As of this ending year of 2016, we have seen multiple and rapid developments in the choices available to those who wish to cut the cord but are reliant on speech or low-vision tools. Before, the Apple TV was the only usable choice for a long time. Google had the Nexus Player, which in its way was one of the first companies aside from Apple to implement a standard screen reader.
We saw Amazon add a screen reader to the Fire stick which, while has issues of some inaccessible content providers, still can provide speech and the use of Alexa independently to the screen reader user.
Today we have a new player to the game: Roku.
Roku sells several streaming products, ranging from $39 US to $129 US. These also range in features. The lowest device is the Express and Express+. It is compatible with older televisions, such as those which use composite video. The stick, which starts at USD $59, offers a thumb-drive sized device which plugs into your TV directly and runs off a Micro USB cable. Both of these products also lack a remote with voice recognition, so you will have to opt for a higher-end model if you wish to dictate or use voice search.
The Roku Premier and Ultra both support 4K video playback, with the premier starting at $79. The Premier Plus, for $99, gives you other features such as a headphone jack built into the remote for listening to the TV elsewhere.
Finally, Roku Ultra is $129 but is fully loaded with features such as a lost remote finder. Handy,, right?
Now let’s talk Accessibility. All of this year’s Roku line-up, along with any Roku-driven smart televisions should get a new screen reader called Audio Guide. You can learn about the feature here. By pressing the menu key four times rapidly after the streaming device has started up, a robotic voice will provide spoken feedback for all menus and screen. Or does it? Find out whether this new TV solution lives up to your standards of what accessible should be.
It’s worth noting: The software update, 7.5, is not yet available for all devices or has been rolled out to them. Generally, if you have a Roku with an ethernet jack, updates are checked for during the start of setup. Wi-fi only models will require sighted assistance to connect to a network and then update, if audio guide is not present that is.