SF State - Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI)

Image: Photos of the SF State campus and students using a headset, a braille keyboard and a blind cane

Flash and Accessibility

Flash is software which allows you to develop animated and interactive web elements, games, or webpages. Flash is also often used for implementing video in webpages and to develop rich Internet applications. Flash uses a scripting language called ActionScript. The Flash file format is usually .swf and played in the free Flash player. The very popular Flash Video with the different .flv extension can be played with common players such as QuickTime, VLC, and Windows Media Player.
Important Note: It is very difficult to make Flash accessible. Many websites provide good tips and trainings on making Flash accessible, but they often focus on screen readers only. In order to comply with Section 508 and the SF Web Accessibility Guidelines, the page or application needs to function with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and other assistive technology as well.

Main Problems:

  1. The user cannot access the information conveyed by images or animations
  2. The user has problems to orient herself on the page
  3. The user has problems to keep pace with content changes
  4. The user can only access controls and navigation by mouse input
  5. The user cannot access the information and controls in the correct order
  6. The user is unable to hear the audio
  7. The user is unable to see the content of the Flash video
  8. The user is unable to operate the Flash video player controls
  9. The user cannot hear her screen reader because other audio sounds are interfering

Solutions:

  1. Provide text equivalents for images and animations
  2. Flash does not provide structured elements, no solution here
  3. Avoid fast content changes and allow user to control content changes
  4. Use standard controls and avoid custom controls. Label the form elements.
  5. Correct the tab order, if it is not following the logical structure
  6. Provide captions Learn how to create captions
  7. Provide audio description
  8. Use an accessible video player. We recommend the ccPlayer.
  9. Do not auto start video and sound on a website. Give user control to select on and off for audio and video
  10. And finally: test, test, test…

Resources:

http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/flash/best_practices.html

http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/flash/tutorial/

http://www.webaim.org/techniques/flash

http://niquimerret.com/

www.msfw.com/accessibility/presentations/flash2009/

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