You.i Engine One: Screen Reader Accessibility Across Multiple Platforms

Sean Coleman
Sean Coleman
Screen reader_accessibility_TV_mobile

Media providers are required to follow regulatory compliance in their content delivery to ensure their content is accessible to those with physical and mental impairments. An example of an accessibility feature is a screen reader. A screen reader is a form of assistive technology ( AT ) that renders text and image content as speech or braille output. It assists those with visual and learning disabilities to better navigate a site or application.

In line with the mandates of governing bodies (e.g. FCC or the ADA) and the best interests of their customers, a certain degree of support for accessibility is required by platform providers. Often this support is outlined and mandated as part of the platforms’ certification process. If you apply this mandate to video streaming applications, where multiple platforms are the norm, development time is heavily impacted. Thumbnails, metadata, search functions—all these elements and more need to be compatible with a screen reader. This can soak up precious development resources as each platform has its own set of nuances that need to be addressed.

It’s why I’m happy to announce that You.i Engine One has now extended our support for screen reader capabilities across:

  • Apple TV and Apple iOS
  • Android TV, mobile, and tablet
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Samsung Tizen

What does this mean?

It means developers working with You.i Engine One can build a screen reader feature once, and then deploy to all the support platforms above thanks to our single codebase approach to development. You.i Engine One abstracts the functionality of a screen reader and mimics the varied platform nuances. This means development teams don’t have to double-up, or triple-up their work and users can enjoy the experience they are accustomed to.

<View style={styles.buttonContainer}
  focusable={true}
  accessible={true}
  accessibilityLabel="My button"
  accessibilityHint="Button in your first app"
  accessibilityRole="button"
>
  <Button
    onPress={this.onMyButtonPress}
    title="My button"
    />
</View>

Read the documentation

In general, the feature is enabled through React Native’s Accessibility API or through layer comments in After Effects. This includes the concept of an item being the “accessibility focus” for the current screen. Screen reading and interaction operates on the current accessibility focus item and the behaviour is adjusted through labels, hints, roles, states, and actions. Interactions such as iOS’s “Magic Tap” and seeking video with Android using audio buttons are supported. Beginning with 5.3, we have also integrated a Speech Synthesizer module which can be used to issue arbitrary audio built from the system. This is supported by iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Tizen, and Xbox One. It can be used to supplement your accessibility efforts.

Here is a quick demo of our screen reader working on an Android smartphone and Amazon Fire TV.

Making your streaming service more accessible on all platforms is an important yet repetitive process. Our screen reader capability can help reduce the operational load for development teams. Code the feature once and free up resource time to tackle other backlog items. We’re actively working on extending our screen reader platform reach to Roku and console devices as well. It’s just one of many ways we’ve catered You.i Engine One to tackle video app development across multiple screens. For more information, visit our website or check out our fundamental series.

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