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