Australian government announces talking set-top box rollout

The Australian Federal Government Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, has announced the rollout of talking set-top box technology as part of the Government’s Digital Switchover Household Assistance Scheme (HAS).

“The Australian government is committed to ensuring that no one is left behind in the switch to digital-only television,” Senator Conroy said.

Talking set-top boxes are designed to assist blind or vision impaired people to navigate electronic program guides, onscreen menus and the settings of their television. Text-to-speech technology is used to describe programs, menu items and menu layouts, and the box includes the ability to change the style of speech and provide talking instructions for the remote control.

The talking set-top box will be provided to eligible HAS recipients from the time the scheme opens in northern New South Wales in June.

“After a successful trial in Victoria, talking set-top boxes will be made available to eligible recipients who receive a maximum rate pension because they are legally blind, or because they care for a child who is legally blind,” Senator Conroy said.

Legally blind recipients will not have to do anything extra to receive the talking set-top box — once they opt-in to the Household Assistance Scheme, they will be identified as being eligible and the talking set-top box will be installed free-of-charge.

More than 90,000 eligible households have already been helped to switch to DTV through the Household Assistance Scheme, including households where people are legally blind.

While these households have already been converted to DTV through the scheme, the government is currently in discussions with disability support groups to facilitate distribution and installation of the new talking set top boxes retrospectively in each of the four previous switchover areas.