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Re: media:Fw: Flash News Flash: It's Accessible

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 15:39:16 -0400 (EDT)
To: David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
cc: "Snyder, Ethan [JJCUS]" <ESnyder1@CORUS.JNJ.com>, wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0204231532170.31859-100000@tux.w3.org>
There are some ideas about how to use the accessibility features of SVG that
would be applicable to developing accessible flash content. (Some of that
isn't applicable - flash doesn't support style sheets as far as I know - but
a number of the ideas should apply).

And there are some ideas about SVG accessibility that we published in the W3C
Note "Accessibility Features of SVG" - http://www.w3.org/TR/SVG-access - that
is being slowly reworked, so if people have thoughts on it they could be
useful in several places.



On Tue, 23 Apr 2002, David Poehlman wrote:

  the only screen reader which currently works with the new flash is
  window eyes.  I agree ten fold with what is below.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: "Snyder, Ethan [JJCUS]" <ESnyder1@CORUS.JNJ.com>
  To: "'David Poehlman'" <poehlman1@comcast.net>; "wai-ig list"
  Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 3:16 PM
  Subject: RE: media:Fw: Flash News Flash: It's Accessible

  I'm glad to see that Flash is becoming more accessible, but based on
  Macromedia's presentation at CSUN, there are still some major

  1.  Users must have the latest version of the Flash Player installed.
  2.  Users must use a screen reader that supports Microsoft Active
  Accessibility (MSAA) (Do most versions of JAWS and other popular readers
  currently IN USE support MSAA?)
  3.  Navigating between Flash and non-Flash content, using the keyboard
  is virtually impossible.
  4.  Elaborate Flash movies may present information/content in multiple
  places, simultaneously.    Screen Reading software can only describe
  information/content in one place at any given time.
  5.  Developers need to understand how to use the new accessibility
  of Flash properly, and then they must take the time to do so.

  Given the above, I think it is premature to conclude that all
  issues with Flash have been eliminated with the latest release of Flash

  E. Snyder

  Ethan B. Snyder
  IM Analyst / IMLDP 2000
  Corporate Information Management
  Johnson & Johnson

  -----Original Message-----
  From: David Poehlman [mailto:poehlman1@comcast.net]
  Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 9:29 AM
  To: wai-ig list
  Subject: media:Fw: Flash News Flash: It's Accessible

  Flash News Flash: It's Accessible. By Lisa Delgado.

  2:00 a.m. April 23, 2002 PDT.

  Macromedia Flash designers have a reputation for creating websites that
  are, well, flashy - but not friendly to all users.

  "Most Flash designers are thinking about how to make things cool, not
  to make things accessible (to the disabled).
  That's because in the past, Flash was not good for accessibility," said
  Chris MacGregor, editor of Flash portal and e-zine

  People who design in Flash "consider themselves artists," said
  accessibility expert Joe Clark. "They find the idea of a blind
  person wanting to (use) their site to be slightly weird."

  However, Jason Smith defies that stereotype. In his job as a
  technical director at the American Association for the
  Advancement of Science, he helped to design an educational
  children's science site -- and he wanted to include some
  Flash-animated games. But he was concerned about creating
  barriers for deaf and blind children using the site.

  Flash is considered the killer animation app of the Web
  because it enables designers like Smith to create interactive
  animations with small-size files. However, Flash has been hotly
  for its inaccessibility to people with disabilities.

  Before the release of Flash MX last month, Flash content could not be
  by screen readers, which are used by the blind
  to translate information on a computer by reading it aloud or by sending
  it to a Braille display. Also, most Flash audio
  content is not accessible to the deaf because there has been no good way
  to create Flash captioning.

  "Using Flash at all, in Flash 5, made it inaccessible," Smith said.

  "We hesitated to use Flash, but we wanted (the site) to be noticed. We
  wanted it to be bleeding-edge. We had committed
  to a Shockwave game, and since we were going in that direction, we
  to try to use Flash."

  To make the site accessible to deaf children, he invented a
  Flash captioning tool that has subsequently
  been purchased by Macromedia. Soon, the whole Flash community will be
  to use the tool, because Macromedia plans to
  release it as a free downloadable extension on the Flash exchange within

  The tool is an ActionScript component that parses a caption XML file and
  displays the caption data within a Flash
  presentation. A caption XML file can be most easily created using
  such as MAGpie, a free multimedia captioning

  Smith's tool finally makes Flash captioning practical, said Andrew
  Kirkpatrick, technical project coordinator for the CPB/WGBH
  National Center for Accessible Media.

  "Short of laboriously placing text on the timeline so that people could
  see it at the right time, there was no way to do Flash
  captioning," he said.

  The advantage of the tool is that it not only saves time, it also allows
  captioning to be done by someone other than the
  original Flash developer, he said.

  Smith hopes to use Flash MX to retrofit the site so blind children can
  also use it. Otherwise, he will need to maintain a
  parallel HTML version of the site for the blind. The disadvantage of
  having two versions of the site is obvious: There are two
  sites to update instead of one.

