Are Youtube and Microsoft Stream WCAG Compliant?

Published May 5, 2023

Many websites utilize Youtube and Microsoft Stream for their websites and corporate events, like training. However, as you should be operating to be accessible, it’s important to ensure that using both these video streaming services is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant. WCAG is a set of standards all websites should follow to ensure maximum accessibility – it is the international standard. 

So are Youtube and Microsoft Stream WCAG compliant? Let’s take a look. Understanding how the WCAG applies to each service is essential to accomplish this. 

WCAG and Youtube

First, let’s look at what accessibility features Youtube has as a whole. Youtube offers automatic captioning for videos, but the WCAG clarifies that automatic captions “do not meet user needs or accessibility requirements.” Why?

Automatic captions often need to be more accurate. Under the WCAG, captions must be on all videos, and they must be correct. Captions that are inaccurate or poorly written cannot be rendered accessible, and automatic captions must be thoroughly checked for accuracy before being rendered accessible. Video captions must be uploaded already captioned - Youtube does not provide captioning services.

Youtube also supports keyboard shortcuts, but users often complain that they need to be more complex on the website and tricky to use, especially with screen readers. Success criteria 2.4, which is all about screen readers, says websites must provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are. Based on user complaints from using screen readers on the site, Youtube isn’t meeting this success criterion. 

That hasn’t stopped over 122 million people from using it every day, but it is a blow to accessibility on the site. It seems that the accessibility offerings Youtube has are “bare minimum” and certainly don’t make Youtube WCAG compliant. There’s a lot of work to do to bring the video-sharing site up to date with all the success criteria laid out in the WCAG. 

WCAG and MS Stream

Like Youtube, Microsoft Stream also offers automatic captions. However, with MS Stream, a user can input captions to a video in-site as you use the site, a feature Youtube does not have. Though automatic captions are not WCAG compliant, the ability to input captions directly into the video as you upload is a feature that complies with the captions requirement under the WCAG. 

Outside of captions, however, users report severe issues with accessibility using MS Stream. The screen reader support is limited, and as that is a success criteria under the WCAG, not meeting those criteria means that MS Stream is not WCAG compliant. People who navigate using screen readers cannot use the site because of these issues. 

Some severe issues include being unable to use the video controls while a video is playing, the video carousel moving too quickly for someone to use screen reader controls to select anything and a lack of appropriate tagging for graphics. These issues interrupt the use of the site and make it inaccessible. 

Using Youtube and MS Stream

If you’d like to or you need to use Youtube or MS Stream for business anyway, there are certain things you can do to ensure the video you use is WCAG compliant before you use it. It’s extra work, but before you embed a single video to your site or play it at a conference or training, you need to ensure it meets WCAG's success criteria. 

Ensure quality captions are in place. Follow these simple rules when creating captions. It shouldn't be necessary to turn them on. When the video starts, they should automatically play. 

Another thing you need to provide alongside the video is a transcript. A transcript, or a word-for-word text file of the video, is another accessibility feature Youtube and MS Stream don’t offer but should. It’s also a success criteria of the WCAG. Providing a transcript gives people with hearing disabilities or who use screen readers the opportunity to experience the video equally.

Ensure the video controls are accessible via keyboard controls at all times, including when the video is playing. This allows someone to control the video when needed, even if they can’t use the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts are common, and someone will likely use them, so prepare for that. 

These things can ensure that you’re still accessible and WCAG compliant while using Youtube or MS Stream videos, even if the sites themselves are not as WCAG compliant as they should be. 


Although Youtube and MS Stream have some good accessibility features, they are far from being totally WCAG compliant. They both have issues that need to be addressed before they can call themselves truly accessible. If you still want to use videos from their sites for your training or website, ensure the videos you use are accessible. 


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