Tuesday 11 June 2002

Thanks but no cigar

Commenting on my World Cup Game Tracker post, Kestrel identified herself as a blind computer user who, after hearing about the accessibility improvements in Flash MX, had visited the Macromedia site and tried to download the trial version.

The newest version of Flash might be accessible, but trying to figure out where the link was to download this wonder while using a screen reader was not possible.

John Dowdell from Macromedia Support left an apologetic reply—promising to follow up Kestrel’s problems and noting that “the Macromedia web team is working on a major set of enhancements to the site.”

The opportunity to enlist Kestrel as an accessibility consultant was too good to pass up so I asked her if she’d mind offering a critique of the World Cup Game Tracker and the Broadmoor Online Reservations Flash applications. Kestrel’s verdict:

I checked out the two web sites you included, the newstracker for the World Cup and the hotel. For all I know, both sites led to blank pages. No sounds, no text, no links. I tried both clicking on the link by hitting return and using the right click button on my JAWS keypad. This was using IE 6 and JAWS 4.02, both the latest versions, so if anything could be gotten from the experience, I should have gotten it. Whenever I run into this situation, I think of a slumlord slapping a coat of paint over a condemned building and calling it “newly renovated”. Sometimes I think web designers are the snake oil salesmen of the 21st century. When will these guys have to live up to some standards? It isn’t an accessibility issue anymore, it’s a usability issue. PONR!

These sites may be impressive and useful to sighted Web users but they are neither accessible nor usable. “When will these guys have to live up to some standards?” When enough of us care sufficiently to make accessibility a priority.

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After reading this, I decided to revisit my web sites and weblog and check to make sure these are accessible.

Posted by Burningbird on 11 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Sorry, that's right, JAWS won't do anything with that rich content. The Macromedia Flash Player doesn't pack device-specific code in each download, but instead uses system-level assistive routines. In practice this currently means MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility), and Window-Eyes is a reader which currently uses MSAA. JAWS won't recognize the hints in such a piece, but readers which use the OS standard will.

For "What will a reader describe?" then text and buttons can be read out of exsiting SWFs... nothing special needs to be done. If you're using Macromedia Flash MX you can do more by adding special captions and ordering to certain elements.


Posted by John Dowdell on 12 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour