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multimedia accessibility a specialist skillset?

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From: wendy constantine
Date: Dec 14, 2006 12:16PM


Is the development of accessible rich media including flash, video
and audio appropriately considered a specialist skillset? I've been
conducting research for a thesis in multimedia accessibility for
online museum education, and I am increasingly frustrated by the
reasons developers give for not making an accessible digital product.

The reason I expected to hear is that clients don't require it. Cost,
time, tools and knowledge are the other common barriers, in that order.

If one approaches accessibility from a universal design perspective,
meaning conceiving of the design of the product to meet the needs of
various audiences, the time and cost of accessibility can be
minimized, in my perspective. I have yet to find a developer that
will second that notion, however.

As for tools, captioning tools for video and even flash video are
freely available. The availability of a transcript (audio/video
descriptions aside) would be the main barrier to producing captions
cost effectively. And there are tools to help with just that.
Captioning long segments of video can be time-consuming, yet I would
have to question the reasoning behind delivering long segments of
video over the web.

If anyone has examples of tools and/or services for captioning,
please do suggest them. I would very much like to present some
solutions to these common barriers.

Flash has also come a long way in providing accessibility built into
the development process. It won't think for you, but Flash can enable
accessibility today in ways most developers do not realize. As Bob
Reagan has so eloquently said, it is more a failure of the
imagination than of the tools.

Can anyone foresee a time when accessibility, even for rich media,
will be considered standards based design and not a specialist activity?

Thanks for your input!
Wendy Constantine