While accessibility is currently a hot topic, with many universities and businesses looking to make their videos, classes and events more accessible, rarely do we hear about the importance of the video player.
Various video players are available with a host of innovative capabilities, but it’s important to note that accessibility features very rarely get released with new updates. More often than not, accessibility features are introduced when a video player has already been available for some time, or when customers have given feedback on missing accessibility features. For this reason, many companies and institutions are becoming increasingly concerned with the accessibility of their video players.
The Challenge & Importance
For the most part, developers tend to think about the accessibility of video players as a retrofit, or as an “add-on” to the creation of video content. It’s usually not considered as an integral part of the production process. Due to this, many companies end up having to make costly and time consuming updates to their projects. There is an increasing concern for conformance with important accessibility standards, such as those outlined in WCAG 2, and in some cases, a lack of accessibility has led to legal cases such as the settlement between the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Harvard University.
In light of these recent legal battles, the focus in mainstream media has largely been on providing high-quality captions. Providing high-quality captioning is essential to providing effective communication, but the ways in which captions are displayed—namely, through the use of video players—is also becoming an essential part of video accessibility. One way to think about which video player may be best is to take a closer look at some of the features of trusted accessible video players, such as the CaptionSync Smart Player developed by AST.
What Makes A Video Player Accessible?
One of the most important features to consider when choosing an accessible video player is its WCAG 2 compliance. A fully accessible video player should have keyboard accessible playback controls for WCAG 2 Level AA compliance (Play/Pause, Rewind, Progress Bar, Mute/Unmute, CC On/Off, AD On/Off), and it should have full keyboard control, high-contrast, and aria-labelling for screen reader compatibility. In addition, you should consider a video player that has an existing Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for Section 508 conformance. For your reference, the VPAT for the CaptionSync Smart Player is available for review on our website.
In addition to core accessibility standards for video players, there are a number of desirable features to consider to offer a more engaging video experience:
- Interactive transcript feature: Allows viewers to click on individual words in the transcript
- Search: Allows you to look up a word in a dictionary or encyclopedia
- Customization: Allows you to brand the colors of your video player for added customization, including the CaptionSync Smart Player Pro.
- Inclusive: Incorporates Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into its design by providing multiple representations of the video content and additional ways to engage
Using Video Players That Accommodate Individuals with Vision Loss
There are several accessible video players available in the market today, but the number of players that display both captioning and audio description content is limited. The best video player to choose will also help meet the accommodation needs of audio description users.
Consider a player that allows you to use extended audio description outputs when possible, so that you can provide blind and visually impaired people with access to visually complex media. The emerging consensus among video accessibility experts is that extended audio description should always be used for educational content since standard audio description restricts audio description to just gaps in the audio dialogue of video.
With extended audio description, the video is paused when descriptions are required, allowing enough time to fully communicate visual information and make educational content accessible to those who are blind or have low vision.
As shown in the image below, the CaptionSync Smart Player has an audio description display capability, with the ability to present both captions and audio descriptions simultaneously. An Audio Description video example is also available here.
Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Video Player
Below are key questions to consider when reviewing your video player’s accessibility and your workflow:
- How are the captions being displayed?
- Does the video player have audio description capabilities?
- Does the video player adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and WCAG 2 guidelines?
- Who is likely to use the video player? Are there any blind or low vision users?
- If my video player does not have accessible features, what video player can be used instead to ensure accessibility?
Asking the right questions will allow you to determine the right course of action.
Making Video Truly Accessible With The CaptionSync Smart Player
As with many accessibility-focused projects, understanding how to improve video player practices takes time and patience. Making video truly accessible is not just a matter of making sure that videos have captions—your choice of video player is also integral to reaching your accessibility goals.
This overview of the CaptionSync Smart Player should help with your research. Consider sharing this article with the key video accessibility stakeholders at your organization to provide them with a quick overview of important video player accessibility and practices.