United States Department of Veterans Affairs
VHA Office of Health Information

Creating Accessible Flash Course

Page 4 of 13

Creating Accessible Flash Course – Course Overview

Back Next

The Accessibility Panel

The Accessibility panel is an Adobe Flash tool that you can use to provide accessibility information about Flash objects to assistive technology. The options that appear on the panel depend on the type of object with which you are working. Two examples are shown here.

Flash Accessibility panel for parent object displays Make movie accessible checkbox, Make child objects accessible checkbox, Auto label checkbox, Name field and Description field. Flash Accessibility panel for non-parent object displays Make object accessible checkbox, Name field, Description field, Shortcut field and Tab index field.

This screen introduces the concepts underlying the options that appear on the panel. Procedures for accessing this panel are provided later in this lesson.

Parent/Child Accessibility

In Flash, you can structure objects hierarchically in parent/child relationships. Parent objects are like containers, into which you can place child objects. Child objects typically inherit the properties of their parent objects. The Flash Accessibility panel allows you to indicate when you want to make a parent object accessible and whether or not to make its child objects accessible. This capability can be very useful as long as you understand how it works and remember that it is not foolproof in practice.

Why Not Always Make Child Objects Accessible?

Sometimes it is better to hide child objects from AT, such as when the overall relationship among the objects is more important than the individual objects, or when animated child objects are disruptive to AT. Excessive enabling of accessibility can even make some Flash products inaccessible! You will learn more about this concept in the Hiding Flash lesson of this course.

The Importance of an Accessible Name

During development, you must specifically assign an accessible name property to each Flash object to expose it to assistive technology. Although there are several types of name properties in Flash; only the accessible name property is exposed to AT. You can use the Accessibility panel to assign an accessible name property. Convey the object's meaning or function as briefly as possible in the Name field, and use the Description field for additional information if necessary.

Accessible names are sometimes used as text alternatives or text equivalents. You will learn more about text equivalents in the Providing Text Equivalents lesson of this course.

Auto Labeling: Use with Care

The Accessibility panel includes an auto labeling option for Flash movies. This option automatically creates alternative text for buttons in the movie by labeling them with nearby text. In theory, if you include text on or near all of your buttons, you can use this option instead of providing text alternatives. In practice, this option does not always work well, especially with complex applications. If you use this capability, it is very important to test it.


Keyboard shortcuts minimize the number of keystrokes necessary to access objects in Flash. The Accessibility panel allows you to notify AT when shortcuts are available. Shortcuts must be activated separately using ActionScript.

Tab Index

The Tab index field on the Accessibility panel allows you to control the tab order, which is the order in which keyboard users, including screen reader users, tab through a program, and the reading order. Note that tab order is not the same as reading order (the order in which a screen reader reads the information on a page) because the reading order may include objects that do not need to be accessible via the Tab key. You will learn more about reading order and tab order in the Controlling Reading and Tab Order lesson of this course.

Select Next for an Overview of Flash accessibility requirements and how they are covered in this course.

Glossary in new window Resources in new window   Back Next