Accessibility with THEOplayer

Integrating accessibility features on the web is crucial to accommodating viewers with limitations, optimise the general viewer experience and maximise overall reach. The basis of video accessibility means that viewers with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and engage with video content equally, and without obstacles or barriers. Additionally, accessibility can apply to all viewers, regardless of disability or not (i.e. situational limitations, slow internet connection, temporary disabilities, etc.).  In this blog we discuss what guidelines to follow to make your content accessible, the legal bodies in place, why accessibility is important, as well as what features are available for THEOplayer to make video content accessible.


What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are created by both individuals and organisations, and are seen as the standard for accessible web content internationally. Those organisations are formally known as the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG) which is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).  The guidelines are created to help individuals and organisations across the world make their online content accessible to all viewers, including those with disabilities. Online content is seen by the WCAG as information such as text, image, video, audio, and also as any code that determines structure, UI presentation, and more. Here you can find the full accessibility specifications and standards. 

There are three levels to the WCAG: A, AA, and AAA

A: the basic/bare minimum accessibility functionalities.

AA: decently accessible, where most organisations tend to stand.

AAA: very accessible, top tier accessibility.


What is new in WCAG 2.1?

WCAG 2.1 was updated in 2018.  The success criteria from WCAG 2.0 are included verbatim in WCAG 2.1, but 17 additions were included in 2.1 to address mobile accessibility, viewers with low vision and viewers with cognitive and learning disabilities. WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are backwards compatible, or in other words, if an organisation adheres to 2.1 they also adhere to 2.0.

The additions in 2.1 require online content to be adaptable, distinguishable, compatible, keyboard accessible, have functional modalities, be safe for those with seizures or physical reactions, and have ‘enough time’ capabilities. To view the technical documentation of the WCAG 2.1 and use case examples, visit their website here*. 

THEOplayer is a single player across all major mobile devices, platforms and browsers, and our video player solution is upgraded with accessibility capabilities to adhere to WCAG 2.1 across all of them, out of the box.


User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG)

Under the WCAG is the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG), which encompasses web browsers, browser extensions and media players, and the UAAG targets developers. The UAAG was created to primarily provide alternative information for those who want to remain compliant with WCAG, but are using  a variety of different technologies and platforms. For example, some accessibility needs are met through the browser the viewer is using, while others are better met through the media content. 

UAAG is seen as relevant for the future of accessibility, especially for mobile device accessibility. Mobile devices show the need for accessibility within a combination of UI, the content and applications used. UAAG also highlights the need for more accessibility features that work seamlessly across devices, platforms, and browsers. 

If you would like to explore more about UAAG specifically, check out the documentation with standards and guidelines from WCAG.


Why is WCAG important for Video?

Complying with the WCAG is crucial for all publishers of online content, and particularly in video content. By ignoring accessibility, you are losing a large chunk of your audience. By a large chunk, we mean 15% of the world’s population who have at least one disability. By implementing accessibility features you are including everyone, reaching more viewers and increasing your traffic and SEO rankings. 

Not only is accessibility important for rankings and to those with disabilities, but it is also adds to the viewer experience and usability for non-disabled viewers as well. For example, if a viewer is in a noisy or quiet environment, or the viewer is a non-native speaker of the language used in the video, subtitles will allow them to still enjoy the video content. Keyboard accessibility can be of great use to those viewers who may not have a mouse or have a temporary injury.


THEOplayer and the EU Web Accessibility Directive

THEOplayer follows the specific guidelines, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), to implement accessibility features into our player. The EU Web Accessibility Directive is the legal body in the EU which legally enforces accessibility standards for EU member states. This Directive enforces the guidelines set out by WCAG in order to address the legalities of the accessibility of online content for desktops, tablets and mobile devices. To deem online content as accessible, it will have to comply with the WCAG 2.1 and the EU Web Accessibility Directive. With the implementation of THEOplayer, you are fully compliant with these standards.

