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Flash, web standards, accessibility

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Bob Regan and Andrew Kirkpatrick of Macromedia look at the main methods of putting Flash movies on your page.

They conclude

I’ve never worked with Flash, so never have to make the choice. But I prefer invalidity to inaccessibility – and if I’m going to have invalid code, I’ll do it using the non-spec <embed> tag rather than sneak it in using a behavioural language to sneak it into my markup.

Who knows – they might even add <embed> to xhtml 3!

9 Responses to “ Flash, web standards, accessibility ”

Comment by Lachlan Hunt

I believe the ideal solution would involve using the object element in your markup, as it is supposed to be used, and then using a script to “fix” the page for non-standards compliant browsers, much like Dean Edward’s IE7 script does for elements like abbr and q.

If you’ve provided suitable alternate content, it shouldn’t matter if the flash fails to load in a non-standards compliant browser without JavaScript supported. Such users should get exactly the same content as a user that chooses not to install flash.

Comment by Gez Lemon

The root of the problem isn’t about object or embed. They’re just markup elements that allow objects to be embedded in a document; they effectively do the same thing. The problem is poor user-agent support for the object element. Understandably, Macromedia don’t want to wait for browser manufacturers to improve support, so advocate invalid markup to reach the widest possible audience for their product. Also, Flash is only accessibible to MSAA, which is only available to Windows, not other operating systems.

Comment by Gez Lemon

I don’t know for definite that there are other operating systems, but a friend of a friend knows someone that’s read a lot about computers, and he said there were other operating systems (maybe only one, I’m not sure). Anyway, if what he’s saying is true, some of them sound to be a lot better than Windows as they support multitasking. You can list your files, and specify a flag that makes you a cuppa at the same time. You can even set them up with JIT processing, so that if you’re on the last of any of the ingredients, it just downloads them from the supermarket. Very dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands, though.

Comment by Bruce

Crikey! WHat will they come up with next, eh?

Seriously, though – I think the best way to make Flash as accessible as possible to the maximum number is as I describe above. It won’t be accessible to all, because of its hooks into MSAA, but it will be accessible to *more* people – if one *must* use Flash, it seems daft to limit it to only Windows-Eyes user on Win/ IE by using Flash Satay.

Personally, I don’t like Flash for UIs, but I think it can make pretty eye candy, if it just used for moving loveliness rather than to serve content.

I think, too, that the world won’t stop using Flash because of accessibility problems, so we have to work with Messrs Regan and Kirkpatrick to help make Flash as accessibile as it can be.

Comment by Lachlan Hunt

I too heard there were other operating systems. One, I think, is made by some fruit company, so that’s probably the one that Gez was talking about, which will order your groceries for you. I think they started out as apple farmers, or something like that, before moving into the OS market. Apparantly, there’s also another one from a company in Atarctica, who use a penguin named Tux as their mascot, though I don’t know anything else about that one.

Seriously, though, does anyone know how sIFR works with screen readers? Does it suffer from any of the same accessibility problems described with the others?

Comment by Saha

Anyway, if what he’s saying is true, some of them sound to be a lot better than Windows as they support multitasking. You can list your files, and specify a flag that makes you a cuppa at the same time. You can even set them up with JIT processing, so that if you’re on the last of any of the ingredients, it just downloads them from the supermarket.

Comment by Denn

If you’ve provided suitable alternate content, it shouldn’t matter if the flash fails to load in a non-standards compliant browser without JavaScript supported. Such users should get exactly the same content as a user that chooses not to install flash.

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