BBC iPlayer on the web for Screen Magnification users

19 September 2013

This web platform was tested using a PC with Internet explorer version 8.0.7601 and ZoomText version (64 bit)


I am in my early 20’s and having short sight has meant that I read large text and use visual aids where necessary. Due to having corneal defects, I find it difficult to see things clearly at all times and having nystagnus causes involuntary eye movement which leads to difficulties in focussing on one thing at a time.

I find that I regularly use BBC iPlayer to catch up on my favourite programmes, one off dramas and documentaries mostly when programme schedules don’t fit around my working and social life.

iPlayer was something I used on a daily basis when at university because I didn’t have a television in my student accommodation. Testing the iPlayer on the web will allow me to analyse accessibility of the service for partially sighted people who use screen magnifiers. 

Accessing the Service

The BBCiPlayer can be accessed via a web browser and entering into the address bar.

Information about the service

BBC iPlayer is an on -demand service provided by the BBC. The platform enables users to search, browse, stream, download and share programmes broadcast on all BBC television and radio stations from the past 7 days.

With the BBC iPlayer users can:

  • Search for programmes by channel, title and categories such as drama, factual and children.
  • Browse programmes in most popular, featured sections, using the A-Z or by channel name.
  • Stream or download TV or radio shows via an internet connection for 30 days after being broadcast.
  • Add programmes to favourites
  • Share the programme with others via social media or by sending them the link.

Setting up

No setting up was required but accessing the website was easy when using ZoomText.

Using the service

Once installed I carried out the following tasks:

  • Created an account in order to set favourite programmes, categories and recommendations.
  • Browsed for programmes by channel name within the TV and radio tabs.
  • Searched for TV and radio categories • Streamed a television and radio programme.
  • Downloaded a television and radio programme.
  • Added a programme title to my favourites list
  • Shared a programme via social media.

Signing up

This process was accessible. Prompts were displayed in bold black text and entry boxes were large and could be identified when using a low magnification of 2.5 x in ZoomText.

Browsing programmes by channel

The ‘TV channels’ section was easy to locate within the homepage due to the bold pink headings which separate sections for different functions.

Displaying headings in a larger font size and different colour to the text within each section may also benefit users of the lens, line and tile magnifier style setting on ZoomText where one section of the page is magnified.

Users of this feature will often prefer to be able to see the whole page and its layout and then choose to magnify the section they are interested to read. BBC iPlayer will allow them to do this

A change in the background gradient within sections helps separate content, even when users change the colour scheme within ZoomText to say Inverted video. However, this may not benefit users of the black and white or yellow on black schemes.

Having content displayed in sections eliminates cluttering of information. I found the layout of the sections easy to follow from left to right and top to bottom. As a result I was able to locate the ‘TV channels’ section with ease.

Large TV channel icons were easy to identify and recognisable by their branded logo, which was displayed in high contrast against the background, even when users set the colour scheme to any of the options available in ZoomText.

When viewing the listed programmes for a particular channel, I found choosing a specific day accessible because when viewing the page with the ‘normal’ colour scheme, each day was displayed in a bold white font. Once I had selected a day, the font changed to a contrasting pink colour. Listings were displayed directly to the right of the ‘TV channels’ section and meant I could easily follow the flow of the page layout.

To expand this section so that it fit across the whole page, I just had to double click on the channel icon and content was then sufficiently spaced out.

Programme titles within TV listings would have been easier to read if it was larger because when ZoomText users increase the zoom on their magnifier, text becomes pixelated and unclear. Larger font will allow them to read text using a lower zoom.

When wishing to select any text within each section of the iPlayer, I found that the underlining of the item my pointer was hovering over to be extremely useful. I could firstly see where on the page my pointer was but also focus my eyes on this and therefore I avoided looking at other content.

I believe having items underlined will benefit ZoomText users who change the format of their pointer and cursor. This will then aid them in being able to select programmes even quicker.

Searching for TV and radio Categories

The search query box was easy to identify on the page. I first searched for programmes in the ‘comedy’ category. Results could be refined by viewing those in the TV or Radio category by selecting the tabs just above the results. I could see the selected category for results were ‘TV and radio’ because it was displayed in the contrasting colour pink.

To see more episodes for one of the programmes in the results list, there was a ‘more episodes’ link located just at the bottom of the programme flash player, which was underlined when the pointer hovered over it.

The results were also displayed in a high contrast format with white on black when used within the ‘normal’ colour scheme mode. Programmes which I hovered over with the pointer were also underlined to signify my position on the page.

