Accessible technology enables independence

Xfinity X1 customers with physical disabilities can now use their eyes to change the channel, set a recording or search for a show.

By Comcast Houston

Recently, Comcast launched a feature that gives people with physical disabilities like spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) the ability to navigate their televisions using only their eyes. Xfinity X1 eye control is a web-based remote for tablets and computers that pairs with an existing eye-gaze system and allows a viewer to change the channel, set a recording, search for a show and more, all with a glance.

In the U.S., more than 48 million people live with physical or mobility disabilities, and every day, about 15 people are newly diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. These disabilities can make seemingly everyday tasks more difficult.

“Changing the channel on a TV is something most of us take for granted, but until now, it was a near-impossible task for millions of viewers,” said Michael Bybee, Comcast spokesperson. “When you make a product more inclusive, you create a better experience for everyone, and we’re hoping our new X1 feature makes a real difference in the lives of our customers.”

Alexis and Ignacio, Houston residents and clients of Easter Seals of Greater Houston, both have Cerebral Palsy, or (CP), a condition which affects the muscle control of their upper and lower body extremities. They recently tested the X1 eye control technology.

X1 eye control is free and uses a webpage remote control that works seamlessly with existing eye gaze hardware and software. To make X1 eye control work, Xfinity customers visit xfin.tv/access and use their credentials to pair the web-based remote with their set-top-boxes. From that point forward, each time a customer gazes at a button, the web-based remote sends the corresponding command to the television.

With X1 eye control, customers can:

  • Change the channel, launch the guide, search for content, set a recording and more, without assistance.

  • Turn on the X1 Sports App which brings real-time sports scores and statistics into the screen right alongside the in-game action.

  • Access X1’s accessibility menu, which controls closed captioning, video description and voice guidance

  • Use their gaze to type out voice commands like “watch NBC” or “action movies.”

”We are pleased to see how Comcast continues to make their products and solutions accessible,” said Cristen Reat, co-founder & program director of BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston and a provider of services for individuals and disabled veterans with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, other special needs. “As an assistive technology company, we want to empower our users to live independent lives. With the X1 eye control now enabled with eye gaze, it will come to great use for many of them.”

“It is so awesome that now, eye gaze users will be able to control a remote for access to cable television programming,” said Alexis Mendoza, Easter Seals of Greater Houston client.

Comcast is committed to making its products, services and programming more accessible. Over the past few years, the company launched the industry’s first talking TV guide, introduced a voice remote control and produced the first live entertainment program in U.S. history accessible to people with a visual disability.

For the 2016 Rio Olympics, NBC included video description with every primetime show throughout the games, and for the first time, extended that feature to the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics broadcasts on NBC and NBCSN.

Comcast also has a service center specifically dedicated to customers with disabilities where agents are specially trained in the company’s accessibility features and general support issues.