Adobe® Flex® is the first and most complete solution for accessible rich Internet applications (RIAs). It combines the responsiveness and interactivity of desktop applications with the broad reach and ease of distribution of web applications, while still creating an experience that all users find accessible, regardless of disability.
Flex includes 35 accessible components that accelerate application development and create a consistent, usable experience for users with disabilities. With these components, developers can create RIAs quickly and easily while promoting a high level of accessibility.
The design techniques and developer resources on this page will help you get started creating Flex content with accessibility in mind.
 

Overview

Creating accessible web experiences has never been more important. Accessibility continues to gain recognition, and with the recent adoption of accessibility standards around the world, designers and developers must ensure that people with disabilities can access the content of websites and web applications.

With Adobe® Flex®, designers and developers can create powerful, exciting, and engaging experiences on the web that are accessible to all. With a robust set of accessibility features, including 28 accessible user interface components, it has never been easier to design accessible rich Internet applications (RIAs).

Flex inherits all the accessibility advantages of Adobe Flash® Player 9, including support for Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), which means that users of assistive technologies can access the best experiences on the web. In fact, Flex improves the user experience by providing a robust set of standard control types that make the structure and use of a web application readily apparent and easily navigable for users with disabilities.

For the Flex designer and developer, the challenge of accessible design is to remove any obstacles that prevent assistive technologies such as screen readers or keyboard-only tools from functioning effectively when rendering Flex RIAs. Achieving this goal ultimately requires designers and developers to pay special attention to the potential use cases for disability and design with these particular experiences in mind.

This page offers a brief overview of Flex accessibility features. For more detailed instructions on building accessible RIAs in Flex, refer to the accessibility best practices for Flex.

 

Flex offers a complete set of tools for authoring accessible RIAs. However, Flex applications are not accessible to assistive technology users by default. To make an application created with Flex accessible to these users, you need to enable accessibility for that application. Doing so imports the accessibility object for each component used in the application, which increases the size of the SWF file slightly. You can activate accessibility easily in four different ways:

  • By default for all Flex applications by modifying the flex-config.xml file
  • Using the command-line compiler switch
  • In the Adobe Flex Builder™ 3 project properties
  • For a dynamically generated Flex application, by adding a parameter to the application URL

Your specific development situation will determine which of the preceding methods is used. It is acceptable to provide end users with double links to the same application: one with accessibility enabled, another without. Developers may also opt to implement a check for an assistive technology device on the client system and redirect the user to an accessible version as needed.

 

Using Flash Player 9 to display Flex content allows users the most accessible experience possible. Flash Player 9 is the first rich media player that makes rich media accessible to people with disabilities. Now it is enhanced to make the best experience on the web even better by integrating support for MSAA. Using Flash Player 9, people with visual disabilities can now access the web using popular assistive technologies. With new support for scripting and a powerful new set of accessible components, as well as a host of new support materials from the Adobe Accessibility Resource Center, designers and developers can create accessible rich media in ways never before possible.

 

To accelerate the development of accessible applications, Flex 3 includes 28 components with support for accessibility built in. These components automate many of the most common accessibility practices, such as providing text equivalents, labeling controls, and promoting keyboard access. Using these components helps ensure a consistent user experience across rich applications. For a detailed list of components and accessibility-related issues, refer to the description of accessible Flex components.

Custom components developed for use in Flex are not necessarily accessible. Developers need to attend to accessibility during design. Because the effort involved in creating accessible components is significant, Adobe recommends that developers use the components provided whenever possible.

 

The Adobe Accessibility Resource Center provides a number of documents offering tips and techniques to designers and developers seeking to create accessible content. Visit the Accessibility Resource Center to find more information on accessibility.