Behind the Scenes of Accessibility Without Compromise

You shouldn’t have to choose between your brand and accessibility.

January 28, 2020

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Brendan Schwartz

Founder, CTO

One of the biggest roadblocks of making the web more accessible is the idea that you have to compromise on aesthetics to make something accessible. People tend to believe that something that’s accessible can’t also be beautiful. That’s completely false, which is why — as you can tell from my excited hand gestures in the video — I’m super proud of our latest player update that makes accessibility simple and dang good looking.

Accessibility without compromise

The goal of updating our player was to make video on the web more accessible, and part of achieving that was making sure that you never have to compromise between accessibility and your brand. We always want you to choose accessibility. One of the first problems we decided to tackle with this update was audio description support. We knew audio descriptions had to be natively built into the player. A lot of providers will recommend you embed two copies of your video: your original video, plus a second video with audio descriptions hard-coded. In fact, we used to recommend this ourselves, but it never sat quite right with us.

Did we really want two copies of a video on our brand’s homepage? Probably not. Would we have to add some sort of toggle to pull that off? No one wants that. And if I were presented with that as my only option — if I’m being honest — I would pick simplicity over accessibility, and that’s not good.

If you don’t want to sacrifice the look of your website and your assets, then an accessible video player has to be beautiful and match your brand. And if your designers are faced with the decision between accessibility and brand, I hope they’ll choose accessibility, but we didn’t want to be part of forcing them to make that kind of decision.

Here’s a look at the player before (light blue) and after (dark blue):

WCAG-friendly videos — the easy way

As we tackled this project, brand and aesthetics weren’t the only thing we were focused on. We didn’t want to just check a box with our accessibility solution; we wanted to make it easier for everyone to make accessibility part of their everyday workflows. It’s pretty confusing to adhere to WCAG standards, and the guidelines aren’t exactly easy to casually read and comprehend.

That’s why we wanted to take on that work for you. To make accessibility part of your workflow, we’ve built a simplified checklist that aligns with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines and put it right where you manage your video — in the “Customize” panel. The checklist is easy to understand and makes it clear to see if you’ve turned on the features that make your videos WCAG-friendly.

The behind-the-scenes work

To make sure we were approaching accessibility in the right way, our team worked with an external group of accessibility experts to audit our player, and folks on our player team immersed themselves in the world of accessibility, taking WCAG-compliance certification classes. These Wistia player updates took a ton of thoughtful work from our design and engineering teams. I’m really proud of our team and this step forward, and all of us at Wistia are super excited to continue our work of making video more accessible.

What do you think of the new player? Let me know in the comments below. And if you haven’t already, you can switch to the new, accessible player today.

Brendan Schwartz

Founder, CTO

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