May 3rd 2012

RNIB creates new software to make digital TV more accessible to blind and partially sighted people

RNIB – 3rd May 2012, London, UK. RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) has teamed up with TVonics, a British manufacturer of Freeview set-top-boxes, and IVONA, a text-to-speech service, to deliver all the benefits of digital TV and Freeview+ HD to blind and partially sighted people. The new service utilises IVONA’s text-to-speech technology and has been specially created by RNIB for integration with the TVonics DTR-HD500.

The new text-to-speech software enables blind and partially sighted users to easily navigate the DTR-HD500’s EPG and guides them through features including channel selection, recording and accessing recorded programmes and pausing live television. The user can also enable audio description to verbally describe the action taking place on screen. As users become familiar with the text-to-speech technology and are able to discover content they can reduce the level of guidance needed, changing the settings from ‘beginner’ to ‘expert’.

RNIB has tailored the IVONA text-to-speech technology to the TVonics DTR-HD500’s existing interface and EPG. The product hardware and design has remained unchanged from the box already in the market and the text-to-speech technology is available for free via a software download. For new customers, the product can be purchased directly through RNIB’s website where they will receive the software fully installed and ready to use, along with product support and advice on how to use the product and the text-to-speech technology.

Commenting on the launch Fazilet Hadi, Group Director of Inclusive Society at RNIB, said; “We were delighted to work with TVonics and IVONA to create a mainstream set top box, which is fully accessible. This is the first box which will allow blind people to independently record programmes and pause live TV. This box will enable people with sight loss to get a great digital TV experience without paying a premium.”

“IVONA is proud to partner with TVonics and RNIB to give blind and partially sighted people access to the exciting and informative world of Digital TV “, explained Lukasz Osowski, CEO of IVONA Software. “Using the world’s most natural-sounding Text-to-Speech voices for this ground-breaking Audio Description (AD) tool means that a huge new audience will now be able to enjoy the TV experience with the click of a button.”

Andy Carr, CTO at TVonics added: “The ease of use of our products has provided a great platform for IVONA and RNIB to build the text-to-speech technology and it’s a project that we are proud to be part of.”

Price and availability

The DTR-HD500 with the text-to-speech software pre-installed is available to purchase through RNIB’s website www.rnib.org.uk and retails at £179.95 inc VAT. When purchased directly through RNIB’s website, accessible instructions will be included and RNIB will provide product support to the customer.

The DTR-HD500 is also available at John Lewis and via TVonics’ online store but will not come with a manual for the technology, and instructions will cost extra from RNIB. From 3rd May new products manufactured by TVonics will have the text-to-speech software installed. Those with existing DTR-HD500 or DTR-Z500HD can also download the software for free from the RNIB and TVonics websites.

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About RNIB

Every day around 100 people in the UK start to lose their sight. There are around two million people in the UK with sight problems. RNIB is the leading charity working in the UK offering practical support, advice and information for anyone with sight difficulties.

It can be a challenge for blind and partially sighted people to know where to start with in technology. RNIB’s Technology Support Squad is a team of hundreds of volunteers throughout the UK ready to help by phone or with a home visit. To find out more about the support in your area contact RNIB’s Helpline team on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected]

About TVonics

TVonics is a privately owned British manufacturer of Freeview HD Recorders specialising in the digital TV sector. The company focuses on delivering easy to use, energy saving digital TV receivers and recorders for the UK digital television market.

Formed in 2004 and based in South Wales, TVonics has a design team with more than 60 man-years experience in the design and manufacture of digital set top boxes and televisions. TVonics delivers technology to the consumers with a consistent user experience enabling customers to enjoy television. www.tvonics.com

About IVONA® Text To Speech

IVONA Software develops award-winning Text to Speech technology that is part of voice user interface of mobile devices, computers, communication systems and services. Our TTS products have been awarded and recognized as market leading in terms of providing the most accurate, human-sounding voices and the best listener experience. The IVONA suite includes a wide range of specialty TTS solutions for business, telecommunications, mobile, and home use, with new offerings constantly being developed. Additionally, in support of its long-standing commitment to accessibility, IVONA works closely with the largest organizations supporting blind and visually impaired people all over the world, including the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the DAISY Consortium.