Flash, browsers, OSes & accessibility

aka things I learnt this week part 2

I am currently reading Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance and I am learning a few interesting things. I have been selectively reading chapters, the chapter I have found most interesting so far is Accessible Flash. Which says for flash to be accessible to a screen reader, the user must have:

  1. Windows 98, 2000 or XP;
  2. Internet Explorer 5 or better;
  3. A recent version of one of five screen reader soft packages,
  4. Flash plugin version 6 or better;

Any other OS or another browser and flash is not accessible to a screen reader. It has to do with the Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) API. MSAA works very well with Microsoft products and this is what Flash uses to make content accessible to screen readers. Firefox does not work as effectively as IE with MSAA, however, Mozilla have been working hard to make Firefox accessible to screen readers via MSAA and it does with both JAWS and Windows Eyes screen reading software (with some limitations). Adobe has yet to come to the party, Flash only talks to MSAA via IE not FF.

I do not know how much work Adobe have done with the Apple API used for Voice Over built into Tiger or the Linux screen reader API, but at the moment Flash is only accessible to screen readers that meet certain specifications.

Even if you have the hardware and software required, Flash is still not accessible unless the creators of the movie know how to make it accessible and then took the time to make it accessible. Even though I am a fan of Flash for some tasks, I will use HTML over Flash for accessible content, because it is quicker for me and does not place restrictions on the end user

2 Responses to “Flash, browsers, OSes & accessibility”

  1. Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis Says:

    “MSAA works very well with Microsoft products and this is what Flash uses to make content accessible to screen readers. Firefox does not work as effectively as IE with MSAA”

    I’d say this situation was actually reversed in November 2005. For more discussion of this issue, you might be interested in this thread at Mozilla’s dev-accessibility mailing list:

    http://tinyurl.com/yhkphw [Google Groups Beta]

    PS It would be really handy to know whether this commenting system accepts HTML or plain text or what.

  2. nick Says:

    Benjamin, thank you for the comment and the link. I have amended the post to reflect the actual situation.

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