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WASHINGTON D.C. — February 15, 2018 — Comcast and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today released a survey of people with visual disabilities showing that a majority watch four or more hours per day — almost as much as the general public. Many of those surveyed report that today’s assistive technologies like video description, text-to-speech and voice control are helpful as they watch TV; however, those tools still suffer from low levels of awareness, according to the study.
The findings were shared today during an event in Washington, D.C. that brought together organizations from the disability community — including the AFB, the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) – at a time when the country is enjoying the biggest television event of the year, the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

“This research aligns with what I’ve experienced in my own life: people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy watching news, sports and movies just as much as their sighted peers, especially when the content is accessible,” said Kirk Adams, President and CEO of the AFB. “Accessible technologies – from video description to accessible remote control and set-top-boxes — have a huge, positive impact on the quality of experience.”
The survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group, found:

  • 96% of visually impaired adults watch television on a regular basis.
  • 81% watch more than an hour per day and 55% watch four or more hours per day.
  • 65% of those surveyed encountered problems with looking up what’s on TV.
  • 53% experienced difficulty in following along with key visual elements.
  • Less than half are aware of assistive technologies like video description and talking TV guides.

“It’s a myth to think that you can’t enjoy television just because you have a visual disability,” said Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President of Accessibility for Comcast, who was born blind. “That’s why I’m proud that Comcast and NBC have become pioneers in making live entertainment and sporting events more accessible for millions of people like me. And when that content is complemented with the right technology, people with visual disabilities can have an end-to-end experience that is even more inclusive and entertaining.”
NBC Olympics and Comcast recently announced that they are working with Descriptive Video Works to provide video description services (VDS) for viewers with visual disabilities watching coverage of this year’s Olympic broadcast. And Comcast has included accessible navigation and search technologies like the Xfinity X1 voice remote and voice guidance into the new Olympic experience on Xfinity X1 that provides easy access to all 2,400+ hours of NBC Olympics’ live, on demand and streaming coverage.
“I’ve gotten to know the folks at Comcast, met Tom and his team and learned a little about the technology they are working on to help people like me,” said Danelle Umstead, current U.S. Alpine Ski Team Paralympian with a visual disability and bronze medal winner at the Paralympic Winter Games 2010 and 2014. “I’ve been tuning into NBC’s broadcast every night and the description track really helps me follow along with all the action.”

X1 customers with a visual impairment just have to say “Shows with Video Description” to find NBC’s Olympic Primetime show, listen as X1 reads aloud the on-screen choices, and then enjoy as they not only hear the program’s audio, but also a separate narrator who is describing all the visual elements of the broadcast like the expression on an Olympian’s face when they win gold.

About the Survey:

Global Strategy Group conducted a survey of 626 visually impaired adults, including 277 adults with “no functional vision” between October 9 and November 27, 2017. Results were weighted to correspond to national data about the visually impaired population. The survey was designed to be compatible with screen readers and screen magnifiers.

About The American Foundation for the Blind

Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit:

About Comcast

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation’s largest video, high-speed internet, and phone providers to residential customers under the XFINITY brand, and also provides these services to businesses. It also provides wireless security and automation services to residential customers under the XFINITY brand. NBCUniversal operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts. Visit for more information.


Media Contacts: Steven Restivo, Comcast