Video Player Accessibility and Ugly Acronyms

Ugly Acronyms

Some acronyms are just ugly: take for instance UAAG 2.0. When someone knows an issue, they can handle an ugly acronym. UAAG stands for User Agent Accessibility Guidelines. If you don’t know what it is, you most likely won’t understand what those guidelines mean until you read in-depth about the topic – references provided below will help you get started. However, one of the topics of accessibility most everyone is familiar with and that is captioning of videos. This accessibility topic is easy-to-understand and has been part of several noteworthy legal actions.

The reason I’m talking about UAAG 2.0 is that a secondary and lesser-known issue is that of inaccessible video players. The Web Accessibility Initiative covers both of these issues and other things such as the accessibility of browsers.

When looking at software that produces content for showing video on the web, you should be aware of whether the software video player meets accessibility standards. Professionals designing web content need to look for a few factors when picking the media player for their site.

Getting ugly GraffitiAlternatives (UDL)

First the media player has to provide alternatives for audiovisual information such as captioning, sign language interpretation, transcripts and/or audio description. That seems to be something most people are aware of. However, often overlooked is how accessible the player is. The player needs to be not only accessible using a mouse but by keyboard in through the use of assistive technology, especially screen readers.

When I run testing, I often don’t have content that I’ve created, so I usually research whether the player can show close captions. Those of you familiar with Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, Camtasia will know that you need to have a method to show captioning of content. Knowing that these are educational technologies, the issue of UAAG 2.0 usually has been addressed. But lesser-known products, often used by specific types of departments which show video content may not be up to speed with the UAAG standard. It is therefore important to look at the player controls to see if they can be accessed without using the mouse and with using assistive technology.

Companies that package video content and sell them to libraries, frequently do not comply with accessibility standards. Though federal law holds motion picture and television content to the close captioning standard, other video players have not been scrutinized by the federal government. These slip through the cracks, and cause accessibility issues for students who are blind, hard of hearing, deaf, learning-disabled etc. Captioning gets all the glitter when it comes to the conversation of accessibility, but in inaccessible player is just as serious an issue.

Even more rare to find is documentation that users can obtain about the media player to learn keystrokes or other features that were designed to improve accessibility. Test to see if there’s any documentation easily acquired through the application. Frequently basic controls such as how to play or stop a video, the ability to resize the screen presented, and volume adjustment should have documentation.

If any of these issues are missed by the manufacturer of the player, consider another player. If you cannot, then contact the company representative to discuss when in future updates these issues will be addressed.


Factors in Chosing an Accessible Player

video player supports close captions
video player supports audio description and allows narration to be turned on and off
video player supports keyboard access to all controls
controls are properly labeled for screenreader access
video player operates on all major browsers


Content developers need to provide captioning for instructional content. This is the predominant factor when pursuing accessible video content. Overlooked frequently is the actual player and it’s accessibility.


User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UUAG 2.0)
Web accessibility initiative Wikipedia page (WAI):

You Can Create Accessible Videos — Cast

Existing Accessible Players

Able Player – by Terrill Thompson (GitHub)
OzPlayer – by AccessibilityOz

AFB Accessible Player, American Foundation of the Blind
Other accessible video players exist.

Players in Review

The following webpage provides an excellent example of a comparison of HTML 5 video players:
the page describes various aspects of whether it plays on a specific platform has a JS library, CMS plug-in, and a whole lot of other interesting factors.