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.

Olympian Anger – Is It So Hard to Remember Accessibility?

Everett Zufelt's open letter to CTV (Canada) regarding the accessibility of CTVOlympics.ca makes me angry.

I had already read Joe Clark's article about the Vancouver Olympics websites being inaccessible to disabled people, as well as the Webaxe article. It was clear from Twitter that the sites were inaccessible.

So why should Everett Zufelt's letter make me angry? Because it was his story.

The previous articles were excellent, but here was the story of a person performing a rather ordinary task. Just another Canadian curious about this huge sports spectacular happening in his own country. Big deal. Only this person couldn't perform this ordinary task. He had the knowledge and desire to get the information, but something was keeping the information out of his grasp.

Was it ignorance? Thoughtlessness? Carelessness? Cheapskate-ness? Why, why, why?

This is 2010, people! Has everyone forgotten what happened with the case of the website for the Sydney Olympics in 2000? Did collective amnesia strike? The Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) ignored a complaint and a ruling about the inaccessibility of their website for the 2000 games, and they were fined. You can read the W3 case study about the Sydney Olympics accessibility complaint [included in new article in footnote ¹], or you can read the full case yourself.  Updated An awareness about accessibility has grown since 2000. The Web Accessibility Initiative over at W3C has grown tremendously. We have had the Target lawsuit concerning accessibility.

Oddly enough, when I was searching for links about the Sydney issue, I came across an article called Olympic Lawsuits That Could Have Changed History. It matched my search for the words sydney, olympics, lawsuit, and web. I was impressed that someone wrote how using accessible web practices would have changed history and improved the web experience for all users of screen readers, at least. I read through the article. Nothing. My keywords matched, but the case of Maguire vs. SOCOG was not mentioned anywhere. Wow.

The Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians published a press release about blind Canadians being overlooked by Olympic websites. They listed three things – three thingsthree really simple things – that could have made a huge difference. The site wouldn't necessarily have been perfect, but the navigation would have been greatly improved.

In ten years, someone couldn't learn three simple things. That's why Everett Zufelt's letter makes me angry.