Although Adobe has included many features in Flash CS4 to support accessible design, the process is by no means automated or foolproof.
CS4 Support for Accessible Design
Adobe Flash CS4 includes numerous features designed to help developers create more accessible Flash applications, including:
- Support for Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), the interface through which accessibility information is conveyed to assistive technology
- The Accessibility panel, a tool that allows developers to provide accessibility information for an object
- Scalable graphics and magnification capability for users with visual impairment
- Accessible video playback controls that allow users to stop, forward, rewind and pause presentations
- Customized color swatches that allow developers to design for users who are color blind
- Mouse-free navigation that allows users to navigate via the keyboard
- Synchronized audio track capability to help developers synchronize narrative audio in multimedia applications
- Support for closed captioning for users who are deaf
- A set of accessible standard user interface components, such as buttons, checkboxes, labels and alerts
When used properly, these features can help developers create more accessible Flash applications.
The limitations of these featured capabilities, combined with many developers' limited understanding of how to use them, continue to pose accessibility challenges. In this course, designers and developers will learn to better understand what CS4 can and cannot do. For example:
- Although the Accessibility panel is easy to use, it is not always enough. Developers must often augment its use with ActionScript to ensure that it works as intended.
- CS4 allows developers to create scalable graphics; it does not create them automatically or guarantee scalability for the application as a whole.
- Similarly, developers can use CS4 to create products with mouse-free navigation, but keyboard accessibility is not automatic; it requires the developers to make additional efforts.
In addition to understanding the principles of accessibility and the capabilities of Flash, developers can improve the chances of an accessible product by:
- Incorporating an awareness of the needs of AT users into the early stages of design and development
- Testing, testing, testing — using AT to test development efforts early and often
- Contacting the VHA Section 508 Office for help when necessary
Select Next to learn more about the Adobe Flash Accessibility panel.