Macromedia Flash MX 2004 helps to accelerate accessible application development with a core set of UI components. These components can automate many of the most common accessibility practices related to labeling, keyboard access, and testing and help to ensure a consistent user experience across rich applications created with Macromedia Flash MX 2004. For each component, the designer or developer need only enable the accessibility object by using the command enableAccessibility(). This includes the accessibility object with the component as the movie is compiled. Because there is no simple means of removing an object once it has been added to the component, these options are turned off by default. It is therefore very important that the designer or developer enable accessibility for each component. This step needs to be done only once for each component; it is not necessary to enable accessibility for each instance of a component.
In the exercise that follows, and in the second part of this series, we are going to add captions, using both methods, to the same video. For those passionate about web standards, the first method involves the use of Timed Text captions. If you go this route, you need to follow the standard laid out by the W3C. There is a lot to it but, in a nutshell, it requires you to create a specific type of XML document using the required tags.
In this article, we’re going to look at a method of captioning a Flash video file: embedding the XML directly into the FLV file. In very simple terms, the XML document will contain the cue points for the captions. When one of those cue points is reached, the caption appears over the video.
Macromedia Flash is a vector-based, interactive animation creation program designed to enable the addition of dynamic characters, scenes, interfaces and motion graphics animations to Web sites. Macromedia Flash materials are created using the Flash authoring program, the most recent version of which is Flash MX.
Making Flash accessible is a good thing. However, accessible Flash is not perceivable by screen-reader users if they don’t use Windows. If a screen-reader user needs information that is contained in a Flash presentation, that user needs to be on Windows. Oops.
When usability expert Jakob Nielsen proclaimed Flash was 99 percent bad, he was right on at least one account: accessibility. Until the release of Flash MX and the Flash 6 player, about 41 million disabled Web users could not take full advantage of Flash Web sites (According to World Bank in 2000). Even with Macromedia's move to support Section 508 guidelines, the government's plan for Web accessibility, the majority of Flash developers have not adopted the necessary best practices. Advertisement In previous versions of the Flash player, disabled Web users were unable to view any content generated by Flash. The Flash 6 player took a big step in this regard by retroactively providing text equivalents to the application's content. This change has allowed assistive Web browsers such as screen readers to view or speak Flash content. Many Flash developers question the need for Flash accessibility since proper accessibility requires a text-only version of existing Web content. This is a myth: images and animation can actually help users with nonvisual disabilities such as dyslexia. Flash can also benefit the blind by incorporating sound to notify the Web surfer of events.
This article is for those who are new to ARIA. You need an understanding of HTML and the potential difficulties that people with disabilities can face using the Web. It is useful to be familiar with some Rich Internet Applications from a user's perspectiveAfter reading this article, you'll understand what ARIA is for, how to integrate it into your sites, and how you can use it now to make even the simplest of sites more accessible.