How JW Player Approaches Video Player Accessibility

Updated: February 7, 2024

JW Player’s Senior 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 a leading video technology company, that provides a HTML5/Flash media player, a platform to upload and host content, and powerful data, analytics, and monetization tools to round out its suite of offerings. 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 leading digital media companies, publishers, broadcasters, and brands.

3Play Media integrates directly with JW Player to automate the captioning process and allows users to tag videos for captioning from their JW Player account.

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 a 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 this kitten appreciates it. ❤️

I Luv JW Player Keyboard Controls


Audio Description Tracks

JW Player can support multiple audio renditions on a single video, which allows for descriptions of audio tracks to play for blind users, also known as audio description or descriptive audio.
JW Player audio description tracks in multiple languages
This capability is made 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.

Hear what else JW Player has to say about the future of video accessibility – watch the full webinar.

This post was originally published in May 2015 by Emily Griffin and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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