Audio described programmes are accessible on the home page under the ‘categories’ section, which was really easy to find. I do think that allowing users to search for audio described programmes using the search query box would be a really helpful feature. Some partially sighted users will choose the audio described version of a programme because it is less tiring for them to listen rather than watch. Being able to search for these programmes would allow users to quickly find a particular programme they know is audio described.

Streaming a TV and radio programme

All the playback functions including the play, pause, duration bar, volume control and full screen functions were accessible. Users can be sure that their pointer is positioned on the desired function, as when the pointer is placed over an icon, it will be highlighted with a contrasting colour which will be determined by the colour scheme being used.

Downloading a TV programme

I found this icon accessible grouped with other icons underneath the flash player. The outline placed around the icon my pointer was not bold enough. It would be better to underline the icon or highlight the icon in a contrasting colour.

This would benefit users looking at the page at a lower zoom but with a lens or line type magnifier, where they are viewing the page layout without a zoom and have reduced space to magnify certain sections. A bolder icon outline or high contrasting colour would assist users of various colour schemes available on their screen magnifier.

The dialog box which came up when I had selected ‘download’ was accessible and easy to read, however I feel that some users may find it useful to have a title at the top signifying that it is a dialog box and not part of the page.

However, having the dialog box brought forward and other content on the page fading out helped me to focus.

Adding programmes to my favourites

This icon was accessible similarly to the ‘download’ icon and was located close to that icon, which is helpful because then this limits the need for users to continuously struggle to find icons located across the page.

I was able to clearly see when I had selected the ‘favourite’ icon, because when using the ‘normal’ colour scheme as set in ZoomText, the icon outlined changed from white to pink This change to a contrasting colour also works for users of the inverted brightness, inverted video, blue dye, black and white and replace grey schemes. However for users of the yellow on black, and black and white invert this is not effective.

As a result, those users are not able to benefit from seeing whether the option has been selected or if they have mistakenly selected something else on the page. If using a higher zoom, they would not be aware of this change.

Sharing programmes via social media

The ‘share’ icon and dialog box for options directly beneath it were accessible as were the sharing via Facebook and Twitter icons to the right of them.


  • Helpful guidelines are available suggesting ways of improving accessibility by changing the settings within a PC and the web browser. This will benefit users who rely on the screen magnifier and contrast options available within the accessibility section of their computers operating system.
  • Large Headings
  • Bold font
  • High contrast and easy to follow layout
  • Use of contrasting colours to notify users when their pointer is positioned on an icon.
  • Easy to use playback functions
  • Underlining of links in results list helps users to focus on reading one result at a time.
  • Sections of the page are clearly separated from one another Grouping of icons saves time for users


  • Users are not able to search for audio described shows.
  • The font used within TV listing pages and the programme information is not large enough. Therefore users have to zoom in which comprises the clarity of text.
  • The ‘download’ button is not highlighted clearly when selected compared to other icons are on the iPlayer.
  • Once the ‘favourite’ icon is selected, not all users who use the yellow on black or black and white reverse colour schemes within their magnification software, can see if the icon has been highlighted because the icon doesn’t change to a contrasting colour as in other colour modes.

Any other comments

In order to make the BBC iPlayer for the web more accessible for users of screen magnifiers I would do the following:

  • Ensure that users can search for programmes in the Audio description category using the search query box.
  • Outline icons as well as highlight them with a contrasting colour when users select or hover over icons. This will mean users of all colour scheme modes can identify a selected icon.


BBC iPlayer on the web offers users a great way to stream, download and share their favourite TV and radio programmes as well as discover new ones. Shows that are available are those broadcasted in the past 7 days on BBC TV and radio channels.

Overall, I would highly recommend this web service to users of screen magnifiers due to its easy to follow layout and high contrast format This will be hugely beneficial for many partially sighted persons who find it difficult to read text clearly on white backgrounds or pages where text is in a font colour they can’t read or there are too many different font colours.

Highlighting and underlining of items when hovered over on the pointer is also another useful accessibility feature which benefited me in particular, where nystagnus affects my ability to focus on one line of text. For screen magnifier users this will also be useful where the mouse pointer style is changed within the magnification software.

Navigating around the website was very easy as content was separated into sections and clearly separated which meant there was no cluttering of information.

All the playback functions of the iPlayer were accessible which made the main feature of this service accessible.

Users of screen magnifiers built within the Windows or Mac operating systems accessibility options, will find the guidance notes on how to change the settings within these functions, useful in making the service more accessible for them.

Minor changes such as making it possible for users to search for audio described programmes, increase the font size of text with TV listings and outlining icons when selected will ensure that all screen magnification users can take advantage of features that will really make using a great service even more enjoyable.

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