had to buy it.
• Monty found that he could use talkback, the android accessible screen reader that is built in to the box.
• It did not work one hundred percent, but it was a partially talking set top box.
• The iPhone app was not 100 percent accessible either, but Monty was able to move up and down the navigation menu and choose the channel he was looking for, and he was able to toggle descriptive video on and off (however, the descriptive video was not working on shows he knew it was available on), so that was one drawback. He was also not able to get descriptive video on the iOS app.
• So you get the basic 40 local channels for free, and they allow you to bundle extra channels just like shaw and Telus.
• So that concludes the description of live TV over the internet.
• Participants gave information on Shaw Free Range TV, which is a similar internet TV service that is offered to shaw customers.

Moving on to Apple TV:

• It is a box you hook up to your TV with Voiceover – you can use Netflicks, Show Me, Crave TV, – has its own App store.
• Apple TV can only get info from the Internet – not from your regular cable TV. All cable TV menus are still not accessible.
• There is a device you can use to connect the Apple TV to your stereo to allow you to access the audio of the Apple TV programming.
• Google also makes the ChromeCast – is cheaper and everything is done through your smart phone.
• Shaw cable is starting to offer the ChromeCasts service in the Vancouver and Calgary areas, and are planning to go nationwide with it soon.
• Siri is available on the new Apple TV as well.
• You can ask Siri to go find a movie on NetFlics or iTunes or a song on YouTube.
• You can set triple click to turn off and on Voiceover on the Apple TV.
• You can turn on audio description so that any program you play that has audio-description will play automatically.
• You can use a Bluetooth keyboard instead of the apple TV remote.
• Price ranges from $150 – $250 depending on the amount of storage you want, 32, 64 or 128 GB.

Microsoft Xbox:

• Xbox also allows you to use Narrator to access Netflicks etc.

Tutorial Podcasts:

• Podcast providers like and David Woodbridge offer many opportunities to learn about the many apps and devices available.

Tell Me More TV:

• Another subscription service that is currently available is Tell Me More – everything is in described TV – like AMI for $7 per month – watch on Internet. They are working on an app
• Use the PromoCode Tellmemore17 and you’ll get $25 percent off

Topic for the next New Westminster meeting, March 15 will be GPS:

• We will play a podcast on Nearby Explorer.

The topic for April Vancouver and New Westminster meetings:

• Dropbox will be the focus, both a lecture component and then a hands on signing up for and installing Dropbox component. Bring your laptop computer or smart phone so you can receive the support you need.