Archive for July, 2006

July 31, 2006

New Accessibility Book

A new accessibility book hit the shelves last Monday. Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance is the collective work of several well-known names in accessibility, including Jim Thatcher. This is the new version of the standard reference “Constructing Accessible Websites” that Jim and others wrote a few years back, so the format and cover image are similar, but with updated and new content.
I wrote chapters on PDF accessibility and an overview of accessible technologies and co-authored/updated the chapter on Flash accessibility with Bob Regan. I’m very happy with the book, and I’m sure you’ll find it invaluable.

9:11 AM Permalink
July 5, 2006

IE Security, JAWS, and Flash Issues

By now, almost everyone has heard about the IE Security Update and how it impacts ActiveX control interaction. With the release of JAWS 7.1, there are additional reasons to make sure that you add the HTML Object element in the way suggested at the Active Content Developer Resource site (
If you don’t, here’s an example of the badness that you’ll inflict on your screen reader users. In JAWS there are two modes that you need to think about – Virtual PC Cursor mode, which allows the user to read through the document line by line or using several shortcuts; and Forms mode, which allows users to interact with controls and type information into editable controls. There are two modes because keystrokes that are needed to navigate (e.g. “f” takes you to the first form control on a page in HTML or Flash) may also be needed in a control (e.g. Frank needs to enter his name in a TextInput). When a user locates a form control in HTML or Flash, they hit ‘enter’ and JAWS says “”forms mode on” and the user can interact with the control.
In JAWS 7.1 there are bugs that will cause difficulties with this process. I’ve made a simple test file — here’s what happens with JAWS 7.1 (I’ve put keystrokes in braces):
Flash movie start {down arrow}
Accessible Flash. Learn more at the the {down arrow}
Adobe Accessibility button {down arrow}
Resource center {down arrow}
Resource center Edit {enter – to switch to forms mode}
Enter, forms mode on. Resource center button, to activate press space bar {space}
At this point, everything is fine. The user should expect that they can now type in the edit — except that they can’t. Focus has been moved to the top of the FLash content, away from the TextInput used to enter forms mode. The user needs to again navigate to the correct TextInput. This might not be a big issue if the TextInput is the first control in the Flash content, but it is a usability problem and can be a huge source of confusion.
A second issue with JAWS 7.1 is that when you tab through a web page in Virtual PC Cursor mode and tab to the not-yet-activated ActiveX control you might expect that you’d hear the same information that is available visually (“Press SPACEBAR or ENTER to activate and use this control”), but you don’t. You hear nothing. If the user is aware that they’ve tabbed onto something they might hit ins+tab to read that item and then they will hear “Flash movie start”. If the use is familiar with what is going on they might hit enter or space, but neither will work. The user needs to use the arrow keys to navigate into the flash content and if they need to enter forms mode deal with repositioning their focus.
All of this is a consequence of changes made to JAWS for version 7.1. If you enable “legacy Internet Explorer Support” in the JAWS Configuration Manager’s HTML Options dialog all of these issues go away, but you can’t count on users doing that.
Avoid all this by using the method recommended at the Active Content Developer Resource site (

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