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Re: RNIB LookLouder Flash MX game


From: Tom Gilder
Date: Jun 17, 2002 3:19PM

On Monday, June 17, 2002, 9:55:19 PM, Julie Howell wrote:
> I think I understand what you're saying, but we're not holding the game up
> as an example of best practice in accessibility. We're demonstrating how
> far desingers can go using Flash MX to create accessible Flash files - not
> very far as it transpires.

OK, I appreciate that - and I must congratulate you on trying to provide a real,
usable example such as this.

> The main aim of the project was to test the capabilities of Flash MX, to
> raise awareness of 'the issue', and to use the findings of the research to
> lobby Macromedia.

I'd say its a job well done on that front. Actually while we're on the subject,
I see Flash MX still has major tabbing problems. For instance, go to
http://www.macromedia.com/ and attempt to tab through the page using the
keyboard. Once you hit a bit of Flash, you will be able to tab beyond it.

> If you are making the point that there are accessibility issues aside those
> due to the limitations of Flash MX, it would be very helpful if you would
> drop me a line with these, and I can ask Bluewave if they can be addressed.

OK, I'll detail them here (the site in question is

* Frames
Although there isn't a browser (to my knowledge) that supports Flash but not
frames, I feel these are useless (although I am not a Flash developer, I
believe there are other ways of invisibly submitting form data. The
developers have only provided useless noframes text ("This page uses frames,
but your browser doesn't support them").

* Browser Sniffing
If the browser does support frames, then the first page they arrive at is a
page with embedded script to check the existence of the Flash plugin. The way
they have done it required scripting to be enabled. If a browser visits the
site, renders the frame but does not support (or has disabled) scripting,
then the user is faced with a blank page.

I believe this could be done without scripting, by having a small Flash movie
loaded which changes the URL once loaded.

<object> fallback could also be used (however is not fully supported in some
browsers [*cough*IE/win*cough*]), with no separate detection page (this would
be the best way, in my opinion).

Failing that, a simple <noscript> message saying the page could not check for
Flash, and providing links to the game would be better than nothing. This
could possibly include a small Flash animation,

* Redirection
If the browser is detected to have Flash, then the user is sent to the actual
game page via setting location.href though script. This results in basically
the breakage of the back button, if the user clicks back they simply end back
on the game page.

In addition none of the HTML fully validates (although some is quite close to
doing so).

However, I must point out that these problems are not mainly the fault of
Bluewave. Macromedia's Flash detection script is poor and leads to inaccessible
results, such as this.

So to sum up, these means that millions of potential users (as high as 11%,
according to <http://www.thecounter.com/stats/2002/June/javas.php>;) who mainly
have modern, frame-capable browsers but have disabled scripting won't be able to
access the game.

> RNIB worked with Bluewave through every stage this project and I stand by it
> resolutely as a demonstration that it's not possible to use Flash MX to
> create universally accessible files (yet).

I don't think it ever will be, sadly.

> Bluewave have put their name to a project that was in a sense destined to
> fail, as we all suspected Flash MX couldn't create truly accessible files.
> Very brave, I think!

Any company that attempts accessibility is brave really, and again I commend you
and Bluewave on attempting this project :)

I also wish you luck on the continuing RNIB accessibility campaign, you're doing
great work.

Cheers :)
Tom Gilder

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