WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Inaccessibility of older Flash movies


From: Steve Vosloo
Date: Aug 22, 2002 12:31AM

Thought you might find this interesting -- about Macromedia's choice to
make older Flash content available to screen readers, and how to work
around that.


-----Original Message-----
From: Deneb Meketa [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: 21 August 2002 09:27 PM
Subject: RE: Inaccessibility of older Flash movies

Hi Steve -

Thanks for your comments. It's good to know that people are using our
accessibility support - even if this leads to problems!

The issues you're describing are typical for older Flash content that is
complex. We're looking at a retrofitting problem here: the content was
developed before we had accessibility support, and now it will take some
work to make the content accessible. This is a consequence of our
choice to try and interpret older content for MSAA. That choice
actually has great benefit for simpler legacy content - many Flash
movies just suddenly start working, without any changes. The downside
of this choice is that more complex legacy movies just cause a lot of

This kind of problem is not limited to Flash. Any complex website
designed before accessibility tools were available would be likely to
exhibit similar problems. Many modern DHTML pages fall into this

There are certainly some problems with our accessibility implementation
- among these are some things that you mention, like dropdown support
and tabbing out of movies. The current Flash Player is really just a
first version of accessibility support, far from perfect, and we're
working on major improvements for the next release of the player.

But some of the solution to the larger problem you're talking about
(complex legacy content) must rest with content maintainers and screen

Content maintainers, at the least, need to take a quick look and see
what their biggest problems are. If those problems revolve around
excess verbosity, the near-term strategy is to disable screen reading of
the movie until there is time to put better accessible logic into the
movie (if that's even practical at all). You suggest a perfectly
reasonable workaround for this near-term solution: provide a skip-Flash
link. A slightly better technique that we would endorse is
re-publishing the Flash movie as version 6, and simply turning off
accessibility support for the whole movie (uncheck "Make Movie
Accessible" in the Accessibility panel while nothing is selected on the
Stage). This makes the screen reader ignore the Flash content entirely.

Screen readers, for their part, would do well to include a feature that
allows skipping past a section currently being read. This already
appears in the form of, for example, next-paragraph key bindings.
Perhaps a reasonable enhancement would be a
skip-past-current-Flash-movie key binding.

Also note that while some of the verbosity can come from the initial
reading of a Flash movie, a lot can subsequently come from animation in
the movie prodding the screen reader to re-read the page. Window-Eyes
has included a key binding to help users deal with this: if they press
Ctrl+Shift+F (I think - I might be misremembering the specific keys
there), Flash events will stop being sent, turning the page into a
static page that doesn't repeatedly start over from the top.

Thanks again for your input. We hope that our next version of Flash
will make enough improvements that everyone will be able to make their
content accessible without undue effort.

Deneb Meketa
Flash Player engineering.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Vosloo [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 21, 2002 5:35 AM
> Subject: Inaccessibility of older Flash movies
> Hi,
> I've been playing around with Windows-Eyes and Flash
> 5 movies. Articles on the MM site say that with Flash Player 6 certain
> elements of older Flash movies are made available to screen readers --
> and this is a good thing. But I'm afraid it's not.
> The problem is that because these older movies were not designed with
> accessibility in mind, this "feature" can be more of a curse than a
> blessing, trapping the user in a logically inaccessible movie. The
> movies I'm looking at are quite complex and very interactive and I can

> assure you it creates pure chaos for the blind user stumbling into the

> movie. The worst part was that once I was in I couldn't tab out of the

> animation.
> So I've recommended to my client to provide a text description of the
> Flash movie and also a link to skip over it, e.g.
> Text description of Flash knee anatomy animation | Skip over Flash
> animation
> [Movie goes here]
> I'm afraid MM still have not created a truly accessible Flash
> environment (e.g. no drop-down lists yet). Until that happens we'll
> have to provide a text description and a way around.
> Thanks
> Steve
> Steve Vosloo
> Division Manager
> Usability Junction
> Tel: + 27 (0) 21 409 7961
> Fax: + 27 (0) 21 409 7050
> Cell: + 27 (0) 83 463 0012

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or view list archives,
visit http://www.webaim.org/discussion/