A11y Win – Safari 11 Blocks autoplay video

I hate autoplay videos on web sites. Sometimes it is difficult to sort out which visual “thing” is playing since some sites contain so many advertisements. And while I am annoyed at this auditory intrusion, it can affect people with disabilities more severely. In addition to being difficult to find, many of these videos are not keyboard enabled which makes them very difficult or impossible to turn off. People who rely on the keyboard only may just have to wait out the video or just give up and leave the page. Consider someone with a vision disability who uses a screen magnifier, they have to scroll around the screen to find the offending element. A screen reader user suddenly can’t hear the screen reader speaking, making it even more difficult to find and navigate to the video.

Safari 11 preferences has the option to turn off auto play video for all sites or for selective sites. While my choice is to turn it off for all sites, that could make it difficult for users who navigate to a site specifically for a video. If the site isn’t keyboard accessible, some users may not be able to start the video. You can quickly modify the setting by control-clicking in the url field and selecting Settings for this website from the drop down or select Settings for this website from the Safari menu*. You can also modify the setting via Safari, Preferences, Websites, Auto-play. There are three options, Allow All Auto-Play, Stop Media with Sound, or Never Auto-Play, that you can select for each site in the list of Currently Open Websites. The Allow all and Never options are self explanatory. The Stop Media with Sound option will only prevent videos with sound from auto-playing.

Once you make an auto-play selection for a site it is added to the list of Configured Websites that displays below the list of Currently Open Websites (you may have to scroll down to see this if you have many sites open in tabs or separate windows). Note that the website will only appear in one list. If it is open, the site only appears in the Currently Open Websites list, if the site is not currently open, it will be visible in the Configured websites list.

In my opinion autoplay videos are just wrong and I congratulate Apple for adding this feature. Many publishers feel differently since it may affect their ad revenue. Hopefully usability will win and other browsers will add this feature as well.

*Keyboard Issues

Unfortunately the only keyboard method I could find to change the settings for a site was to use preferences. While command-l changes focus to the location/url field and selects the location, I could find no keyboard mechanism to mimic the control-click to open the context menu. I also tried using the Safari menu by pressing control-F2 to focus the application menu and using the arrow keys to navigate to and invoke the Settings for this website option. The context menu did open in the location/url field but it did not have focus and I could not get focus to it via the keyboard. I did discover how to enable opening a context menu via the keyboard – I had to enable Mouse Keys in the System Preferences, Accessibility, Mouse & Trackpad panel. I’ll keep researching keyboard options and post an update if I discover more information.

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