Specification for an accessible video/media player

Published: | 13 Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutesThe whole world is going video now. Figures vary, but something like 70 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and businesses are coming to rely on the power of video marketing to reach their customers and potential customers.

Collection of video playersOn the face of it, it’s easy to embed YouTube and Vimeo videos into your website – it’s usually just a small piece of code to put into your pages. But the challenge comes when you want to do so in a way that’s fully accessible – that is, in a way that allows all people to get the full value from a video regardless of any disabilities or impairments. Up to now, the embedded players from the video hosting sites haven’t been fully accessible.

So, prompted by my own desire to include videos on the Coolfields Consulting website, and to do so in an accessible way, I’m investigating the various options for doing this. And I’ll be sharing the results of my quest in a series of blog posts and yes, videos too. The results are likely to influence which player I should use, and possibly which platform to host my videos on.

My requirements

First, I thought it would be useful to set out my requirements for an accessible video player.

  1. The player should allow videos hosted on YouTube and Vimeo to be included in web pages, along with self-hosted videos in mainstream formats where required. (I understand that the native players from YouTube and Vimeo are not going to support videos not hosted on those platforms.)
  2. The minimum functionality of the player should be:
    1. Start/pause video
    2. Skip forward and backward through video
    3. Control volume up and down – mute switch would be useful too.
    4. Show/hide captions – including select language
    5. Allow full screen where appropriate and possible
  3. The player should be easy to embed in web pages.
  4. The player should be able to be fully controlled by keyboard interaction only – ie you shouldn’t have to rely on a mouse to work it.
  5. When being accessed by keyboard operation, the current keyboard focus should be clearly visible.
  6. The player should not start videos automatically.
  7. The player should work and be usable on all major platforms and devices – Windows, Macs, iOS and Android devices.
  8. The player controls should be either be permanently visible, or become visible when keyboard or touch focus moves into the player.
  9. The player should support captions or subtitles – either those present in video hosting areas like YouTube/Vimeo, or by linking in to external caption file provided by user.
  10. The player should not prevent a transcript being provided – either on page with video, or in alternate page.
  11. All the controls should voice sufficiently when player is accessed by screen readers – both with keyboard and hover use.
  12. The player should be easy to operate with voice recognition software.

And given that I work use WordPress on my own website, and extensively on websites I develop, I have another personal requirement:

  1. The player should either be available as a WordPress plugin, or lend itself to be easily incorporated into a WordPress plugin.

What do you think?

Have you got any comments on this list? Or do you think I’ve missed any requirements out? What would be on your list?

Use the comments form below to let me know what you think.

Players that I’m going to test

These are the video players that I’m aware of at the moment and that I will be testing out:

  • YouTube embedded player (only works for YouTube videos obviously)
  • Vimeo embedded player (only works for Vimeo videos obviously)
  • Nomensa accessible media player
  • The Workshop accessible media player
  • Mediaelement.js player within WordPress
  • Accessible Video Library WordPress plugin by Joe Dolson
  • Video.js player

Keep your eye on the prize

During my investigation I’m hoping to find at least one player that fits the bill. After all, an accessible video player will help a lot of people who can’t enjoy or learn from online videos at the moment, and it’ll certainly get a lot of support from the ‘accessibility community’ around the world.

So, if you’re aware of an embeddable (is that even a word?) video player that ticks all the boxes, I’d be very grateful if you could let us all know.

Or maybe you’d like to have a go at building one?


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13 Responses to “Specification for an accessible video/media player”

  1. From: Joe Dolson on January 13th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Just for clarity, the player used by Accessible Video Library is the Media Element JS player. I didn’t introduce any different player, just changed settings and styles.

  2. From: Graham Armfield on January 13th, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for clarifying that Joe.

  3. From: Bart Simons on January 15th, 2014 at 12:35 pm
  4. From: Raghavendra satish peri on January 15th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Graham this will be very helpful to find a accessible video player..Am trying to record podcasts & often find it difficult to post onto my wordpress blog as there are no accessible players. A plugin will be good & i downloaded a nomenssa plugin from github but was unable to figure out what will it do once i install it…Will follow your progress closely.

  5. From: Richard on January 16th, 2014 at 10:56 am


    Have you considered Nomensa’s accessible media player. It is free and available at https://github.com/nomensa/Accessible-Media-Player – it is designed to work with YouTube and Vimeo, and obviously designed to be accessible, but I don’t know whether or not it meets all your requirements. Almost certainly a good starting point though.

  6. From: January 17, 2014: Weekly Roundup of Web Design and Development Resources on January 17th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    […] Specification for an accessible video/media player: Graham Armfield shares his wishlist for an accessible video/media player, and highlights seven players he’s going to test. […]

  7. From: Robert on January 23rd, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Thanks for this helpful informations…Nice Sharing!
    Web Video Player

  8. From: Sarah Bourne on January 27th, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    While it’s not directly an accessibility concern, you might want to add the ability to adjust CSS styling. It won’t help to have a perfectly accessible player if you or your clients aren’t happy with how it works with other design elements of the site. There is one accessibility connection: you may need to adjust color values to meet contrast requirements.

  9. From: aurelien levy on January 28th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I think you forget the possibility to switch to a version of the video with audio description.

  10. From: James Herrieven on January 29th, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I don’t know whether you would have looked at JW Player, given it is so poor from an accessibility point of view out of the box, however it would cover the majority of your feature requirements (it doesn’t support Vimeo currently).

    However, if you couple this with a simple add-on I’ve developed (Key Drive for JW Player), JW Player does become a viable solution as a fully featured, accessible video/media player.

  11. From: brothercake on May 3rd, 2014 at 9:06 am

    OzPlayer (http://www.accessibilityoz.com.au/products/ozplayer/) meets all your requirements apart from 13, plus it also supports audio descriptions.

  12. From: Claire on November 5th, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    What did you decide on?

  13. From: kodi tv on December 1st, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Kodi media player is best for use. It has best inbuilt features which will give best media experience.

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