Archive for November, 2009

November 18, 2009

AIR 2 Beta, Introducing Accessibility Support

The AIR 2 beta went live on Adobe Labs yesterday, and it includes support for MSAA to allow assistive technologies on the Windows platform to access Flash-based content within AIR applications.
We are still doing testing and addressing issues, but encourage you to try it out. The beta runtime installer is available at http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/air2/.
For any readers who aren’t familiar with AIR, what you are installing is not a developer tool but the runtime that is used to run AIR applications that developers create. There are many applications that are developed as AIR applications and this is underlying technology that allows those applications to be displayed on your system. So what does the addition of accessibility support mean for users with disabilities? For blind or low-vision users, this means that content that is developed with accessibility in mind will be able to interact with the applications using assistive technologies that they already use.
Will all AIR applications now be accessible? No, no more than all HTML websites or all C++ or Java applications are – but what this does mean is that developers now have the capability to address accessibility in their applications. With previous versions of AIR a developer could ignore accessibility for blind and some low-vision users because the information wouldn’t reach the assistive technologies, but now with AIR 2 it does.
My colleague Daniel Koestler published a post on AIR accessibility yesterday, and he includes a link to an application that he developed with accessibility in mind that you can download and try.
Please give AIR 2 a try and let us know about your experiences.

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November 6, 2009

Accessibility and Adobe Open Government

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:

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