Comparison of Browsers on HTML5 Video Accessibility

Browser support for HTML5 video is constantly evolving, including support for accessibility features. Consider this a snapshot of the current state of accessibility support as of June 14, 2013. It may change tomorrow.

First, here's the code one might use to add video to a web page, including captions, subtitles and text-based audio description:

<video controls width="640" height="480" aria-label="Video Player" 
  <source src="video.mp4">
  <source src="video.webm">
  <track kind="captions" src="captions.vtt" default label="English">
  <track kind="subtitles" src="subtitles_fr.vtt" srclang="fr" label="French">
  <track kind="subtitles" src="subtitles_es.vtt" srclang="es" label="Spanish">
  <track kind="description" src="description.vtt" srclang="en" label="English Description"> 

Some explanations:

  • The controls attribute shows the browser's default player controls. This is optional since some developers may want to create their own controls.
  • There are two <source> elements, since browsers don't all support the same video file formats. They're coming around, but for now WebM is a reliable fallback for browsers that don't support H.264 (MP4)
  • The <track> element is used to synchronize timed text with the video. There are several kinds of track elements, as indicated by the kind attribute (I'm most interested in captions, subtitles, and description).
  • Audio description is not supported by any browser, but the framework is there in the HTML5 spec for possible future support.
  • The default attribute is (according to the spec) optional, but if included is intended to enable that track by default, e.g., to deliver the video with English captions turned on. My tests show that default is actually required; otherwise captions don't work at all in Chrome, Safari, or Opera.

Also, the <video> element receives keyboard focus in all browsers, but in some browsers the video focus indicator is sorely inadequate (a thin dashed line) and it's practically impossible to tell when the player has focus. For this reason I like to add a visual focus indicator using CSS, something like this:

video:focus { 
  border: thick solid yellow;

The observations described below were made with variations on this sample HTML5 video page, which features the AccessComputing video IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say.

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The Webby Awards Unveils Exciting New Inaccessible Website

The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. It's been around since the late 1990's, and each year about this time it announces this year's nominees (to be announced on April 9 this year), followed soon after by the winners (on April 30 this year). As the gear up for the announcements, there's typically much fanfare, and this year (today, in fact) they have announced a new website: The Webby Awards Gallery + Archive.

In their press release, David-Michel Davies, Executive Director of The Webby Awards, says this:

Over the past 16 years, Webby Winners have continually set the standard for excellence on the Web; they are the sites, innovations and world-changing platforms that have shaped the Internet into what it is today.

And what exactly is the Internet today? Is it fully accessible to everyone who has web-enabled technologies? Or is it racing ahead to be cool and clever, even if that means leaving entire groups of people behind?

There are occasional positive signs that designers and developers care about not discriminating against people who use audible or tactile interfaces rather than visual ones; or people who are physically unable to use a mouse and are instead operating computers by keyboard or voice; or people who are unable to hear audio.

These designers and developers try to build their innovations on a foundation of semantic, standards-based markup and make an honest effort not to leave a significant portion of the world's population behind (more than 1 billion people worldwide have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization).

I would hope that The Webby Awards, in setting the standard for excellence on the Web, would also set a standard for accessibility. Unfortunately their new website exemplifies what's bad about the Web. It embraces cool and clever at the expense of accessible and usable.

Shortly after Webby Awards began in the late 1990's, the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 became an official W3C recommendation. After 15 years and exhaustive efforts from the W3C and countless others to educate the world about accessible web design, it is inexcusable for any website to not conform to at least to the basic principles of WCAG. When people create websites that completely ignore accessibility they are either (a) clueless about web design and development or (b) willing to discriminate against people with disabilities.

Here are my observations about the Webby Awards Gallery + Archive:

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On Memorizing 3,523 Keyboard Shortcuts

Ever get overwhelmed by the number of things you have to memorize in order to function in today's society? User names, passwords, account numbers, PINs, locker combinations, telephone numbers, TV channels, and on and on until our brains explode.

Now consider this: You're a computer user but you can't use a mouse because of a visual or physical disability, or you prefer not using a mouse because it's inefficient. Fortunately you can probably perform most computer functions using the keyboard, in combination with assistive technology if you're an AT user. You just need to memorize a few keyboard shortcuts, like the following:

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Hustle is neither Hype Nor Hope. It is both Hope and Hype.

This post is a belated reply to Dylan Wilbank's blog post Hustle Is Hype and Joel Goodman's reply Hustle is Hope.

Both writers make gobs of excellent points, and the discussion on both blogs and on Twitter is great. I agree with Dylan that there needs to be balance in life. Living a life that is solely focused on work, even if you're doing so in order to attain clearly defined goals, seems from my perspective to lack balance. There's so much else to do with our short time!

But I also agree with Joel that "Greatness comes from focus and hard work and making it happen" and with Rob Bronson that "Hustle is personal and whether you decide to hustle on a huge project or simply hustle yourself to bed every night is your business."

We may just be arguing over semantics, but I think it's ok to hustle, as long as hustle is measured by quality, not quantity. It doesn't matter how many hours you work. What really matters is whether those hours are used efficiently.

And actually, I prefer not measuring life in hours. I measure it in seconds because those are more tangible. Each of us has 86,400 seconds in a day. No matter how hard we think we're working, that number never changes.

The question is: What are you doing with this second, this moment? Whatever it is—writing software code, talking, listening, tweeting, walking, eating, breathing, reading this blog—do it fully. Be fully aware and present in this moment. That to me is hustle.

If you have 1800 seconds to spare, consider closing your eyes and listening to Still Life with Clocks, my musical commentary on this topic.