JW Player’s Approach to Video Player Accessibility

Updated: January 24, 2019

JW Player’s Director of Product, Eric Boyd, joined the expert panel at 3Play’s webinar on the future of video player accessibility. Play the video below to watch Eric’s presentation, or read on for highlights.

What is JW Player?

JW Player logoJW Player is an embeddable HTML5/Flash media player for the web video. Eric summarizes its product vision as “to provide the best possible viewing experience across all devices– desktop, mobile, and even connected TVs.”

Founded in 2008, JW Player was one of the very first video players on the internet. Fun fact: YouTube used JW Player when it first launched. Now JW Player is popular worldwide with video content creators, many of whom are media broadcasters, agencies, and development studios.

JW Player Keyboard Controls

Since JW Player is both a Flash player and an HTML5 player, it intelligently chooses which one of these rendering modes to do in a given context.

However, having both HTML and Flash controls is not very user friendly. To resolve this, JW Player implemented a tab in/tab out model. Eric explains:

Once you have focus on the video player, you get access to a set of keyboard controls that are keyboard shortcuts so that you can quickly access the main, core video playback needs. You can play, pause, seek, adjust volume, go full screen, etc. However, these elements are not actually exposed to a screen reader, so that’s something that we definitely want to look into.

JW Player’s keyboard controls have a tough job juggling both HTML and Flash controls, but at least the kitten likes them.

I Luv JW Player Keyboard Controls

JW Player’s Audio Description Tracks

JW Player can support multiple audio renditions on a single video, which allows for a descriptions audio track to play for blind users.
JW Player audio description tracks in multiple languages
This capability is make possible through HLS (HTTP Live Streaming), since it’s not typically possible in simple HTML5. And if you’re familiar with MPEG DASH that’s also supported in that streaming format.

JW Player provides an API for publishers to access these audio renditions, and they can provide some special UI on the page, if that’s necessary.

One fun feature: the video player can automatically detect which language is being spoken and will pick that audio description track to play first.

Captions & Transcripts in JW Player

JW Player lets publishers display a video transcription using their custom API. And, of course, JW Player supports closed caption files to make videos accessible to deaf and hard of hearing viewers.

Those transcripts and captions can then be customized by the viewer for style, position, and vertical vs. horizontal display.

Challenges of Accessible Online Video Players

As a third-party application, JW Player encounters many challenges to optimizing accessibility. Since their videos are inserted into other publishers’ websites, JW Player doesn’t have control over important accessibility factors like the tab index or video player placement. Plus, they need to adapt to the latest browser updates while preserving functionality in older ones.

One of the biggest challenges? Just keeping up with changes in accessibility law. When the government passes a new mandate that affects video player capabilities, all of a sudden the developers need to adapt.

Future Accessibility Innovation at JW Player

Eric shared the roadmap for future inclusive design improvements at JW Player:

  • Add support for 708/WebVTT regions for caption placement.
  • Explore better keyboard controls to be compatible with screenreaders.
  • Make it easier to skin the player with CSS, so that you would get the same elements across both Flash and HTML5.
  • Move away from Flash and go to more of the HTML5 standards.

Hear what else JW Player has to say about the future of video accessibility in the post-webinar Q&A.

3play media logo in blue

Subscribe to the Blog Digest

Sign up to receive our blog digest and other information on this topic. You can unsubscribe anytime.

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy.