This is a review of TiVo from an accessibility perspective. For those who are not familiar, TiVo is a DVR, which with a cable card, allows you to record and watch TV without using a cable company DVR. The TiVo device is not accessible, since it assumes you can see the screen when using the remote to browse recordings, schedule recordings etc. There are apps for iOS and Android that allow you to do most actions that would be done with the TiVo remote.
I am an iPhone user so most of my testing was done with an iPhone 5S. I also own a 2012 Nexus 7 running Android 4.4.4, so I did some brief testing of the Android app as well. In my testing with the Android app, I found it unusably slow, but generally accessible. Others with newer phones found it usable, so it probably depends on how new your Android device is.
I bought the TiVo Roamio Plus which has 6 tuners and a built in TiVo Stream. I believe that most things should be similar with the basic TiVo Roamio and a stand-alone TiVo Stream device, but cannot confirm this. Based on the fact that when ordering directly from TiVo a TiVo Stream is $130 and a TiVo Roamio is $199, I would recommend paying $399 for the TiVo Roamio plus to get the built in stream and twice the storage space.
The first thing I will go over is the ordering of the TiVo device. I ordered my TiVo Roamio from Amazon to save $50. When getting a TiVo, you need to create an account on tivo.com and enter your TiVo service number. If you order the TiVo from tivo.com, the TiVo service number of the device you ordered will be automatically added to your account. Since I did not order from tivo.com, I had to get the service number from my device and enter it after creating a TiVo account. The number is on the TiVo device and is not available in an accessible format. I had a friend read me the number and I wrote it down. After I had the number, the creation of my account on tivo.com and associating the service number I had written down was completely accessible on Windows with Jaws as my screen reading software.
The setup of the TiVo device was completely inaccessible. When plugging in the TiVo, you have to go through a setup process using the TV screen and TiVo remote before accessing the TiVo with the TiVo app. This setup process includes downloading updates, setting up the video signal to your TV, and activating your cable card with your cable provider. When setup was complete and I was able to change channels using the TiVo remote, I logged into the TiVo iOS app for the first time.
Logging into the iOS app was difficult. While I was able to enter my email and password, there were two unlabeled buttons. It was not clear that one of these buttons had to be tapped to accept the terms of service. Once I tapped this button to agree to the terms of service, it was announced as “wdw check” and I was able to log into the TiVo app. Once I was logged in, I was able to use the TiVo guide. The guide is generally accessible.
When swiping through the guide, you hear the channel number followed by the name of the current program on that channel. Tapping the program name allows you to view information on that program, watch the program, or record it. When tapping the watch button, you are prompted on whether you want to watch on TV or iPhone. Picking how you want to watch the show is not intuitive. When you tap watch now, rather than a popup, three buttons will appear at the bottom of the iPhone screen. They are TV, iPhone, and cancel. Once you find one of these buttons, you can easily swipe between the options but will need to explore to find the three buttons. Selecting TV automatically starts the requested program playing on your TV. Selecting watch on iPhone starts recording the program and playing the recording on your iPhone. The accessibility of the iPhone video player will be covered later in this review but it is generally accessible.
The TiVo guide has a slider that allows you to go up and down by 25 channel increments which I found useful. Performance of the guide with Voiceover is generally good. Instead of the program title displayed, To Be Announced is displayed, although waiting ten seconds usually clears this up.
Using the remote with the TiVo is fairly accessible. By default, the TiVo remote cannot power on/off your TV, change the volume, mute it, etc. Setting up this feature requires sighted help. One thing that is a bit confusing at first, is the fact that to control your TV in order to do things such as mute it, change volume, etc., you need to point the remote directly at the TV. When performing functions on the TiVo unit such as changing channels, pausing and resuming playback, etc., it does not matter where you point the TiVo remote. In order to easily fast forward and rewind when watching recordings on the TiVo, you need to configure your remote to use a 30 second skip. Instructions for this can be found at
Once I had someone help set this up, I was easily able to hit the fast forward button several times to skip in 30 second increments. If I skipped too far, I would hit rewind several times to skip back in eight second increments until I hit the end of a commercial. Pausing and resuming playback with the remote is also accessible. Selecting a show to watch has to be done with the TiVo app, since the on screen menus are not accessible. When you are done watching a TV show, TiVo prompts you to delete the recording. This prompt is not announced, but hitting up twice and then select will delete the show.
Browsing future shows and choosing to record them is accessible using the TiVo app. From the TV guide, you can either select a show that is currently playing and select record now or select a channel and get a list of what is coming up on that channel. When viewing a list of upcoming programs, tapping a program title brings up a description of the program, when it is airing, as well as the option to record it. When selecting to record the program, there are several options such as starting the recording early, adding extra time to the recording, determining how long the recording will be kept, etc. All these options are accessible. Another option is to set up a One Pass. A One Pass will record a program any time it airs, not just the currently selected showing. One Passes offer a lot of options such as number of episodes to record, record only new episodes, etc. All of these options are accessible.