Following accessibility guidelines can make content more accessible to those viewers with:

  • Blindness/low vision
  • Deafness/hearing loss
  • Limited movement
  • Speech disabilities
  • Photosensitivity


Why is WCAG Important?

Incorporating accessibility features into your video player allows you to maximise your reach and eliminates a barrier that could hinder viewers from seeing your video content. This results in a better viewer experience, usability and satisfaction, especially across different browsers and devices.

WCAG 2.1 was updated in 2018.  The success criteria from WCAG 2.0 are included verbatim in WCAG 2.1, but 17 additions were included in 2.1 to address mobile accessibility, viewers with low vision and viewers with cognitive and learning disabilities. THEOplayer is a single player across all major mobile devices, platforms and browsers, and our video player solution is upgraded with accessibility capabilities to adhere to WCAG 2.1 across all of them, out of the box. 


THEOplayer Integrates the Following Features for Accessibility:

Text Track Rendering with THEOplayer

Text Tracks

Text Tracks (i.e. video captions or subtitles) are the audio from a video, but in text form. This includes words that are spoken, who is speaking (if it isn’t clear) and important noises such as music. This can help viewers who are hearing impaired in any capacity, or those with cognitive or learning disabilities. These captions can also benefit those general viewers whom, for example, may be in a loud, or silent, viewing environment. You can seamlessly integrate this feature into your THEOplayer. For more information on integrating Text Tracks into THEOplayer and the supported formats, visit our Add On Store. 


Text Track Rendering with THEOplayerText Track Style

This allows for the text in video captions to be displayed in a way the text is readable. This involves adapting the text colour, font, size, spacing and other text properties. This makes the audio and video captions accessible to those with low vision, dyslexia, and/or cognitive or learning disabilities. This feature also makes your content more adaptable to different devices and browsers, content translation and personal preferences for caption viewing.  This feature goes hand-in-hand with Text Tracks, and can be easily integrated in your THEOplayer. For more on this feature, check out the Add On Store.

Add Ons_Focus Style

Focus Style

Focus Style allows the buttons on the video player (the control bar, menu items, close buttons, etc.) to be outlined in order to make them more visible when they are clicked or hovered over. This feature makes it easier for all viewers to see and understand which buttons are in use and which one they have selected. Also while hovered over, the Tooltips feature can make it easier for users by giving them a text description of the button on the UI.  For example, when hovered over the mute button, it is outlined and a readers also see the word "Mute" appear on their UI. 


Add Ons_UI Skinning

User Interface Customisation

User Interface, or UI, is the aspect of the video content that the viewer engages with. For viewers with disabilities, it is important that colours have sufficient contrast with the text and its background. The contrast is not limited to captions, but also includes the text on images, buttons and icons. This feature is especially helpful for viewers with colour blindness or low contrast visibility, which is common in aging viewers, as well as viewers in difficult light conditions. It is also important for the video player to have a clear layout and design, to make it as easy and accessible to all viewers as possible. Our THEOplayer UI Skinning Add On provides you with a base "template" from which you can customise your UI to your brand's needs. To find out more about UI Skinning, visit our Add On Store


Keyboard Compatibility with THEOplayer

Keyboard Compatibility

This allows for viewers to navigate the UI (i.e. buttons, links, player functions) via the keyboard. This feature is helpful for viewers who are physically unable to use a mouse, or those viewers who are visually impaired and unable to see the player UI. 



The features in this blogpost are related specifically to THEOplayer, and our universal player is focused on the mandatory guidelines, and is compliant with those guidelines set out by the WCAG 2.1 the EU Web Accessibility Directive, as well as other guidelines for regions across the world. It is also important to note that different countries and regions of the world can have different guidelines and regulations. For an extensive list of guidelines and regulations per country or region, and all of the standards and specifications related to accessibility, please visit the WCAG website.


If you have any questions about accessibility and THEOplayer, don't hesitate to contact our experts.



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