Flash Accessibility Only on Windows?

Making Flash accessible is a good thing. However, accessible Flash is not perceivable by screen-reader users if they don't use Windows. If a screen-reader user needs information that is contained in a Flash presentation, that user needs to be on Windows. Oops.

Everett Zufelt (@ezufelt) brought this to my attention on Twitter today shortly after I shared news from @awkawk about Flash presentations: "Accessible Flash Presentation How To".

Freedom of Choice

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

That's a famous quote from Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web. Nowhere does it say "works only with one operating system". Users of assistive technology might want a choice.

The really crucial point here is freedom of choice – people with disabilities should have a freedom of choice when choosing their operating system. After all, sighted people have the choice.

As someone who doesn't use a screen reader, I had long thought that making Flash accessible would solve most issues around Flash for blind or low-vision computer users. Fortunately, expert users of screen readers are on the Internet clarifying matters and clearing up misunderstandings. I appreciate Zufelt setting me straight – and now you – on this issue. Making Flash accessible only helps some of the users.

Having a Choice

What can be done? I won't go into design issues about choosing Flash. Right now, there is a lot of Flash out there and some of it was made accessible. How can screen reader users not on Windows perceive that Flash material?

You still have time to sign the petition from the Mac-cessibility network asking Adobe to commit to accessibility for Flash on Macs. When that petition is presented to Adobe, perhaps they'll consider doing the same thing for Linux.

In his "New approaches to Flash and Java accessibility in the browser on Windows", Marco Zehe expresses hope that "the better support in NVDA for Flash should also be an incentive to Adobe to make Flash accessible on other platforms such as Linux and Mac."

Let's hope that more people in Flash classes ask about accessibility – and on which platforms. People must keep asking these questions so that the outstanding accessibility issues are addressed. This is also an opportunity for software producers to become industry leaders by addressing accessibility routinely from Day 1 of development.

Those who are blind in this matter are not the users, but the ones who are developing software with inaccessible features.

P.S. I snipped Tim Berners-Lee's quote from the pages of W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative.

Calling all screen reader users for WebAIM survey

WebAIM has put together a survey of the preferences of screen reader users. Do you use a screen reader

  • all the time due to a disability?
  • part of the time due to a disability?
  • often, but do not have a disability that requires a screen reader?
  • occasionally to perform accessibility evaluation?

If you fit one of those models, why not complete the WebAIM: Screen Reader Survey today?

The expected time of publication is March 2009. The survey takes about 10-15 minutes. We all love feedback, so share your feedback with WebAIM! Your input can help to define the "development choices for those creating accessible web content".