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Friday, April 13, 2012

Accessible YouTube Guide

by Robert Kingett

Since YouTube is so inaccessible, and since I couldn't find a complete guide on how to make the YouTube experience work for a blind user, I have resolved to make my own complete guide to making an accessible YouTube experience. One thing to keep in mind is that this guide will be utilizing a lot of different resources and alternatives. There’s no single solution. I’ll talk about one piece of software that may help you but that isn't my primary aim. My aim is to provide alternatives for You Tubers and viewers who are blind. Enjoy!

Managing A YouTube Account with a Screen Reader
Watching YouTube with a Screen Reader

Manage a YouTube Account with a Screen Reader

I'm sure there's a way to navigate around YouTube with a screen reader, but I'm too lazy to even fiddle with such nonsense and guess what those unlabeled buttons are for. I have two solutions. The first one is a lot better than the second one but if you really hate using mobile versions of things, then option two will be good for you.

Use the Mobile Version of YouTube

With the mobile version of YouTube (, you can actually do a lot of things to your account, even comment on videos. You can't reply directly to people on this site when they comment on your video unless you type at, and then their user name. You can't message people by composing a new message. You can, however, read and reply to messages that you get in your inbox. You can also manage your subscribers. this site provides a screen reader friendly environment to at least edit your videos, playlists, personal info, account settings, account sharing, and all that and a little bit more. Uploading videos using this clean interface is a lot better than just uploading your videos through email. With this system, you get a better control of the title and description and even the tags. If you use your quick navigation keys, and your links list, you will be a pro YouTube user in no time!

There is one downfall however, actually, a couple. You can't watch videos or reply to comments directly with a link or button on videos. While this website is definitely lacking in some of the most essential features in the whole YouTube experience, such as the composing a message feature, if you’re a frequent YouTube uploader, this is the best alternative for managing your YouTube presence.

Use the Text-based Web Browser WebbIE

WebbIE ( is an alternative to managing a YouTube account if you don't like the mobile interface, this isn't a good solution. Unfortunately, it's the best one for YouTube creators at the time of this writing. The web browser will attempt to display the entire site in a text format, and trust me this makes navigating a lot faster, but don't think you won’t hit the wrong button from time to time. There's buttons on there that just say search, or close, without any text before the button to tell us what they are. Also, using this browser, the search field for videos is somewhere at the bottom, but the search button to hit is both at the bottom and the top of the page. Replying to comments is mainly the only easy thing to do using this method compared to the mobile YouTube option. Since you'll be on the main YouTube site using this browser, you'll have access to all of what YouTube has to offer. Getting it to work for you, however, is a different story. There's unlabeled buttons, unlabeled images, even more evident navigating with this browser. In some cases you will come across a huge string of java links that are supposed to be for one button, or there will be buttons back to back coded with java and you will have to decipher them.

Using standard navigation keys you'd use in Microsoft word, mixed in with its own keys provided, this method will make it a lot easier to check your email and reply to YouTube messages despite the difficult layout of the website. It makes searching for videos and editing video information a bit easier but not as easy and quick as the mobile website mentioned above. Note that this isn't the web browsers issue, it's YouTube’s. The text based web browser can get rid of a lot of annoying flash animation ads that slow down navigating. The good thing is, you can keep the browser in text mode and just play videos and listen to them with no advertisements.

Free YouTube Uploader Software

If you’re just looking for an accessible desktop solution to upload videos, this free YouTube Uploader from VideoSoftis the best solution. You can upload videos, add the description and add keywords, but unlike YouTube where you can enter unlimited keywords, here you can only enter 15 per video.

When you first start the program, as with all other software by this maker, such as free YouTube to mp3 converter, navigate to the options menu, browse around because each software package is different, and check the box that says enable screen reader mode. After you do this and then restart the application, it will become a lot easier and faster to use with its own keyboard shortcuts and simplified interface. This software is only for uploading videos to YouTube but it's the best accessible desktop alternative.

A Combo of All Three

If you use a combo of all three above, you will be the best blind YouTube user ever!

Now that I've talked about how to accessibly manage your YouTube videos and account using a screen reader, now I'm going to tell you how to watch YouTube videos accessibly with no ads!

How to Accessibly Watch YouTube Videos Using a Screen Reader

The Accessible Interface to YouTube

The Accessible Interface to YouTube ( is a good website. All the search results are links with no thumbnails, and this layout presented is just a simple, clean, interface. You can even control the videos with keyboard shortcuts! You can't view related videos or comment on videos, but you can use the mobile website to do that or use WebbIE.

This website is an okay accessible alternative to watching YouTube videos, but it misses some key features like showing user names of the video uploader, related videos, and the inability to play playlists. It just falls short. I’d use this for quick spurts on YouTube, nothing lengthy. I hope it sticks around. There's a donation button at the bottom of the page to support the website.

YourTube: Accessible YouTube

YourTube ( is the most complete and rich interface to YouTube I have ever seen! It makes watching YouTube videos a breeze. Unlike the other websites, you can watch every video that a user has uploaded by clicking into their profile, view comments, view information about the video, and see related videos. The controls are operated by buttons on the page, and it even has a checkbox to notify you when a YouTube video is done uploading so you can just play the video. This website will automatically skip ads as well.

When looking for a video, the results show up as headings with no thumbnails and brief descriptions of the video below the result. Unfortunately, you will not see who the video is by. You have to enter the video in order to see that information.

Unfortunately, this website does not support playing playlists, but definitely try this site out if you have a screen reader and if you just want to browse YouTube and watch some videos! This site, at the time of this writing, isn't hosting any ads. I hope this site expands its features, because even though it's a new website, this is some strong competition to beat!

That's my comprehensive guide on how to get the most out of YouTube if you are totally blind. If you have any questions you can follow me, @theblindwriter on Twitter.

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