The switchover to digital TV : Directgov – Disabled people

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Saturday, 18 July 2009

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Help with the switchover to digital TV

All television in the UK will be transmitted in a digital format once the ‘digital switchover’ is complete in 2012. There is help available, if you need it, to upgrade to digital TV.

The digital switchover help scheme

The government has set up a help scheme to make sure that everybody will be ready for the switch to digital TV. The help scheme will give assistance to convert one TV set, including:

  • equipment
  • installation
  • follow-up support


The scheme is open to people aged 75 years and over, people who are registered blind or partially sighted, people who receive Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance, and people who have been resident in a care home for more than six months.

If you are eligible for help, you will be sent more information well before your region goes digital. You will receive details of how the scheme works and what digital television options there are.


The provision is free for eligible households on very low incomes, that is those on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit. Other eligible households will need to pay a subsidised one-off fee of £40.


The scheme is funded by the BBC through the licence fee. While the BBC is responsible for delivering the scheme, day-to-day operation is contracted out.

What are the benefits of digital television to disabled people?

Digital TV offers specific services for viewers with sight or hearing impairments, such as:

  • audio description
  • subtitling
  • signing services

Only a limited number of programmes offer some of those features on analogue TV.

Hearing impairments

On most digital products, subtitling can be selected simply by pressing a key. Signing services are also becoming available on more programmes. On digital TV, signing can be carried on a separate channel in the same way that subtitles work. It then becomes an option to turn on or off.

Sight impairments

Audio description is an additional soundtrack carried on programmes during gaps in dialogue to describe changes taking place on screen. The description can be carried on the same channel as the original programme, or it can be broadcast on a separate sound channel.

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