Monday, December 18, 2006

"Accessible Flash: Oxymoron?" - Niqui Merret

Niqui Merret's accessibility session saw a big turn out - the Pavilion was almost full and people were packing in even past the start. Its good to see that people are interested in accessibility in regards to Flash. The session was mainly an introduction to the concepts of accessibility and didn't really go into the murky depths of Flash accessibility.

I was pretty disappointed that the problem with tab order going crazy in a Flash movie when MSAA is active wasn't mentioned. This is an undocumented issue which I'm sure vexes many people trying to make accessible Flash movies. I'm going to try and get a tutorial up on this blog soon explaining how its works and how to make it work properly.

But for now, my notes on Niqui's session...

  • Show of hands for people who had tested with disabled users and also tested their flash apps on screenreaders was impressive.

  • Target?

    • Accessibility is for everyone or

    • Accessibility is for people with disabilities

    • Niqui took it as the later for this talk

  • Why accessibility? - Discrimination is wrong

  • Side benefits

    • Improves general usability

    • Increases support for low literacy

    • Increased support for users with little or no knowledge of the language

    • More potential customers

  • DDA 1995 UK - Part 3: Access to Good and Services

    • This is the key clause

    • "Make reasonable" effort to make site accessible

    • So for a small company it may not be economically viable (or therefore not reasonable) to make their site accessible

    • Big corporates and the government on the other hand have no excuse.

  • Myths of accessibility

    • A text-only site can be truly accessible - MYTH

    • Accessible sites are bland - MYTH

    • Accessibility is expensive - MYTH

    • Accessibility is not possible in Flash - MYTH

    • Clients should choose if a site is accessible or not - MYTH

    • A tool can be used to automate accessibility testing - MYTH

    • Accessibility is only about screenreaders access to the content - MYTH

  • Statistics

    • UK - 8.6 Million registered disabled users (14%) - source DRC

    • 2 million users have a sight problem - source RNIB

    • 9% of pop with colour blindness

    • 3.4 million can't use standard mouse, keyboard and screen setup without difficulty

    • 12 million users aged over 60 (so more chance of a disability)

    • Companies are potentially losing £50-60 billion pounds of revenue a year from disabled users

  • Which screenreader should you optimise for?

    • Tough one to call

    • Look at what is most used in the community

    • WindowsEyes and JAWS are a good starting point (Ed note: every test I've done with Hal has handled Flash content very badly. I'd recommend not using it as your baseline)

  • Forcing a screnreader to start reading a page again

    • Apparently can be done by switching to another frame - (Ed note: I haven't tested this to see if it works categorically)

  • MSAA

    • Current Flash accessibility is dependent on MSAA - so is only available on a PC

    • Would be great if Adobe supported Apple Voiceover which is supposedly good and free

      • But which only came out in last version of OS so can't blame them for not (Ed note: I doubt unless the Mac version is using something like MSAA that this will happen anytime soon)

    • No standards for screenreaders so it is difficult for product creators to support them all in the same way

  • Pushed SWFObject again but no one has mentioned that same problem - no JavaScript enabled = no Flash, even if they have a valid Flash Player

  • I realise at this point that the guy in front of me smells really bad

  • Raised idea of an audio brand (a quick and unobtrusive jingle) to differentiate your site

    • Example:

    • Ed note: Could be really annoying for non-screenreader users. Could use a 1 pixel flash movie to detect if a screenreader is present and play the jingle only if it is

  • Dyslexics with Scoptic sensitivity syndrome struggle with too much contrast

    • Best to have high contrast as an option, not as a default

    • Ed note: Nice example demonstrated how accepted "standards" for accessibility can actually be deceiving

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