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Media Players

The most popular media players—Apple’s QuickTime, RealNetworks’ RealPlayer and RealOne, and Microsoft’s Windows Media Player—are available both as stand-alone desktop applications and as browser plug-ins. These media players address accessibility in different ways and have different strengths and weaknesses; there are even differences between stand-alone and plug-in versions made by the same vendor. So we can’t just tell you to use certain plug-ins and stay away from other ones. Instead, we’ll try to provide some guidelines and principles you can use when you need to decide what’s best for a particular application. In addition to the following discussion, we summarize our comments in Table 14-1.

Of course, a central component of an accessible media player is its ability to display alternative content, such as captions and audio description tracks. Equally important is the degree of device independence that a player provides when enabling user control. Simply said, can the media player support captioning and synchronous audio tracks as we discussed in Chapter 13? Can the user control the player or plug-in using only the keyboard or assistive technology tools? Is the desired behavior consistent across platforms and browsers? The following sections detail what we found.


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