Yes. Adobe® Flash® content can be made accessible, if the correct best practices are used.
Adobe Flash Professional CC software allows designers and developers to meet all of the design requirements set forth in Section 508. For example, features that are built into the product today — such as support for Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), content magnification, mouse-free navigation, sound synchronization, and custom color palettes — can help designers and developers deliver accessible web content through rich media. Individuals who use assistive technologies such as screen readerscan access rich media content through the support for MSAA built into Adobe Flash Player 11 software.
It is our ongoing goal to continue to make Flash technology even more accessible for all individuals with disabilities.
Support for MSAA allows users of assistive technologies such as screen readers to access the contents of a movie. This means that for the first time, text elements, buttons, input text fields, movie clips, and even entire movies can be made accessible to screen reader users. In addition, Flash Professional CC has an Accessibility panel that allows designers and developers to provide a text equivalent for a single element or a group of elements within rich media content. The use of text equivalents for rich media content allows designers and developers to optimize the accessibility of their content for screen reader users.
The Flash Professional CC accessibility resource center offers resources for designers and developers that explain how to use Flash to create accessible content, and it provides tips and design techniques for making rich media content more accessible.
Adobe is working to find additional tools and techniques to support the creation of accessible content using Flash Professional CC. These resources will be made available on the Flash Professional CC accessibility page.
Flash Professional CC has many features to help you design for accessibility, including the following:
In addition to the features built into Flash Professional CC, Adobe provides support for designers and developers on the Flash Professional CC accessibility page.
MSAA makes it easier for all assistive technologies to incorporate support for Flash Player. Once the contents of a movie are placed under MSAA, it is up to the individual assistive technology to render that content for the user.
Adobe is committed to expanding the number of tools that take advantage of the new features of Flash Player. We are working with leading vendors of assistive technology to help ensure the broadest possible support for Flash Player. Examples of assistive technologies that support Flash Player accessibility include Window-Eyes from GW Micro, JAWS from Freedom Scientific, and ZoomText from Ai Squared.
For information on our compliance with industry accessibility standards for authoring tools, consult the Adobe Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. We continue to closely monitor conformance of the Flash authoring tool to accessibility guidelines. For future versions, Adobe is committed to enabling our customers to comply with Section 508 by delivering accessible solutions for the Flash authoring tool.
No. Content created with Flash is inherently more complex than HTML. Consequently, it is difficult to construct measurable rules and even more difficult to validate those rules. Content may be easily created with Flash to comply with Section 508 guidelines; however, these guidelines do not directly translate into guidelines for such content. For example, Section 508 and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) require that a text alternative be provided for all images in HTML. In cases where the image contains no content, a special alt tag is used to hide the image from a screen reader. In Flash Professional CC, text equivalents are not needed for all elements of a movie. Using the autolabeling feature, text equivalents are automatically provided for several elements. Moreover, designers and developers can use the Make Child Object Accessible feature to hide elements that convey no content or are difficult to render using assistive technologies.
As a designer or developer, you can accomplish your business objectives and design for accessibility while still incorporating rich media content into your website as long as you embark upon your project with an awareness of Section 508 and accessibility needs.
While a wide range of design possibilities can be made to comply with the Section 508 guidelines using design techniques and integrating complementary technologies with Flash, some content created with Flash will never be accessible using the current version of Flash Player. Such content includes dynamic text variables and custom navigational elements, which are not exposed to the operating system using the same methods as HTML.
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If you have questions or comments or want to get involved with Adobe’s accessibility efforts, contact us. We welcome your feedback.