Your modern day digital television set is a complicated device, but it has some really cool features you should explore. If you are suffering from hearing loss or visual impairment, your TV can help you enjoy the many shows it features without missing a thing.
The main thing we all should know is that every program on TV in America contains closed captioning of the dialog for people having trouble hearing. Even if you don’t need it, it’s a great feature to have on. If the phone rings, mute the volume and you can continue watching your show and keep up with the dialog by reading the text on the screen. It can also help you learn to read faster!
Most modern sets allow you to change the color of the letters, as well as the background and font. I tend to like the white letters on the black background since that’s what I am used to, but it can be customized for your personal preference. While most programs are pre-recorded, the people who enter the text, called captioners, can ensure the text is synchronized with the words the actors are saying.
Now, our local news is a little different. WNCN has used live captioners for many years. This means the captioner listens to every word and transcribes them to text that is displayed on your TV. The actual process means when our Anchors speak, the sound travels over the phone system to the captioner’s ear. They type what they hear which is sent back to the station on a modem to our encoder that embeds the data in the picture that is broadcast to your home. Live news captions tend to be about three to five seconds behind the audio as the anchors speak. We make every effort to get that time down as short as possible, but there’s only so much you can do to prevent some delay. The best part about live captions is that every word is captioned during the newscast, including interviews, weather and sports.
Naturally, typing that fast can introduce some mistakes. You would not want to see any text I type really fast! Some are amusing, but still get the point across. You may often see the “Neuse River” spelled “Noose River”. It happens, but we try to make sure these captioners are up to date on local spellings as best we can. We never know who the captioners are for any given show. They live anywhere across the country and most work from home, so it just depends on who is available when we need them. The company we currently use is named Caption Colorado, and they are one of the biggest caption suppliers in the country.
It is very important to have a stable signal from your antenna for captions to display correctly. A weak signal will sometimes cause the letters to get scrambled on the screen making it difficult to read. That’s why I always recommend a great antenna to get the best reception possible.
Play around with the menus on your TV and see what smart things it can do you never thought about. Just keep track of what you select so you can return to the previous settings if you need to.
The Secondary Audio Programs can be used to hear descriptive audio when available or the commentary in Spanish if it is available. Other times these channels are silent.
Descriptive audio is offered on a few programs each week. A narrator describes the action on the screen so visually impaired or blind people can stay up with the action. Hopefully more shows will begin doing this in the future. It might be useful even with no visual impairment. Let’s say you are doing your income taxes and not able to view the screen. While you are adding up those numbers, your TV could be telling you what is going on so you don’t have to stop and watch at a dramatic scene. You can hear the action.
The other popular use is the ability to select English or Spanish audio during a show. Most NFL games on NBC have Spanish audio commentators on the SAP channel. It can be other languages as well, but Spanish is the most popular for most programs.
Even older TV sets are this smart, so you don’t need a brand new set to see or hear these features. If you encounter an elderly viewer having trouble hearing, then show them how to enable these features and they will appreciate being able to keep up with their shows much easier without missing anything.