Predicted Growth in Number of Accessible Technology Users from 2003 to 2010

In 2003, Microsoft Corporation commissioned Forrester Research, Inc., to conduct a comprehensive study to measure the current and potential market of accessible technology in the United States and understand how accessible technology is being used today. The study determined that 57% of computer users are likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology. And the future demand for accessibility is only projected to grow ("Accessible Technology in Computing: Examining Awareness, Use, and Future Potential," Microsoft Corporation).

Figure 1. Predicted Growth in Number of Accessible Technology Users from 2003 to 2010
The study also determined that the use of accessibility features was not restricted to people with disabilities. Among computer users who use built-in accessibility options and utilities:
32% have no disability or impairment.
68% have a mild or severe disability or impairment.

Posted byCharlie M at 13:51 0 comments  

Flash Accessibility?

Bold words in my last post I know. Id like to go into a little more detail as to how I came up with the controversial opinion that Flash is, or rather can be accessible.

Flash allows us / the designer to produce multimedia which can be displayed in many ways: Visually through Images, drawings, text and video, or maybe using Audio to portray information…Its flexibility is the key to its potential Accessibility. Here are some examples taken from the Webaim URL in the previous post as to how flash can increase / improve accessibility:

· Multiple ways of presentation: Flash can provide content in multiple ways. View an example of multiple presentation methods ( ).

· Scalability: Because Flash is based on vector objects (mathematically defined lines and shapes) rather than raster (pixels of differing colors) technology, most Flash content can be easily scaled to any size without distortion. Individuals with low vision may be able to interact with Flash content in ways not possible with HTML content. View a scaleable example ( ).

· Keyboard accessibility: Flash allows a higher level of keyboard interaction than is allowed in HTML. Many Flash movies can be made more functional, powerful, and easy to use by allowing keyboard access. View a keyboard example ( ).

· Engaging: Flash can engage learners through interactivity, animation, sound, graphics, and many other ways. Individuals with learning or cognitive disabilities can better comprehend and focus on some Flash content. Flash multimedia can be used to supplement static HTML content.

· Self-voicing: Because of the audio capabilities of Flash, it can present content through audio, thus removing the need for a screen reader to extract audio content from the Flash movie.

The WebAim article goes on to explain how almost all of the HTML accessibility issues are also present in Flash…Here are some different disabilities groups and some ways in which the inherent Flash accessibility issues can be “accessified” :

· Hearing disabilities
o Provide synchronized captions for any audio that conveys content

· Photo epilepsy
o Remove strobing content that flashes between 2 and 55 times per second

· Motor disabilities
o Ensure the Flash content is keyboard accessible
o Do not require fine motor skills

· Cognitive disabilities
o Give users control over time sensitive content
o Provide easy to use controls and navigation schemes
o Be consistent
o Use the clearest, simplest language appropriate to the content

· Low vision
o Provide plenty of contrast
o Allow the Flash content to scale to a larger size

· Blindness
o Ensure screen reader accessibility or provide an accessible alternative
o Ensure keyboard accessibility
o Do not interfere with screen reader audio or keyboard commands
o Provide textual equivalents for all non-text elements that convey content or provide a function.

So, Flash does have the ability to be accessible, IF it is created by a developer who has accessibility in mind. It has the potential to be more accessible than HTML due to its flexibility and the potential for assistive technologies to not be necessary to interact with the content. However, a large proportion of the flash which is developed is not produced with accessibility as a priority. Perhaps it’s a lack of training? Perhaps it a Lack of accessibility awareness? Perhaps the designers think its not necessary?? Whatever the reason, Adobe are trying to produce an accessible product. A quick glance at there website shows their commitment to the ‘accessibility for all’ movement .

It is also important to remember that Flash content can only be used if the correct plug-ins have been installed / pre-installed. In 2002 (March 15th I believe) support for Microsoft's Active Accessibility (MSAA) (a standard interface for enabling assistive devices such as screen readers to work with Windows-based applications) was built into Flash. This was a big milestone for Flash Accessibility. However, if Flash is ‘poorly’ designed, assistive technologies will still struggle as mentioned in this blog: [ ]

Flash can also be used on some mobile devices thanks to Flash Lite [] and similar packages. Again another step towards Universal Accessibility of Flash.

My conclusion to this (longer than expected) rant, much like many others you will read on the topic is that Flash CAN be accessible if it is produced with ‘accessibility for all’ in mind. The tools are available to create the accessible content, but maybe the problem is more that the accessibility message has not quite sunk in with many developers yet.

Maybe rather than immediately jumping on the “Flash is not accessible” bandwagon we should consider the external factors: The designers ignorance to the Accessibility features available in the development tools, some technologies lack of compatibility with the software… etc

Perhaps Flash is accessible, but some of the designers and electronic devices which access Flash are not??

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this matter.

Posted byCharlie M at 11:53 0 comments