Software and Hardware Media Players

Audio and video files can be played on hardware devices (such as an iPod or portable DVD player), or via software on a computer (such as Windows Media Player or Apple QuickTime). This article discusses what to consider when determining options for making these files available for use by individuals with various types of disabilities.

Hardware media players

Controls: Controls should require minimal hand movement and activation pressure for the benefit of people with dexterity disabilities. Make sure that they are not too easy to activate or too close together.  Multiple controls with different shapes allow blind users to distinguish among them by touch.

Display: Visual information such as track ID and time is rarely available redundantly via audio, although some devices have useful tones.

Volume: Hard of hearing users may want to connect their personal headphones or loops to the device. These usually do not require any special arrangement, but individuals may need adapters for device compatibility. Loud volume settings are blamed for causing hearing loss, particularly among young people; some devices have ways to set limits on maximum volume, either through hardware or software.

Apple provides accessibility information about its popular iPod, iPad, and iPhone devices for people with visual, hearing, and dexterity disabilities.

Software media players

Software media players are either built into a web page, or pop up as a separate application.  The quality of the audio and visual output will depend on the computer's speakers/headphone and the monitor. 

Successful access to software media players for people with visual or dexterity disabilities usually involves controls that can be operated via keyboard commands, voice recognition, or other mouse alternatives; problems occur if mouse use is required. For individuals who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, media players should provide the option of displaying captions where available.

WebAIM has an accessibility comparison of popular software media players.

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