We have good news about Flash and Flex accessibility support to share. Please check out the following statement:
Adobe understands how important it is for computer users with disabilities to be able to access the entire Internet. In recognition of the needs of computer users with disabilities, as well as the demands on developers who need to easily create applications and content which comply with global accessibility standards, Adobe is planning major upgrades to the accessibility support in Adobe Flash Player.
The upgrades expand on Flash Player’s existing support for accessibility via the Microsoft Active Accessibility interface (MSAA) and will enable accessibility across all three major operating systems (Windows, Mac, and Linux). The Flash Player will employ IAccessible2 from the Linux Foundation and the WAI-ARIA specification from the W3C to address user and developer needs and to ease interoperability with assistive technology vendors.
Additionally, enhancement are planned to the free and open-source Flex software developer’s kit (SDK) including improvements to complex components such as Flex datagrids and adding support for WAI-ARIA to simplify development of custom user interface components. These improvements are expected to start with the next major release of Adobe Flash Player (following Flash Player 10.1), and the first successive release of the Flex SDK.
Posts in Category "Flash"
We have good news about Flash and Flex accessibility support to share. Please check out the following statement:
I’m happy to share the news that Flex 4 and Flash Builder 4 are now available for download from the Adobe web site.
The open-source Flex SDK includes many accessibility improvements in the components to ensure that users of assistive technologies can access Flex applications more easily. During the development cycle the Adobe Flex team utilized the skill and accessibility experience provided by SSB BART Group and The Paciello Group to ensure that the accessibility implementations for standard Flex controls that developers will use are as accessible as possible. TPG and SSB were working waist-deep in the code and did a great job, not only on the exist set of components (Halo components) but also on the brand new Spark component set. As a result, the set of accessible controls is larger than ever and better than ever.
During this cycle we’ve also worked with Freedom Scientific to help reduce the need for Flex scripts for JAWS. As of right now, scripts are not needed for users of JAWS 11, although users of earlier versions of JAWS will use the existing scripts. We also worked with NVAccess and their open source screen reader NVDA, and NVDA users will have positive experiences with Flash and Flex applications also.
Read more about Flex 4 at http://www.adobe.com/products/flex. Flex is available for download at http://www.adobe.com/go/flex4_sdk.
Authoring accessible Flex application is easier than ever not only because of improvements to the components – Flex also provides new convenience properties in MXML to make adding accessibility information simple, and Flash Builder provides additional accessibility support. Flash Builder 4 (formerly called Flex Builder) is designed to help authors build rich internet applications (RIAs) using Flex. In Flash Builder 4 we’ve changed the default setting for new Flex applications to enable accessibility. In the past there was concern about impact on performance, but we feel that it is important to make Flex applications as accessible as possible with our tools.
We’ll have more information and tips about Flex 4 and Flash Builder 4 in the coming weeks. You can read more about Flash Builder 4 at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashbuilder/ and download a trial to check it our yourself.
Congratulations to the Flash Builder and Flex teams on a great release!
Since Thea Eaton from DoodleDoo created the online tutorial on authoring accessible Flash we’ve heard a lot of positive comments and many questions about the techniques she used.
Thea wrote up an article on the techniques she used for the Adobe Developer Connection Flash site. Please check it out.
As the leader of Adobe’s accessibility team, I am proud of the commitments Adobe has made to the mission of accessibility and needs of individuals with disabilities. Adobe produces innovative software that enables the development of content that is visually rich and highly interactive, and as a result rendering that content in a productive way for people with visual disabilities can be a challenge – one we take seriously.
Adobe has worked on accessibility standards committees in the U.S. and internationally, including: the W3C’s WCAG 2.0, ATAG 2.0, Timed Text/DFXP, HTML5, and Protocols and Formats working groups; the U.S. Access Board’s TEITAC subcommittee; and the PDF Universal Accessibility work group at AIIM. Two important goals of our participation are to help ensure that accessibility standards are effective at meeting the needs of those with disabilities and to promote technological neutrality. From an accessibility perspective, we believe that developers should be able to use any technology as long as they are able to deliver content that meets accessibility standards and end-user needs.
Adobe Flash and PDF (which is now an ISO standard – ISO 32000-1) both provide support for accessibility, but it is important for authors and developers to learn best practices and understand user needs in order to deliver results that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the formats and that allow all users to access the information and functionality. Authors sometimes will make a trade-off between producing a visually interesting application in a timely fashion and adhering to accessibility requirements. Other times, accessibility gets left to be dealt with at the end of a project that has a firm end-date and when other features take longer than expected, accessibility or other items fall off the schedule. Government agencies don’t get to make these trade-offs as they are bound by law to make their services accessible, but commercial entities don’t have the same requirements and often overlook the needs of people with disabilities when creating web experiences and documents.
