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TalkBack evaluation examples for TV apps

This guide lists steps to evaluate your TV app to improve a screen reader user’s experience. Perform these steps to understand how users are experiencing your app when TalkBack (Android screen reader) is enabled.

Why is accessibility important for my TV app?

Vision impairments are not uncommon among the TV-watching population. An estimated 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the US alone, 32 million Americans 18 and older have experienced significant vision loss, according to the 2018 National Health Interview Survey. In Europe, the estimates point to 30 million blind and partially sighted persons, according to the European Blind Union (EBU).

Most importantly, users with vision impairments enjoy consuming media content just as much as their fully sighted peers. A 2017 survey commissioned by Comcast (US) showed that 96% of users who are blind or have low vision regularly watch TV, with 81% watching more than an hour per day. However, 65% also reported encountering problems with looking up what’s on TV.

While assistive technologies can and do help users with low vision, it's important to support accessibility in content discovery journeys for TV apps by, for example, paying extra attention to providing navigation guidance and properly labeling elements. Ensuring that TV apps work well with accessibility features like TalkBack has the power to significantly improve the experience for users with vision impairments.

The first step towards improving accessibility is awareness. This guide can help you and your team to uncover accessibility issues with your app on TV.

Evaluation examples

Start your evaluation by enabling TalkBack and opening your app. We recommend that, if it is the first time you are conducting this evaluation, you do so without looking at the TV screen.

First-time use

Explore the landing page and log into an account, trying every login path possible:

  • Use the remote control to enter the account credentials.
  • If available, login with a code.
  • If available, opt into a trial.

Confirm the following:

  • Are all of the key elements on the page reachable and clickable? That is, can you select all key elements when navigating up, down, left, and right with the remote?
  • Are elements meaningfully labeled and announced out loud when a screen reader is enabled, such as “Login”? Watch out for unlabeled elements or sequences of numbers, such as “unlabeled” or “item 08328492qw”.
  • When TalkBack is enabled, is all the text that appears on screen announced?
  • Do interactions yield expected results? For example, does clicking the Sign-in button actually bring users to a Sign-in page?
  • Is navigation sequential or do issues occur? For example, does the selection jump to the wrong element in the UI?
  • Login specific:
    • Are you able to move from character to character on the screen keyboard when using the remote to type?
    • When using a login code (displayed on TV, to be entered on a secondary device), are you able to navigate from character to character?

Navigate through the interface, testing the behaviors listed below for all pages and menus:

  • Navigate all the way to the bottom of the page and back up.
  • Navigate all the way to the end of a row and back.
  • Click on row elements including content cards and buttons to confirm all actions yield expected results

Confirm the following:

  • Are all the key elements on the page reachable and clickable? That is, can you select all key elements when navigating up, down, left, and right with the remote?
  • If an element has focus, is it meaningfully labeled and announced? Watch out for unlabeled elements or sequences of numbers, such as “unlabeled” or “item 08328492qw.”
  • If an element with text has focus, is all the text that appears on screen announced by TalkBack?
  • Do interactions yield expected results? Is navigation smooth or do issues occur? For example, does the selection jump to the wrong element in the UI?
  • When opening a page, does clicking the Back button bring the user to where they were before opening the page?
  • Row specific:
    • If a row heading has focus, does it get announced by TalkBack?
    • If a row has focus, are all items within the row announced by TalkBack? For example, if it’s a movie row, are all movie titles announced by TalkBack?
  • Avoid instances of automatic playback:
    • Does content start playing only when the user has initiated an interaction?
    • If not, can autoplaying content be paused or stopped by the user?

A note on automatic playback: Automatic playback of content, such as trailer autoplay, may be disruptive for users with vision impairments. The ability to pause or stop autoplay content is recommended by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Explore information pages for media content

If your app contains media content with detail pages such as an information page about a movie or show, open the detail page for two or more media titles.

  • Navigate through all the information available for a title.
  • Test all available actions, such as play, rent, and add to favorites.

