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

From: Steven McCaffrey <smccaffr@MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 11:38:43 -0400
Message-Id: <scc7ead1.080@MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
To: <poehlman1@comcast.net>, <ESnyder1@CORUS.JNJ.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hello all:

Is MSAA support the critical difference?  I've excerpted the jaws401 BuiltIn.jsd file below.  It seems from this that there is built in generic access to MSAA.  Does it just need to be fine tuned so to speak for Flash, (i.e. some jaws script(s) perhaps?)

:Function GetFocusObject
:Description Uses MSAA to get the object with focus
:Param1 int/IDChild ID of child.
:Returns object The interface to the Accessible object.

:Function GetObjectAtPoint
:Description Uses MSAA to determine the object at a set of X/Y coordinates
:Param1 int ref data.
:Param2 int The x coordinate.
:Param3 int The y coordinate.
:Returns object The accessible object at the given point.

:Function GetCurrentObject
:Description Uses MSAA to obtain the object with focus at the active cursor position
:Param1 int/IDChild ID of child.
:Returns object The accessible object at the current cursor location.


>>> David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net> 04/23/02 03:28PM >>> 
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" 
< w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > 
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, Closedal co 
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 

Received on Thursday, 25 April 2002 11:40:03 UTC

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