A Caltech Library Service

The Accessibility of YouTube Fitness Videos for Individuals Who Are Disabled Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Preliminary Application of a Text Analytics Approach

Kadakia, Shevali and Stratton, Catherine and Wu, Yinfei and Feliciano, Josemari and Tuakli-Wosornu, Yetsa A. (2022) The Accessibility of YouTube Fitness Videos for Individuals Who Are Disabled Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Preliminary Application of a Text Analytics Approach. JMIR Formative Research, 6 (2). Art. No. e34176. ISSN 2561-326X. PMCID PMC8849230. doi:10.2196/34176.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Background: People with disabilities face barriers to in-person physical activity (PA), including a lack of adaptive equipment and knowledgeable instructors. Given this and the increased need for digital resources due to widespread COVID-19 lockdowns, it is necessary to assess the accessibility of digital fitness resources for people with disabilities. To investigate whether YouTube fitness content creators have made videos accessible to people with disabilities would be informative about access to PA during COVID-19 and could also provide insight into the feasibility of individuals who are disabled relying on YouTube for PA in a post–COVID-19 world. Objective: This study aims to ascertain if disability-friendly PA videos on YouTube are accessible through searching general fitness terms and whether a change in the availability of accessible fitness resources for people with disabilities occurred on YouTube between before and during the COVID-19 pandemic on “Hospital/Medical Institutions,” “Individual(s),” and “Other(s)” channels. Secondary aims are to investigate if different categories of YouTube channels produce more accessible fitness content and highlight any disparities in disability-friendly PA content on YouTube. Methods: A cross-sectional text analysis of exercise-related YouTube videos was conducted. The authors used Python (version 3.0) to access the YouTube database via its data application programming interface. Terms pertaining to PA that were searched on YouTube were at-home exercise, exercise at home, exercise no equipment, home exercise, home-based exercise, no equipment workout, and workout no equipment. Various elements (eg, view count and content generation) of the videos published between January 1 and June 30, 2019 (n=700), were compared to the elements of videos published between January 1 and June 30, 2020 (n=700). To capture a broad idea of disability-friendly videos on YouTube, videos were labeled “accessible” if they were found in the first 100 video results and if their title, description, or tags contained the following terms: para, paralympic, adaptive, adapted, disabled, disability, differently abled, disability-friendly, wheelchair accessible, and inclusive. Each video and channel were categorized as “Hospitals/Medical Institutions,” “Individuals,” or “Other(s).” Results: The analysis revealed a statistically significant increase in viewership of fitness content on YouTube (P=.001) and in fitness content generated by Hospitals/Medical Institutions (P=.004). Accessible terms applicable to people with disabilities had minimal appearances in 2019 (21 videos) and 2020 (19 videos). None of the top viewed fitness videos that populated on YouTube from 2019 or 2020 were accessible. Conclusions: The proportion of accessible disability-friendly videos remains diminutive relative to the prevalence of disability in the general population, revealing that disability-friendly videos are seldom findable on YouTube. Thus, the need for disability-friendly fitness content to be easily searched and found remains urgent if access to digital fitness resources is to improve.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Kadakia, Shevali0000-0002-6322-8956
Stratton, Catherine0000-0002-1841-4565
Wu, Yinfei0000-0002-9486-1279
Feliciano, Josemari0000-0002-2107-0687
Tuakli-Wosornu, Yetsa A.0000-0001-5557-6953
Additional Information:© 2022 Shevali Kadakia, Catherine Stratton, Yinfei Wu, Josemari Feliciano, Yetsa A Tuakli-Wosornu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Formative Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included. Edited by A Mavragani; submitted 09.10.21; peer-reviewed by R Shimkhada, L Herrmann; comments to author 23.11.21; revised version received 31.12.21; accepted 14.01.22; published 15.02.22. Conflicts of Interest: None declared.
Subject Keywords:persons with disabilities; disability; exercise; physical activity; digital health; YouTube; accessibility; fitness; COVID-19; text analysis; social media; video
Issue or Number:2
PubMed Central ID:PMC8849230
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220411-77938600
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kadakia S, Stratton C, Wu Y, Feliciano J, Tuakli-Wosornu Y The Accessibility of YouTube Fitness Videos for Individuals Who Are Disabled Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Preliminary Application of a Text Analytics Approach JMIR Form Res 2022;6(2):e34176 URL: DOI: 10.2196/34176
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114207
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:11 Apr 2022 19:18
Last Modified:11 Apr 2022 19:18

Repository Staff Only: item control page