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Using YouTube with a screen reader


This following information will be helpful for people using screen readers as it explains the steps for using YouTube with screen readers. A screen reader is a software application that identifies and interprets what is being displayed on the computer screen. This information is then presented to a blind user as speech. Visually impaired or blind people use screen readers. This article provides step-by-step process for using YouTube making it easier for a new user to explore YouTube.

lightbulb icon Please note: The experience of using YouTube may not be same with all screen readers due to inconsistency of support of technology by the various screen readers. To learn more about using YouTube with a screen reader that supports Adobe Flash accessibility extensions, please see this accessibility feedback page.

Read on to learn more about using YouTube with a screen-reader and discover which keyboard shortcuts are available for the site:

Creating a YouTube account

A Google account is needed to sign in to YouTube (ex. Gmail or Calendar etc.). If you do not have a Google account then you can go ahead and create one using the following steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Click the "create account" link (located at the top of the page after the search button).
  3. Complete the requested steps. Once you've signed up you'll have an account and can get started.

Having an account allows you to sign into YouTube and take advantage of YouTube's community features. You can upload videos, comment on videos, save videos to playlists etc.. These are just a few of the benefits of signing up for a YouTube account. You do not need to sign in to use some basic features of YouTube. Such as, searching for videos, viewing videos etc..

Searching YouTube and Search Results

    Searching for YouTube videos

    1. Navigate to
    2. Navigate to the search edit box at the top of the page.
      Please note: Though the search edit box does not have a label, it is located at the top of the page, has a search button after it, and is the only edit box on this page.

    3. Type a search term and press enter.

    Search results

    • The search results page has a "did you mean" section which suggests proper words if you misspelled the word(s).

    • Prior to the search results, various sorting options are provided to help you sort through the results.

    • Each of the search results has the following information:

      1. A title of the video along with the duration of the video which is a link and a graphic. Hence, navigating using graphics would help navigating to and through the results quicker. Clicking on this will play the video.
      2. A "+" sign which is link. Clicking on this will play the video as well.
      3. The text "added to queue".
      4. The title of the video which is also a link. Clicking on it will play the video as well.
      5. A snippet of the video.
      6. Name of the individual who posted the video.
      7. How many years ago the video was uploaded and the number of views it has had so far.

      8. Sometimes you will find a heading level 2, "Related searches" with heading level 3s below it. These are other search categories related to the search term(s) you typed. Clicking any of these search categories will take you to another page which has video results for that category.

The YouTube Flash Player

Once you click one of the search results, the flash player will load and the video will start playing automatically. Here are the components and layout of the flash player:

  • Section headers:
    • H1 for the title of the video
    • H4 for "highest rated comments", "all comments", and "suggestions".

  • The flash player has the following components:

    • Subtitles:

      If a video has subtitles then the subtitles are placed at the top of the video. The subtitles section begins with the text "subtitles start" followed by two lines of subtitles and end with the text "subtitles end". If the subtitles are on, the screen reader should say "Subtitles Loaded". If the subtitles are off, press the "Subtitles Unloaded" button, the button should change to "Subtitles Loading". Then after two seconds or so it should speak "Subtitles Loaded". From that point on the subtitles will appear at the beginning of the Flash player.

    • Play/pause button:

      The button text toggles based on the current status of the video.

    • Seek slider:

      The seek slider is used to fast forward or rewind the video and to increase or decrease the volume. To use the seek slider, first turn off virtual cursor then tab to the slider.

      • Use left/right arrow keys to fast forward/rewind the video and use the up/down arrow keys to increase/decrease volume.

      • Mute/unmute: This button toggles depending on whether the video is muted or not muted.

      • 360p button:

        This button changes the quality of the video in terms of pixels. Here are the available resolutions: 1080p, 720p, 480p, 360p (default), 240p, 240p Light

    • Pop-out button:

      The pop-out button creates a new browser window and places only the player with the video that is currently playing. It leaves out all the content that is outside the actual player. This allows users to resize the player any way they like.

      lightbulb icon The button is also useful for blind users who might want to get rid of all the extra elements in the HTML page around the player and be left just with the player on its own.

      Its important to note, that if you have pop-up blocker enabled, then you'll need to disable the pop-up blocker in order to open this new window.

    • Expand/Shrink button:

      The label of the button toggles depending on the current selection. Clicking the expand/shrink button makes the video player larger and smaller.

      This button also increases the video quality when you expand the player, and uses a lower quality when you shrink it if the video has multiple qualities.

    • Time elapsed/total duration:

      This section shows the total time elapsed over the total duration of the video. It shows you how much of the video has played already and how much there's still left to play.
      Note: To replay the video, click on the "play" button after the video stops playing.

Keyboard shortcut Function
O To jump to the beginning of the flash player
Spacebar Play/Pause when the seek bar is selected. Activate a button if a button has focus
Play/Pause Media Key on keyboards Play / Pause
Stop Media Key on keyboards Stop
Next Track Media Key on keyboards Moves to the next track in a play/list
Left/Right arrow on the seek bar Seek backward/forward 5 seconds
Home/End on the seek bar Seek to the beginning/last seconds of the video
Up/Down arrow on the seek bar Increase/Decrease volume 5%
Numbers 1 to 9 (not on the numeric pad) on the seek bar Seek to the 10% to 90% of the video
Number 0 (not on the numeric pad) on the seek bar Seek to the beginning of the video

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