Despite our best intentions, Adobe overlooked the needs of people with disabilities in our recently-launched Open Government web site, which failed to meet certain accessibility best practices. Some customers have contacted us and a few bloggers pointed out the issues and we are working to improve the Open Government site. We apologize to everyone who attempted to access the site and was unable to do so. With the benefit now of seeing the site in its present state rather than the initially-planned more dynamic and interactive version, the team is recreating the site using a combination of HTML and Flash. Several improvements to the current Flash-based site have been addressed already. My hope for this post and the intention of the Open Government site is to help other developers learn from this example, and improve their own development practices of visually rich web sites for access by all users.
Whether users need to use assistive technologies such as screen readers or magnifiers, operate their computer with the keyboard alone, view larger text sizes, view captions or subtitles for audio information, or utilize many other accessibility features, these features already exist in Adobe products. And while these are not perfect in all products yet, we are dedicated to enabling our tools to handle accessibility in robust and reliable ways.
If you are interested in learning more about accessibility in Adobe products, I’m providing some interesting links below. As always, we value the feedback of our customers and end users, so let us know your thoughts.
For more information about PDF accessibility:
For more information about Flash accessibility:
PDF and Flash accessibility training resources:
Adobe accessibility compliance statements:
I spoke at the RNIB’s Techshare conference in London last week. The topic was Rich Internet Applications with Flash, Flex, and AIR. The talk was geared to a tech-savvy consumer audience, so was light on coding specifics but highlights the key high-level messages about Flash, Flex, and AIR. If you are interested, take a few minutes to view the presentation and let me know if you have comments.
All users encounter Flash-based content and PDF documents regularly, and Adobe wants NVDA users to have a positive experience. Therefore, Adobe is funding NVAccess to help address the goals to “Improve support for Adobe Reader” and “Add support for Adobe Flash embedded in Browsers. This work will benefit not only Flash and PDF, but also help users access content and applications developed with Adobe Flex and interactive forms developed with Adobe LiveCycle.
NVDA developers have already done some work to enhance access to PDF in the current release. We’re looking forward to additional improvements progress that will surely be made in the coming months!
We have a brand new tutorial to check out if you are interested in Flash accessibility. We worked with our good friends at Knowbility in Austin, TX, and Flash accessibility expert Thea Eaton of Doodledoo to create a very useful tutorial, which is itself built in Flash. The tutorial introduces Flash accessibility topics, and is accessible for screen reader and magnifier users, and includes closed captions for users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and audio descriptions for blind or low-vision users.
You can view the tutorial at http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/flash/tutorial/.
If you prefer in-person training, you should check out Knowbility’s Access U Conference, which just took place in May, but is worth watching out for in the future also since Knowbility runs training events regularly.
I asked Jon Avila at SSBBART Group to record a demonstration of the use of the Eclipse tool aDesigner to help evaluate Flash and Flex content for accessibility. He used Adobe Captivate to record his use of the tool and provides useful commentary. aDesigner provides very useful functionality and it is much more user friendly than my old standby, Inspect32. Take a look, and as always, please provide any feedback you have.
aDesigner is a project of the Accessibility Tools Framework (ACTF).
I mentioned at the TPG Webinar on Flash that there is a way around the issues with focus trapping in Firefox. My friend and accessibility-colleague Michael Jordan has developed a simple example that shows how to get focus in and out of Flash content in Firefox (using the SWFFocus class). Also in this example he shows how to make links that are not buttons, but use the MSAA link role. This has always been possible, but usually people use the button role.
Give this a try and let us know if it works for you or if you have any suggestions for improvements.
Demonstration test file
Demonstration test file, with HTML links also (added 8/18/2009)
Download demonstration file
The Paciello Group held the Flash accessibility and WCAG 2 webinar today. You can view the recorded event with captioningonline. The Paciello Group will be posting the slides at http://www.paciellogroup.com/blog.
We ran into a couple of technical glitches in the opening minutes – the audio cuts out for most of the first minute introduction, and the captioner had difficulty dialing into the phone bridge so the captions are absent for about the first 8 minutes. In retropect I wish I had pointed this out to the TPG presenters so the event would wait a few minutes to get the captions resolved but I wasn’t as on top of that as I will be next time. The remaining 82 minutes is captioned, although live captioning of the screen reader demos is often written as “indistinct audio”. Tough work, live captioning.
Hope the webinar is interesting and useful.