by Andrew Kirkpatrick

 Comments (9)


August 7, 2006

This post is subject to Adobe's Terms of Use.

I’ve been asked various forms of the question “how can I make JAWS move the focus for my Flash application?” recently and decided to create a quick post. The answer: sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.
Test files:
Test file
Source FLA
When a JAWS user reaches the page containing a Flash (or Flex) application the screen reader is in what JAWS calls Virtual PC Cursor mode (Window-Eyes calls it Browse mode). In this mode the user is navigating through the screen reader’s off-screen model of the Flash application. Starting reading at the top of the page (hit ctrl+home to go to the top), the user might arrow down line by line to reach the button labeled “move focus”. The user hits enter or space and visually you can see that the focus has moved, but the virtual focus is not in the same place. Arrowing down again shows that the Virtual PC Cursor focus stayed on the button.
If the user is in Forms mode in JAWS (Browse mode off in Window-Eyes) there is no off-screen model. In this circumstance the screen reader focus is the system focus so moving it happens just as it does in a standard desktop application. For this and other reasons (that I’ll talk about in upcoming posts) we recommend that complex Flash and all Flex applications should be used in Forms mode on. This does present some other problems (reading text that is not focusable is a big one) but there are good solutions to address these concerns, but that is for another post.
It merits mention that make the focus move around within an application may not be the right thing to do for a user who can’t view the screen. However, it may save time and facilitate easy use. Move focus only when you really need to, and test with screen reader users.
In general, if you need to move the focus for a screen reader user, make sure you advise the user that they need to be in forms mode for your application.


  • By Vivek Gaikwad - 3:21 AM on August 8, 2006  

    Hi Andrew,
    I think getting focus to the desired control while JAWS is running is one of the difficult task while building accessible applications in Flash.
    As you said, if we are in forms mode, the tab will work but then the arrow keys wont work and this will create problem in reading the text.
    I am waiting for your next post to solve this issue. Till then I will also try some alternatives.

  • By Carlos Rovira - 8:47 AM on August 8, 2006  

    Hi Andrew,
    I want to write to your email account but can’t find, so here it’s a question for you that hope you can give me some insight.
    I’m trying to measure the viability of an Enterprise FDS 2 project. As clients will be on linux, I’m aware about when Flash Player 9 for linux will ship (early 2007), but I need to know about screen reader support for linux because this will be crucial to this project and to think in a Flash based solution.
    Please if you give some insight about this I will be very grateful.

  • By Vivek Gaikwad - 2:06 AM on October 7, 2006  

    Hi Andrew,
    If the forms mode is on, is it possible to set the focus to the movie clip on click of a button?

  • By Fred Simmons - 11:46 AM on October 10, 2006  

    Is it me or do and _accProps.description do absolutely nothing for JAWS?

  • By AWK - 12:18 PM on October 10, 2006  

    Fred, It’s you. 🙂 accProps name and description are read by JAWS. You may need to update the accessibility properties to get the values to register in the data that the player sends to JAWS. You should check out the Best Practices for Accessible Flash ( if you haven’t already for how to do this.

  • By Luca Calcagno - 10:33 AM on November 8, 2006  

    Hi, thanks for this tips.
    I think the real problem is to enter and to exit with focus. Once you are inside a swf file, it seems to be impossible to get out focus without mouse actions…

  • By AWK - 10:34 AM on November 9, 2006  

    This is sometimes a problem, but not always. There is an issue with Flash 8 components where focus is not released from the Flash movie, but this is not the case for non-component-based Flash apps or for apps that use the Flex controls.

  • By Adam S - 11:17 PM on November 14, 2006  

    The online conversion tools for Adobe PDF docs are broken, for the email addresses provided.
    Looks as if the user accounts & mail boxes that were set up with these tools have been killed.
    Sending to and resulted in bounce mail of:
    The original message was received at Tue, 14 Nov 2006 20:11:19 -0800 (PST)
    from []
    —– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
    (reason: 550 5.7.1 Unable to relay for
    (expanded from: )
    (reason: 550 5.7.1 Unable to relay for
    (expanded from: )
    —– Transcript of session follows —–
    … while talking to
    >>> DATA

  • By sonia - 6:26 AM on September 4, 2009  

    I want to know why the games & videos r not working?