Is Flash content accessible?

Adobe Flash, currently in version Flash CS3, is an animation technology that allows web developers to build dynamic content featuring rich media and interactive applications. Flash content downloads quickly and can run on any browser that supports and is equipped with the Adobe Flash Player plug-in. Flash has become a standard on the web, especially on websites of commercial organizations. Its most frequent application is simply to add an animation or dynamic menus or photos to a web page. However, organizations are beginning to explore its potential for developing dynamic, interactive applications that engage and individualize the learning experience.

Historically, Flash content has not been accessible to all users, including screen reader users, mouse-free users, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and other people with disabilities. However, with the most release of Flash CS3, Adobe has made significant improvements to their product's ability to produce accessible content compliant with Section 508. The most notable improvements are content magnification, mouse-free navigation, sound synchronization, and custom color palettes, and integrated support for Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) and the new standard, Microsoft UI Automation which provides screen readers and other assistive technologies access to the content so that they can, in turn, deliver the content in meaningful ways to the user.

Adobe Flash Player 9

Adobe Flash Player 9 is the first rich media player to make rich media available to persons with disabilities. Adobe's recent enhancements have helped make Flash content accessible with assistive technologies such as Window-Eyes from GW Micro, JAWS from Freedom Scientific, and ZoomText from Ai Squared. With integrated support for MSAA, Flash Player 9 connects with these assistive technologies.

Adobe Flash 8 and the Accessibility panel or ActionScript

In the end, Flash developers must make their content accessible. Adobe has done a commendable job of promoting and documenting how to do this. Among other efforts, the Flash CS3 Accessibility Control Panel is prominently visible by default, and an excellent training video on making accessible Flash content is available from the Adobe website. Developers can also code in accessibility to flash objects by assigning ActionScript.

The training video and other resources, are available from the Accessibility and Adobe Flash site. For more information about accessibility with Flash CS3, see the Adobe Flash CS3 accessibility FAQ page.