Amazon has added a screen reader mode, that they’re calling VoiceView, to the Amazon Fire TV. When enabled, it reads aloud on-screen text and provides an alternate navigation method to help visually impaired customers navigate the Fire TV interface. To enable VoiceView, you press and hold the BACK and MENU button on your remote for a few seconds. The feature will start a verbal welcome tutorial the first time it is activated to teach new users about its capabilities.
With VoiceView activated, the active menu item is highlighted by a green outline. Every time you navigate to a new menu item or new part of the interface, the menu text or a description of the interface item is read out loud to you. In addition to the on-screen text being read, the user is told what number in the series of items they are currently on, as well as how many items there are total.
By default, VoiceView uses an “enhanced navigation” mode which uses the RIGHT and LEFT buttons to move around the interface, even if it’s a vertical list that one would normally use UP and DOWN to traverse. The green highlight moves around the screen, without actually engaging the interface, and SELECT is pressed to engage the highlighted item. The UP and DOWN buttons are used to highlight and read aloud areas of the screen with additional detail, like descriptions and ratings. Pressing and holding the MENU button will switch into “standard navigation” mode where one interactions with the interface in the usual manner, but VoiceView continues to read on-screen text.
In certain sections of the Fire TV interface, you can press the MENU button to hear additional information and options when they’re available. To exit VoiceView, you simply press and hold the BACK and MENU buttons again. VoiceView does not work in all aspects of the Fire TV, like the Music section, but it covers the vast majority of the interface. As you’d expect, it also does not work within third-party apps. You’ll need to be running the latest software, version 220.127.116.11, to use VoiceView. Combined with the current suite of Alexa voice capabilities, VoiceView mode could make the Fire TV the best streaming box for visually impaired users.