The Oscars and Partnering with Comcast on X1 Access

When Comcast’s Mary Spillane called earlier this month to ask if we would work with them to test and improve the Talking Guide for the X1 cable box, we were naturally excited. Comcast gave us an X1 box with a year of cable service – and a new TV – so we could use, evaluate and demonstrate the accessibility. Mary said they wanted us to give feedback, and we’ve already begun to do so.

Mary was excited to have us on board, but I think she was just as excited about tonight’s Oscars broadcast, when Comcast’s new commercial “Emily’s Oz” will debut,” with narration by Robert Redford.

Woo! This is big stuff!

Of course, she couldn’t give us any details until late last week – it was all very hush-hush, which just made things even more exciting.

On Friday Comcast issued a press release regarding the upcoming commercial, intended to highlight its accessibility offerings to customers, and to push the conversation about disability and entertainment a bit further. Emily is a blind 7-year-old whose favorite movie is “The Wizard of Oz” … Well, go see this short, “The Making of Emily’s Oz”and more on “Comcast’s Emily Oz” page to get the picture – or the audio-description.

And you can watch the actual “Emily’s Oz” commercial as well!

The Colorado Center for the Blind is mentioned in the press release along with another half-dozen training centers working with Comcast. We’re tickled to note that we’re the only one on the list located west of the Alleghenies.

Comcast has jumped into accessibility with both feet, and they should make hay of it, but it is clear they also really want to engage those customers with disabilities for whom they are developing accessibility. Asking blind folks how Comcast can make their X1 product better is one good example – an example the entire telecommunications industry should emulate. Who would know better than we would?

It turns out that a number of Center staff and even some students have already used the X1’s Talking Guide. Well, with temperatures still sagging around the 10-degree mark and more than six inches on the ground this morning in Littleton (and still falling), everyone should plan to pop some corn, tuck themselves in on the couch and watch the Oscars for a delightful few seconds with the precocious Emily … Oh, and there might be some other items of interest on the Academy Awards show itself, too!

Happy accessible viewing to us all tonight and in the future!

General Colorado Center Information In the Media

Emily’s Oz: The Comcast Press Release


Company Partners with Local Disability Groups Across the Country to Introduce New Technology to More People

“Talking Guide” Reads Aloud Channel Names, Show Titles and DVR Commands;
National Commercial Set To Air During Academy Awards

DENVER, CO – February 20, 2015 – Comcast today announced it is partnering with local disability groups across the country – including the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton – to bring the company’s new voice guidance technology to more people. The “talking guide” is a feature on the X1 platform that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings, giving users the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.

This Sunday, Comcast will launch a national campaign during the 2015 Academy Awards called “Emily’s Oz” that is intended to spark an even bigger conversation about how people with disabilities enjoy entertainment.

“We want to create opportunities for people who love film and television, but who might not have the opportunity to experience it to its fullest,” said Tom Wlodkowski, who was hired as Vice President of Audience in 2012 to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities. “By bringing the talking guide to as many people as possible, we can help to bridge that gap and make entertainment just as compelling, captivating and fun for people with a visual disability as it is for anyone else.”

“We’re very excited about the inclusion of accessibility in the X1 entertainment operating system for Comcast’s blind and visually impaired customers,” said Dan Burke, Public Relations Specialist at Colorado Center for the Blind. “The talking guide means that we can now have the same information and control with menus, settings and programming as anyone else. It makes watching our favorite shows and movies all about the entertainment, rather than about trying to find them.”

Comcast is working with the following organizations and evaluating additional groups within the company’s service area:

  • Colorado Center for the Blind – Littleton, CO
  • Associated Services for the Blind – Philadelphia, PA
  • Carroll Center for the Blind – Newton, MA
  • Inglis– Philadelphia, PA
  • Miami Lighthouse – Miami, FL
  • Overbrook School for the Blind – Philadelphia, PA
  • Perkins School for the Blind – Watertown, MA

“Emily’s Oz” features a seven-year-old girl who was born blind and highlights her description of what she sees when she watches her favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz™. Some of Hollywood’s top directors, set designers and make-up artists then went to work to bring her vision to life. The voice over for the commercial is provided by two-time Academy Award winner Robert Redford.

The talking guide is the latest in a series of innovations created in the Comcast Accessibility Lab. In addition to voice guidance and one-touch access to closed captioning, Comcast created an online help and support resource for Xfinity customers looking for information about accessibility-related topics.

About Comcast Cable:

Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds, and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings. Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company. Visit for more information.

Media Contacts:
Steven Restivo
[email protected]

Mary Spillane
[email protected]

Braille Events In the Media Youth Services

Braille Challenge at CCB February 5

(Editor’s Note: We are delighted to be partnering with the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind on this year’s Braille Challenge, a nationwide competition sponsored by the Braille Institute. It’s the first time that a test site has been located in the Denver Metro area. Below is the press release.) We’re all going to have a great time with Braille!

Braille Competition to Test Skills of Metro Kids:</h2

CCB Partners with CSDB to Host Nationwide Program

Contact: CSDB: Diane Covington, [email protected] or 719-661-0941
CCB: Brent Batron, [email protected] or 303-778-1130 x222

Littleton – More than 20 students from across the state who are blind and visually impaired will test their Braille skills in an academic competition unlike any other at the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton on Thursday, February 5. The students will compete in The Colorado Regional Braille Challenge, which is one of more than 40 partners participating in the Braille Institute’s North American Braille literacy program.

The two-stage contest is designed to motivate blind students to give strong emphasis to their study of Braille while rewarding their success with fun-filled, but challenging, local and national events. Braille is key to literacy for blind and visually impaired students, with strong implications for employment success for blind adults.

This year, the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind (CSDB) is partnering with the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) to offer a metro area testing site for the first time. CSDB has coordinated the competition in Colorado for years, and held another Braille Challenge event on its Colorado Springs campus on January 29.

“We’re so excited to partner with CSDB and to host the Braille Challenge here,” said CCB’s Executive Director, Julie Deden. “Braille is the key to academic success for blind kids.”

At the daylong regional event, students ages 6-19 will compete in five challenging categories – reading comprehension, Braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and Braille speed and accuracy. Regional prize sponsors include Humanware, National Braille Press and Seedlings Braille Books for Children.

The Colorado Regional Braille Challenge is the first step on the road to the national competition which will be held in June at the Braille Institute headquarters in Los Angeles.

What: Colorado Braille Challenge

When: Thursday, February 5, 2015; 9:00-9:30 a.m. or 12:45-1:00 p.m. will be the time that students would be available for interviews or comments. Diane and Brent will be on hand all day.

Where: Colorado Center for the Blind, 2233 W. Shepperd Ave., Littleton, CO 80120