Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Jumbo Universal Remote Control - missed a trick!

This weekend I played tech support to my father-in-law, aged 70 - he was at war with his remote controls. His DSTV remote wasn't working properly, the power button was not doing anything, so he couldn't switch off his TV.  He'd gone out and bought not one, but three jumbo universal remote controls from the local warehouse that sells almost anything, mostly knock-offs made in China.

So he shows me this Jumbo Universal Remote:

At first glance, this remote looked interesting. Very nice, large buttons, good contract. Very nice for the in-laws. Alas, this remote wasn't suitable for my father's-in-law set up.

But here's the really annoying part. The user manual for this remote is a teeny tiny booklet, using a font-size that even I had trouble reading!

I am passionate about accessibility as you'll see from a future post on Talking TVs, a personal project of mine. This lack of regard for the users really annoys me. How can you create a large jumbo remote control and ship a really small user manual with it - I mean what's the point? Are you playing a joke? Are companies so insensitive to the needs of their users??  There is a large and growing user base of people who need accessible products, this market should not be ignored. New products must cater for this group from day one, at the design phase -- accessibility is rarely difficult to add-on post production. Most products that attempt to add accessibility afterwards, and not making it inherently native to the product, fail to deliver...unlike Apple products. Apple, despite their modern and ultra slick products, are surprisingly accessible and being used by many with vision problems (blind/partially sighted)...this is not just my opinion, ask Stevie Wonder for his opinion :-)

At first, I thought the remote must have been a cheap Chinese clone. But no, go to JumboRemoteDotCom and download the user manual and see for yourself!  That's not the only thing - take a minute to think about the users of this remote control, such as my father-in-law: The instructions are virtually impossible to comprehend...sigh.

There are indeed TV companies out there that care about accessibility, and go to lengths spending time and money on R&D to produce decent accessible remote controls. Take BSkyB in the UK for example, who provide accessible remote controls free of charge to their subscribers needing assistance.  More recently in South Africa, DSTV have also produced a large remote control, although not free for subscribers due to a somewhat different business model and market to BSkyB. This company from US also have some interesting products on offer.

DSTV Jumbo Remote:

BSkyB Remote:

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