Flash content created with versions 5 and earlier is not
accessible. However, Macromedia has integrated support for Microsoft
Active Accessibility (MSAA) into Flash MX, released in early 2002.
MSAA serves as a bridge between Macromedia Flash Player and assistive
technologies such as screen readers. To help designers and developers
create accessible Macromedia Flash content, a new Accessibility
panel has been added to the Macromedia Flash MX application. This
new panel allows text equivalents to be specified for elements of
Macromedia Flash movies and provides control over how the screen
reader handles these objects.
By default, all text contained in a Flash MX presentation will
be read by screen readers such as JAWS (assuming that developers
export as Flash 6 and that users have the Flash 6 player installed).
This does not mean that the user's experience will be satisfactory.
Developers need to exploit the accessibility tools in Flash MX
to craft a presentation that will be meaningful to users with
disabilities, testing the product in a screen reader throughout
the development process.
Follow these steps:
- Open the Accessibility Panel in Flash MX, and keep it
handy while crafting your presentation.
- Selecting different elements within the Flash movie will activate
relevant options for that selection within the Accessibility Panel.
To begin with, deselect all elements to show options for the entire
movie in the Accessibility Panel. By default, "Make Movie
Accessible" and "Make Child Objects Accessible"
are checked. Make sure these features are checked. Also
select Auto Label. The "Make Child Objects Accessible"
feature allows objects nested at lower levels -- in this case
all the movie clips, buttons, and graphics within the main movie -- be open to screen readers.
- Enter a name and brief description of the overall movie
in the "name" and "description" fields of
the Accessibility Panel.
- As you create different elements within the Flash movie such
as buttons and symbols, give these elements names and descriptions.
Names should be concise, literal, and logical, and should contain
fewer than 256 characters. Descriptions should be concise and
clear. Screen readers will identify the various elements within
the Flash movie by reading their names aloud. If names are not
supplied, the screen reader will supply generic ones like "button"
that will be confusing for users.
- Evaluate decorative, dynamic elements within the presentation
to determine how essential they are for comprehension. Layers
of decorative, animated text are one of the most common features
of Flash presentations, and screen readers will read all instances
of that layered text. This could create a muddled experience in
a screen reader. In some cases, you might want to acknowledge
the presence of an animated item without allowing the text within
that element to be read by a screen reader. An example of this
might be an animated logo. In this case, with the element selected,
deselect the "Make Child Objects Accessible feature"
in the Accessibility Panel, and supply a name and description
that will be appropriate for screen readers.
- Hide nonessential content from the screen reader. With
the nonessential element selected, uncheck the "Make Accessible"
button in the Accessibility Panel. The screen reader will ignore
- Convert essential graphics to buttons or movie clips.
"Essential" means that they are necessary for comprehension
and so require a name and description that will explain them to
users with visual disabilities. Only buttons and movie clips can
be given names and descriptions in Flash MX.
Required Hardware, Software, and/or Other Tools:
Flash MX application and Flash 6 player
Basic knowledge of Flash
An understanding of how to write effective descriptions of non-text
elements, such as photographic images.
Required Time Needed for Development:
Depends on the length and complexity of the presentation.
Degree Compliance Can Be Part of Initial Production:
Time can be saved wading through extensive decorative elements
if the presentation is done from scratch with accessibility in
mind. Developers can spend time working with only the elements
they know from the beginning are essential.
- We recommend developers purchase Flash MX and become familiar
with its accessibility tools. As with other content types, we
also recommend that users craft presentations with accessibility
in mind, testing the product in a screen reader at various stages
in the process in order to ensure a satisfying experience for
- Software Spotlight on accessible Flash. View as PDF | View as text file
- The Macromedia
Flash MX Accessibility Resource Center provides a number of
new documents offering tips and tricks to designers and developers
seeking to create accessible Macromedia Flash content. These include
information on adding text equivalents to objects in Macromedia
Flash MX, marking up forms, working with text, and adding animation.
This site is frequently updated with new tools and information
to support accessible design in Macromedia Flash MX.