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Review: Freeview’s accessible TV guide

Earlier this month, Freeview rolled out the UK’s first Accessible TV Guide in a bid to make its service accessible to everyone.

If you have a sensory impairment or would simply prefer to use a larger, easier to use talking TV guide – this is for you.

It is designed to help viewers discover and find television content more easily. But is the guide as accessible as it says?

Hearing Link was given a sneak preview to see how well the features works for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Our volunteers Steve and Phil were given an exclusive tour of the user interface and the opportunity to feed back on the guide to its developers.

Here is how they found the guide…

How does it work?

The guide is accessible through any compatible Freeview Play device. A list of these can be found on Freeview’s website.

To use the guide, viewers select channel 555 where they can choose their preferred accessibility settings from the following options:

  • Text-to-speech for on screen navigation
  • Show only programmes with audio description
  • Show only programmes with subtitles
  • Show only programmes with sign language.
Guide: What to expect from the user interface. Image courtesy of Freeview.

Using the directional buttons on the TV remote control – left, right, up and down – it is easy to navigate through the user interface.

Once an option is selected, viewers will only see programmes on the guide that are available to watch with this accessibility feature.

It is then a case of clicking okay / select on the remote control to confirm the settings. Viewers then use the right directional button to access to the guide and can scroll through channels or days to choose a programme.

Menu: How items are displayed to viewers with their accessibility choice. Image courtesy of Freeview.

A handy feature is that your settings remain the same every time you visit Channel 555 for ease. At the top of the guide, little icons appear to remind you which setting you have selected.

What did our volunteers like about the guide?

Phillip said: “I found it very interesting, I have known of Freeview before, but not used it. Now I have looked at the accessible guide, it seems like a good service and could be useful to many people. The guide itself looked very clear and the options were logical. The help page was clear and concise and in simple English, visually gentle to the eye in a font that was easy to read, the colouring was distinctive and enhanced the ease of viewing without being harsh. All in all, a useful page helping both poorly sighted, hard of hearing and deaf without the need to be an expert. Below are some really useful links and show you a great video of how it all works, so may I suggest you follow the links.”

Steve added: “I found it very interesting too. It was very easy to use, but the video guide is essential to allow inclusivity for all. The user interface is very clear and well laid out. One observation is that to use the guide you must have suitable hardware and connectivity. For example, I dusted off an old Freeview box and connected it to both TV aerial and Ethernet. However, I could not access the guide. I believe that to use the guide you need, TV aerial, internet, and Freeview Play. Fortunately, my TV has all of this and I was able to use the service directly through my TV.”

Did anything not work as well?

Overall, the Freeview guide is easy to use and a very useful tool for people with accessibility needs to find content more easily.

Unfortunately, it is let down by the lack of available content that is signed or has accurate subtitles. Only 5% of programmes per channel are required to be signed by an interpreter, while the percentage of programmes subtitled per channel varies, up to a maximum of 80%.

Phil added: “Thank you to Freeview for considering the hard of hearing community with this fantastic guide. We must now look forward to other mediums increasing signed and subtitled television content.”

Useful links

To find out more about the Accessible TV Guide visit:

To find out more about compatible devices, visit:

For the subtitled video guide: Click here