Confirm the following:

  • Are all the key elements on the page reachable and clickable? That is, can you select all key elements when navigating up, down, left, and right with the remote?
  • If an element has focus, is the item meaningfully labeled and announced? Watch out for unlabeled elements or sequences of numbers, such as “unlabeled” or “item 08328492qw.”
  • If an element has focus, is all the text announced by TalkBack?
  • If an element has focus, do interactions yield expected results? Is navigation smooth or do issues occur? For example, does the selection jump to the wrong element in the UI?
  • When opening a page, does clicking the Back button bring the user to where they were before opening the page?
  • Detail page specific:
    • Is the title announced by TalkBack once the user lands on the page?
    • Is metadata, such as ratings and genre, announced by TalkBack?
    • If there are additional rows, are all row headings announced by TalkBack?
  • Watch out for instances of automatic playback:
    • Does content start playing only when the user has initiated an interaction?
    • If not, can autoplaying content be paused or stopped by the user?

Play media content

If available, play one or more media titles and test the following interactions:

  • Play and pause.
  • Rewind and fast forward.
  • Activate audio descriptions, if available.
  • Change audio language.
  • Enable and change subtitles or captions (including changing any associated settings, if available).
  • Test any additional playback controls that are available.

Confirm the following:

  • If media controls have focus, are media controls appropriately labeled and announced by TalkBack? This includes additional options such as subtitle options or audio descriptions.
  • If media controls have focus, do all media controls work in the expected manner when TalkBack is enabled?
  • When pausing and resuming media playback, do TalkBack announcements occur concurrently over the movie or show’s audio?
  • When rewinding or fast-forwarding, does TalkBack provide information about timestamps or about rewinding and fast-forwarding speed?
  • Changing settings tips:
    • Are actions confirmed by TalkBack?
    • Watch for how any toggles and toggle actions are labeled. For example, is current state + action announced?

Watch live content with an Electronic Programming Guide

If your app has live TV content:

  • Browse the Electronic Programming Guide (EPG).
  • Browse through different channels.
  • Browse forward in time.
  • Click to play live content.
  • Test any additional controls that are available, such as favoriting channels and reordering rows.

Confirm the following:

  • Are all the key elements on the page reachable and clickable? That is, can you focus on them when navigating up, down, left, and right with the remote?
  • If an element has focus, is the element meaningfully labeled and announced? Watch out for unlabeled elements or sequences of numbers, such as “unlabeled” or “item 08328492qw.”
  • If an element has focus, is all the text that appears on screen announced by TalkBack?
  • Do interactions yield expected results? Is navigation smooth or do issues occur? For example, does the selection jump to the wrong element in the UI?
  • When opening a page, does clicking the Back button bring the user to where they were before opening the page?

Voice support

If your app has any embedded form of voice search, use it to:

  • Spell (if available).
  • Search for content.

Confirm the following:

  • Can users revise what they have spelled?
  • Are there any interferences between searching or spelling with voice and TalkBack, such as when TalkBack announces something and the announcement is picked up as a voice query?
  • Search results page: examine like any other page. For guidance on how to examine the page, see Navigate the user interface with a remote.

Explore app settings

Navigate through settings:

  • Navigate through every menu and submenu.
  • Modify settings.

Confirm the following:

  • Are all the key elements on the page reachable and clickable? That is, can you select all key elements when navigating up, down, left, and right with the remote?
  • If a setting has focus, are elements meaningfully labeled and announced? Watch out for unlabeled elements or sequences of numbers, such as “unlabeled” or “item 08328492qw.”
  • If a setting has focus, is all the text that appears on screen announced by TalkBack?
  • Do interactions yield expected results? Is navigation smooth or do issues occur? For example, does the selection jump to the wrong element in the UI?
  • When opening a page, does clicking the Back button bring the user to where they were before opening the page?
  • Settings tips:
    • Are selections confirmed by TalkBack?
    • Confirm how any toggles and toggle actions are labeled. For example, is current state + action announced?

Last step: Make changes to global TalkBack settings

Open the global TalkBack settings on the TV device:

  • Modify each TalkBack setting, such as speech rate and verbosity, one by one.
  • After modifying each setting, return to the app you are evaluating.

Confirm the following:

  • Do the changes you made to TalkBack settings successfully carry into the app?

Learn more

To learn more, see our accessibility development resources.