I don’t know: you wait for ages for an accessible media player, and two turn up (almost) at once.
This is good news for everyone. You’re all smart people, so I don’t need to remind you that accessibility helps people who have disabilities and those who don’t – so, for example, text subtitles help people who can’t hear the audio, whether because they have a hearing impairment, or because they’re in an open plan office with no headphones. Transcripts are helpful for people who can’t see the video, whether because they have a visual impairment, or because they want to be able to skim a video presentation in text.
Anyway, homily over, on to the players.
The first player is a UK Government one. The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) announced its ODI Accessible Media Player, which:
offers an inclusive online experience for disabled and non-disabled users, whether watching video or listening to a podcast. The player has been tested with people with a range of impairments, and works particularly well for people with learning disabilities. It is the first online media player to pass the RNIB Surf Right accessibility audit.
The player supports:
- customisable subtitles
- audio description
- British Sign Language
- downloadable PDF transcripts.
They also – perhaps tempting fate – claim that “we believe it must be the most accessible player available for use on the web”. A few colleagues have kicked the tyres on it (very informally), and it certainly has some excellent features. But making such a bold – and sweeping! – claim is a little problematic.
Stephen Downes observes that he didn’t see
a way for me to use the player to distribute my own media. So the ‘most accessible media player in the world’ plays exactly six videos. What’s the use of ‘the most accessible media player on the internet’ if people can’t use it?
… although the ODI site does say “if you would like to use the player on your organisation’s website, contact the ODI Communications Team”, so there is a route to use it, just not necessarily a particularly quick or open one.
(By the way, if you need to know the basics of accessible video, the ODI’s 8-page PDF on Commissioning Accessible Video is worth a look.)
The second player is the Open University one, currently in development. It’ll be open source (possibly in contrast to the ODI’s one?), and built on the OU’s extensive experience in supporting learners with a wide range of access challenges.
Our wide ranging delivery platforms (both public and for student use) currently deploy a wide range of proprietary and FOSS media players. It is unlikely a single FOSS player will suffice for all needs across all platforms/devices inot the future. However, The OU needs a ‘player strategy and as part of that it needs a reduced set of supported players in order to ensure:
– Minimum levels of IT support (lower cost)
– High levels of user experience consistency (more effective)
– High levels of technical robustness and integration
A small representative OU ‘player team has worked over the last six months to define a broad player strategy and a brief for a new media player (probably based on Flowplayer). This is to be developed/adapted to ensure it represents ‘best of breed’ for a supported open distance educational institution, and so that it can efficiently carry and enhance the brand of the OU. The ‘player’ team believe IET (working is close collaboration with KMI, Open Media and LTS, especially the RAP team) can provide the best support for the development of the FOSS player in a way that is consistent with the broad ‘embedded player’ strategy.
Nick Freear is working away hard on it right now, and has just posted a useful filling-in-of-the-gaps – they hope the player:
- Will be an “attractive” player that the average designer/ blogger would be happy to use on their site.
- Can be used in a variety of contexts – our Moodle-based virtual learning environment, OpenLearn, OU-Drupal sites, blogs, Cloudworks…
- Will deliver content mostly from the OU podcast site in the contexts mentioned above.
- Will be accessible to users with disabilities – both in terms of control, and display of alternatives like transcripts and captions.
- Usable on a variety of devices, including mobiles and tablets.
- Will be delivered in a maintainable way.
At the moment, of course, the ODI player – with its six videos currently available – wins over the OU player on account of actually existing, rather than being promised in six months’ time.
But who will win in the end? Well, the main issue is for people who want better access to video win by getting it, in full. If that’s via the ODI player, the OU player, jwPlayer, ccPlayer, FlowPlayer, YouTube, or something not invented yet, or (much more likely) some combination … it doesn’t actually matter. Of course, I like the Open University, I like open technologies, and I like and admire the team developing the OU player, so I hope and expect that it’ll do well.
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