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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Access: YouTube http://access.mwjt.co.uk/youtube
Article Type: Web site review From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 6, Issue 1
How much do you know about YouTube? Well, it was founded in February 2005 and allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally created videos. Have you ever looked at the YouTube Handbook (www.youtube.com/t/yt_handbook_home)? If you have you will realise just how complex using YouTube can be! It is fine if you already have IT skills, time and can read all that text! This might lead you to think about those people who do not possess those skills. How can they access YouTube? There is a new web site to help them (http://access.mwjt.co.uk/youtube). This is a web site to simplify access to YouTube for disabled people, particularly those with a learning disability and/or visual impairment. It was set up by Mike Thrussell who works with students who are predominantly visually impaired and most have learning difficulties. The Access: YouTube web site is an attempt to simplify the functions to search for and play videos. Fonts, images and search boxes are all made large for easy use by people with limited or poor vision. Mike claims that the web site is optimised for screen-reader accessibility by stripping away additional content not relevant to the searching for or playing of videos, as well as making sure all links give clear audio indications of their purpose. Although I am able to confirm that the audio links work well and are clear I have not been able to test the site’s use with a screen-reader but have no reason to doubt Mike’s claim.
On opening the web site the user is immediately presented with a textbox in which to enter the subject for their search. Once the search term is typed in the user can click on “Search” or simply press Enter to be taken to the next screen. For those people who find typing using the keyboard difficult the top five most popular video choices are displayed at the bottom of the screen and can be navigated using the mouse, touch-screen, switches or tab key. These top five are regularly updated. The results page for those people who have typed in their own option is displayed with the further option to search again if the term had been typed in incorrectly. Immediate visual and audio feedback is given as confirmation. 12 image links are displayed giving YouTube’s most relevant and popular results for each search term. Once the video is clicked, it will play immediately in full screen with the minimum level of input by the user. Accessible controls for pausing and playing videos and controlling the volume are clearly displayed on the screen.
We started by looking at this site as an aide for people with disabilities but it has many advantages for a wider group of people – those people who would like to join in the fun of watching a huge variety of videos but do not have the capability to access them unaided. These could include people with physical disabilities and the elderly who are just finding their way around a computer. One word of caution though, if you are using this with vulnerable adults or children. Mike claims that all results are filtered for safety and by the user’s country location so that all videos found are appropriate and will play. However, the user can type in many inappropriate words and still get video results with inappropriate words in the accompanying text and audio.
I have added the url to my favourites and will use this for quick access to YouTube especially to find the top videos currently being viewed by the site’s millions of users.