A college has launched an accessible version of video website YouTube that allows people with learning disabilities to use the technology independently.

ACCESS: YouTube simplifies the standard YouTube site making it easier to search and play videos, and allows the use of assistive technologies. It has been launched by Henshaws College, a further education college in Harrogate that specialises in visual impairment and caters for students with disabilities aged 16-25.

The website uses 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, ACCESS: YouTube is more accessible to screen readers.

This means Henshaws students 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.

Mike Thrussell, assistive technology coordinator at Henshaws College, who developed ACCESS: YouTube, said that many of his students faced challenges 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.”

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.”

Thrussell added that Henshaws plans to launch other accessible websites later in the year that will allow assistive technology users 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,” he said.

The ACCESS: YouTube site was developed with funding from Jisc Advance, an arm of independent education charity Jisc.

To visit ACCESS: YouTube click here