  Unlike previous versions of the software, Flash MX includes an
  accessibility panel that enables designers to add names and
  descriptions to objects in Flash movies - much like the "alt" and
  "longdescr" tags are used to describe images in HTML

  Buttons, movie clips and entire movies can all be labeled with names and
  descriptions that are accessible to screen readers.
  In addition, any text in a Flash MX movie is automatically accessible.

  The site, Kinetic City, is still under development. However, examples of
  captioning done with Smith's tool can be seen in a
  Flash piece on zoot suit culture, created by WGBH Interactive.

  Macromedia executives Kevin Lynch and Jeremy Allaire praised the zoot
  culture piece for its accessibility at the keynote
  speech of FlashForward, a Flash design conference held in San Francisco
  early this month.

  The piece was originally designed in Flash 4 as part of the companion
  website for a PBS program on the zoot suit riots
  sparked by racial tensions in Los Angeles in the early 1940s.

  The WGBH Interactive Web designers used Flash MX to retrofit the zoot
  culture section of the site, adding screen
  reader accessibility. They also added 15 video clips on subjects such as
  zoot suit fashion and the big band era, and they
  used Smith's tool to caption them.

  "The main impetus was to demonstrate what the new version of Flash is
  capable of, in terms of accessibility," said Peter
  Pinch, director of technology for interactive content at WGBH

  "It's very exciting to be able to reach a broader audience than in the
  past - to think that blind, visually impaired and deaf
  users can enjoy our content, as well as everyone else," he said.

  WGBH Interactive is the interactive media division of WGBH, a broadcast
  company with a long history of pioneering
  advances in accessibility, including TV captioning and Descriptive Video
  Service. DVS describes the visual content of a TV
  program during gaps in the dialogue, so blind listeners can follow the

  While many multimedia companies treat accessibility as an afterthought,
  WGBH Interactive has made accessibility central to
  its work.

  Last year, the company produced the first fully accessible DVD, Abraham
  and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided. It was the
  first DVD to include a "talking menu" so blind people can access all the
  DVD's features and it also includes captioning and

  The zoot suit culture piece is only one of many captioned Web video
  projects the company has created, said Jon Alper,
  director of technology, research and development at WGBH Interactive.

  For example, the company produced a captioned online performance of
  music band Mango Blue on QuickTime TV. It
  has also captioned several Nova Online videos, including Cracking the
  of Life, about the human genome, and Dying to
  be Thin, about eating disorders.

  QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player -- and now Flash -- all
  support captioning.

  When the company's Web designers retrofitted the zoot suit culture
  they were able to embed captioned video
  directly within the Flash movie because unlike earlier versions of
  Flash MX does not require a third-party player such
  as QuickTime for short video clips.

  Smith said he was glad to see his invention put to a new use. "When I
  created the tool, it was based on animation; but
  when I saw it works seamlessly with video, I was very excited that it
  works for both," he said.

  While Smith and the designers at WGBH Interactive have been
  in creating accessible Flash sites, other Web
  designers are playing catch-up.

  Many Web designers for U.S. federal government websites first became
  concerned about Flash's inaccessibility when
  Section 508 went into effect in June 2001, said Bob Regan, Macromedia's
  product manager for accessibility.

  Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all electronic and
  information technology used by the federal
  government, including websites, be accessible to people with

  "We had a lot of people whispering, 'Is Flash going to be accessible?'
  We'd say yes, and they'd breathe a sigh of relief,"
  Regan said.

  Of course, disabled Internet users are even more relieved that Flash is
  finally becoming usable for them.

  For blind people, coming to an inaccessible Flash site is like hitting a
  brick wall on the information superhighway.

  Curtis Chong, director of technology for the National Federation of the
  Blind, described his frustration. "I'd go to a site and it
  would ask me, 'Do you want to install Macromedia Flash?' and I'd say
  I don't want anything to do with Macromedia
  because if I install Flash, I won't be able to see anything on the

  Flash's screen reader accessibility has come none too soon, Chong said.
  "It's late in coming, but that doesn't take away
  from the fact I'm glad (Macromedia) did it. I wish they'd done it
  I hope they keep on doing it and set an example for
  the rest of the industry."

  Jamie Berke, a deaf captioning advocate, applauded the development of a
  Flash captioning tool.

  "I think it is great," she said. "I expect that there will be more Web
  captioning tools developed because of the impact of
  Section 508."

  However, she warned that captioning tools aren't enough: Web designers
  need education in using them.

  "Tools for captioning have long been available," she said. She lists
  captioning tools and services on her site, Closed
  Captioning Web.

  However, only a small percentage of video on the Web is captioned.

  "The key is the mind-set of Web video producers, who must learn to
  automatically include captioning as part of their
  production process.... Producers have to be made aware of the existence
  the tool and encouraged to use it," she said.

  Source URL: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,51638,00.html

Charles McCathieNevile    http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  phone: +61 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative     http://www.w3.org/WAI  fax: +33 4 92 38 78 22
Location: 21 Mitchell street FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, Australia
(or W3C INRIA, Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France)
Received on Tuesday, 23 April 2002 16:10:06 UTC

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