Browsing recorded shows is fully accessible. From the TiVo app, selecting the “my shows” tab presents a list of recorded shows. You can select to view either shows on the TiVo device or shows that have been downloaded to your device. When swiping through the list of shows, the show title will be announced. If the show is part of a series, the number of available episodes will be announced after the title. If the show is not part of a series, tapping it will bring up the information on that show with the options to watch the show, download to device, or delete the show. This screen is completely accessible. If there are multiple episodes of a show, tapping the show title will bring up a new screen with a list of episodes. Tapping the title of an episode will bring up the show information with options to watch, download, or delete. To get back to the list of available shows from a list of episodes, you will have to hit the back button. When tapping watch, you have the option to watch on either the TV or iPhone. Tapping download will allow you to download the show to your phone. There are several quality settings for downloading the show. Each setting will be announced with how much space downloading will use on your phone. When starting a download of a show, to see the progress of the download, select to view shows on iPhone from the shows tab. If the show is not completely downloaded, the TiVo app will have a percent indicator of how much of the download is complete. If a show download has been interrupted you will be able to resume the download. Some shows, such as those on premium channels such as HBO, are copy protected. This means, when downloading the show, the recording will be deleted from the TiVo device. There is a check box that you must check in order to acknowledge that you understand the show will be deleted from your TiVo. This is an unlabeled button, so there is no way of telling whether it is checked or not. This is not a big deal since it is unchecked by default. In order to download a copy protected show, all you have to do is tap the unlabeled button and then select download.
Searching for shows is accessible. From anywhere in the app, if you click on the search button, you can enter a show name. When tapping a show name you get info on the show, actors, etc. There are options to watch the show or get this show. Tapping get this show allows you to record either the next episode or set up a One Pass. Tapping watch provides a list of streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu Plus that the show can be watched from. Assuming that your account on these services is properly configured, selecting a service such as Netflix will start the show playing on your TV after a bit of a pause. If your account is not configured, a setup wizard will appear on screen to log into the selected service. This wizard is not accessible and must be completed with the remote. I have had issues with my Netflix account not being remembered. If the show does not start playing, I ask someone sighted to help me set up my Netflix account again. Another option when viewing a show, is to get a list of episodes. Selecting a specific episode from this list allows you to either record that specific episode or watch it from streaming services it is available on.
The TiVo app provides a remote feature that allows you to use an iOS device as a remote. This feature is generally accessible. Most buttons are properly labeled, so you are able to do things such as watch live TV, change channels, etc. There is an option to use your device as a keyboard as well. This is somewhat accessible. While you can type letters, the letter is not announced when it is entered, unlike normal typing on iOS if you have that option selected.
The video player used to watch recordings on the iPhone is generally accessible. When watching a recording there are buttons to pause, fast forward, rewind, and done, which will stop the recording and bring you back to the show info. There is also a slider you can use to move by larger increments in the show. Swiping from button to button works well and double tapping them works as expected. Swiping from anywhere on the screen does not move to the next or previous control, though. You need to explore to find an initial button, and then begin swiping. I tend to find the done button in the lower left corner of the device when held in landscape mode with the volume buttons facing you and swipe from there. When skipping repeatedly, using fast forward or rewind sometimes causes the buttons to lose focus. In order to get to the buttons again, you have to double tap anywhere on the screen and then find a button to begin swiping from. While this is not the best, it is a large improvement from previous versions of the app where none of the on screen controls were visible to Voiceover.
There is a What to Watch tab on TiVo which is mostly accessible, but not easy to use. This section allows you to view currently airing shows in categories such as sports, movies, etc. Reordering the categories is accessible, so I have sports at the top of my list. Unfortunately, there is no way to move quickly from section to section. If I want to see what movies are on, I have to scroll through all currently airing sports before the movies will be announced. Another issue is favorite channels cannot be set up using the TiVo app. You can set your favorite channels up on the TiVo device using the remote, but cannot do this with the app.
The TiVo Mini is a device that you can plug into a second TV which will allow you to watch recordings and live TV using the main TiVo unit as a server. Instead of $100 plus $6.99 a month, the TiVo Mini cost me $149, with no recurring service fee. This was a holiday deal, so in the future you may have to pay a $6.99 monthly service fee. The setup for this device was completely inaccessible like the TiVo Roamio. Once I got it set up, in order to control the TiVo Mini, I had to select it using the “select a TiVo box” option on the more tab of the TiVo app. During setup of both the TiVo Mini and TiVo Roamio you are prompted for a device name. Give the device a meaningful name; in my case I named the TiVo Roamio Living Room and the TiVo Mini Bedroom. Once you select the TiVo Mini, the app behaves the same way it would for the TiVo Roamio. You are able to list shows, watch them on TV, etc. One thing to keep in mind is that the TiVo app does not show what box is currently selected. Since the TiVo Mini does not support streaming to an iPhone, there have been times when I have attempted to watch a show and have been told this device does not support streaming. There have also been times where I have started a show playing on the TV, while in the living room, and been confused because the TV did not start playing the show. The first time this happened it took me a few seconds to realize I still had the TiVo Mini selected as the active device. Even though you can watch TV on your phone, I have found the TiVo Mini to be a worthwhile device. It is much quicker to fast forward through ads using the remote, or go to a specific channel using the numbers on the remote, than it is using the TiVo app when watching on your phone.
In summary, the TiVo device is well worth the cost to me. While there are some minor accessibility issues and setup is completely inaccessible, even with the high cost, it is worth the money to provide a DVR solution that allows me to independently schedule and watch recordings. I would strongly recommend TiVo to any blind iOS user who has the disposable income and desire for a good DVR solution. I cannot recommend the TiVo device to Android users based on my limited experience, but other blind Android users have had good luck. So if you are an Android user, I would suggest trying out a friend’s TiVo unit, if possible.