Accessible version of YouTube launched

This looks most interesting, especially given AACT/iMuse experience with young people in museums, where video ‘explanation’ of objects seems popular.

News Release [from JISC]
14 February 2013

Henshaws College and Jisc launch an accessible YouTube website

Henshaws College has launched an accessible version of YouTube, which was funded by Jisc through Jisc Advance. It allows people with learning difficulties and disabilities to use this mainstream technology independently.

ACCESS: YouTube simplifies the standard You Tube site making it easier to search and play videos, and allows the use of assistive technologies. It is now publicly available so everyone can benefit from this accessible method.

Mike Thrussell, assistive technology coordinator, explains the challenges facing many of his students when trying to use the standard YouTube website: “Students at Henshaws College have a range of needs from visual impairments to additional learning difficulties and disabilities. Our students love YouTube, but the standard site contains a lot of extra content such as adverts, comments and links which can be distracting. This makes the site difficult to navigate using assistive technologies such as screen-readers and as a result some students require support to use it.”

Mike has spent the last 18 months developing ACCESS: YouTube to try and overcome these issues, and allow students to use the site more independently: “I have used large fonts, visual cues and a logical layout to improve access using assistive technologies. By simplifying the site and removing content such as adverts and comments, the website is more accessible to screen readers.” For Henshaws students, this means they can independently control their leisure time without the need for support. Staff can also be confident that students will be kept safe as the site automatically filters out any inappropriate material.

Nigel Ecclesfield, programme manager at Jisc Advance says: “We are delighted to have provided the funding for the development of this wonderful tool that opens up the world of YouTube to those with visual difficulties. YouTube provides access to many exceptional educational resources and we are proud to be associated with a project that will make a real difference to the lives of many learners as they can now access these materials independently.

“For example, twenty one year old Billy is severely sight impaired and has cerebral palsy which affects his movement. He uses two large switches and scrolls through the simplified menu to navigate ACCESS: YouTube. Screen reader software then reads out each option for him so that he can select or search for videos he wants to listen to.”

Billy explains: “When I first started, I didn’t know how to use it, but now I can play videos without help. I have made my own playlists for my favourite videos including Take That and Kylie Minogue. I can use the site out of college sessions. It’s great to have the freedom to do this.”

Chris Surtees, from the North East Autism Society says: “ACCESS: YouTube is minimalistic, clean and allows a learner with additional support needs to increase their independence whilst accessing a form of media which appeals to them.”

Henshaws hopes the technology will have a positive impact even beyond the specialist education sector, as Mike explains: “ACCESS: YouTube is just the first in a whole suite of accessible websites which we are developing at Henshaws College thanks to funding from Jisc service – Jisc Advance. The launch of similar accessible websites later in the year will allow users of assistive technology to search for images online, to give honest independent evaluations using a feedback tool and to access personal email accounts. These sites have huge potential to make browsing the internet easier for a whole range of people.”

The developments come at an exciting time for Henshaws as they coincide with the college’s new Media and IT Centre which is due to open this spring. Facilities will include an IT suite, two recording studios and a print centre which will be fully accessible to students and local community groups. The building of this new facility was made possible by the generosity of Henshaws supporters. Henshaws thank the trusts, businesses, individuals and students who made this happen.

Henshaws welcome any comments or feedback on the ACCESS: YouTube website.


Contact: Charlie Covington, press officer, Jisc,, 07841951296.

Notes to editors
Henshaws Society for Blind People (registered charity no. 221888) is a specialist charity providing expert support, advice and training to anyone affected by sight loss. We also work with people with other disabilities, and because sight loss and disability affects family, friends and colleagues, we work with them too.
Henshaws is one of the oldest charities in the UK, opening in Manchester in 1837. This year we Our services support children and babies, their families, young and older people by providing reassurance, practical support and in some cases simply companionship.
We work throughout the North of England, with centres and communities in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Manchester, Merseyside and Newcastle.
Henshaws College, our further education college in Harrogate, specialises in visual impairment and caters for students with disabilities aged between 16 and 25. The college enables every student to reach his or her maximum level of independence, gain vocational skills and supports the transition into adult life.
Each of our centres offers different services and programmes – but they all have a common goal: to enable the people who use our services to live an independent and fulfilling life.
Henshaws College, Bogs Lane, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 4ED
Tel: 01423 886451

Jisc is an independent education charity, owned by AoC, GuildHE and UUK. It provides UK higher education, further education and skills sectors support on the use of digital technologies. It provides advice and guidance through Jisc Advance and owns a subsidiary company, Jisc Collections and Janet Limited, which provides an academic telecommunications network infrastructure and content services for over 18 million users across the UK.

Jisc’s vision is to make the UK the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world. Jisc’s mission is to enable the education sector in the UK to perform at the forefront of international practice by exploiting fully the possibilities of modern digital empowerment, content and connectivity.

Find out more at or contact Charlie Covington of the Jisc press office on, 07841951296 or

Assistive technology is specialist equipment or software, including screen readers, switches or eye gaze systems, which allow people with disabilities to use computers and other devices which would otherwise be inaccessible to them.