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Flash Now (More) Accessible

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the stick-figure-death-scenes dept.

Graphics 19

danox writes "Macromedia has finally incorporated some accessibility features into flash, with their latest version flash MX (note that you pretty much need a flash viewer to see this site). Accessibility nazi Joe Clark on A List Apart has written a pretty good critique of the new features and doesn't give macromedia too much praise. Apart from the fact that macromedia has to do this in order to keep the US government as a customer, its a step forward for flash. Just think, it's now possible to write a plugin that will render flash animations as text."

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19 comments

Thank Goodness! (3, Informative)

oxytocin (39448) | more than 11 years ago | (#3467949)

Flash is pretty, but my eyes are really bad and sometimes I'd really like to be able to just see the meat and pass on the sizzle.

Everyone should have the opportunity to experience as pretty a web page as they would like, but at the same time, it really shouldn't stop people from being able to "boil it down" to whatever they want.

Case in point, I've got a big monitor (21") at high-res (1600+) and when a web page has a fixed font height, that I can't even change (smallest to largest in IE), it forces me to switch "ignore font size" on, causing so much of the rest of the page content to break. But at least I can read the text then easily.

But not in Macromedia Flash. This really bugs me, and if it weren't for the PixelTouch Zoom my video card does to allow me to jump in to see the 5pt font someone forced into their tiny flash thing, I'd be locked out of much of the information superhighway -- and I'm not even really blind! Talk about a lock-out!

So having access to the textual content in flash would really make me happy (FWIW, sometimes I'll surf around with my own CSS style sheet which sets all text to one font, lime green, black background, and all the images are grey-scaled and inversed! I like it like that, makes it easy for me to read a lot 10h+!). And forget about the minor fact that the Flash format is inherently Vector-based and so can scale even to my 2048x1536 screen nicely, but how many flash, ahem, "presentations", take advantage of this?

Now, especially with the recent talk about making Flash a "web-standard" alongside HTML (X-html, yeah, I know), this all leads to the final question which comes down to whether Flash is really only suited to emphermal, non-important, content most of which is, or is no better, than advertising crap?

Maybe by opening it up they will transcend the "clicking on pretty pictures" phenomenon known as the web?

Re:Thank Goodness! (1)

karm13 (538402) | more than 11 years ago | (#3482250)

for the people who's video card doesn't have that feature, you can still use flashs built in zoom.
of course, this is only worth the effort if you really want/have to access the information.

Re:Thank Goodness! (2)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#3526821)

If you used Opera, you could magnify the whole pages, flash, graphics, and all.

Section 508 Compliance used as an excuse. (2)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 11 years ago | (#3468006)

(A legalistic detail: Technically, government agencies are responsible for compliance, not outside vendors, and we already have seen complaints about offloading 508 compliance to software and hardware makers. The effect is the same: Flash has to be accessible when used by entities covered by 508.)

At work we've been "struggling" with Section 508 compliancy and especially how to make Flash sites accessible. I find it ironic that those "web developers" who are having a hard time with Section 508 and the WCAG guidelines are blissfully unaware of what the W3C even is.

As a web developer who's been doing things right all along, making my pages validate (which sucks), I feel a since of vindication that my stuff already works. As usual, the Frontpage weenies are still struggling and trying to figure out why an alt tag is necessary. I tried to help a guy validate his Frontpage code - the amount of misimplemented xml-inducted nightmare code will make you cry. They curse 508 and the WCAG and warn of a bland website experience for the user - if they would have been coding compliant webpages in the first place, they wouldn't be in this mess.

On a sidenote, I'm glad section 508 is here... it forces government sites to fix their code, also means that the number of sites that work better in mozilla has been steadily increasing. Another sidenote, Dreamweaver MX's XHTML is awesome, I've been converting tons of regular html pages to XHTML 1.0 and they're breezing through the W3C validator - it's easily worth the money.

Re:Section 508 Compliance used as an excuse. (2)

irony nazi (197301) | more than 11 years ago | (#3468163)

Thanks for the tip about Dreamweaver and XHTML. I've always liked that program, but find it hard to justify the purchase. Maybe now, I'll look into picking up a copy.

One nitpick, however...

I feel a since of vindication that my stuff already works
Do you feel a 'since' or a 'sense'?
It's been a while since I felt a sense of 'since', but to be honest, I haven't had a sense for 'since' since.
or
I'll give my 2 cents, since you seem to need sense.

I just wanted to give you a sense for the grammar nazi since he is not around.

Sorry. I've lost my sense since I haven't had much sleep lately. Please forgive me after you read this.

Re:Section 508 Compliance used as an excuse. (2)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 11 years ago | (#3468256)

Thanks for the tip about Dreamweaver and XHTML. I've always liked that program, but find it hard to justify the purchase. Maybe now, I'll look into picking up a copy.

You can pick up the whole suite (Dreamweaver, Flash, Coldfusion, Fireworks, etc.) for about ~$800 US. Not too bad.

I used to feel the same way about dreamweaver, I tended to like homesite alot better. Now, ultradev, homesite, and dreamweaver are all combined into mx. Kind of cool.

grammar, bleh... :)

Considerations concerning the use of Flash: (2, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3468395)


Here are additional considerations concerning the use of Macromedia Flash:

Flash presents unknown security risks. Sometimes Flash and other Macromedia products have been the point of entry of trojans and viruses, as mentioned in this documentation of a very serious bug, Macromedia Flash Activex Buffer overflow [eeye.com] .

Flash on a website advertises Flash. There must always be some notice that says "Download Flash if you don't have it", and a link to Macromedia, so that web site viewers can get the latest version. This forced added content distracts from the intended content.

Flash is nearly always used to provide images that are irrelevant to the content. Except for those who care about bright, shiny things more than content, Flash gets in the way. Flash authors are seldom qualified to provide moving picture content, and, even if they were, Flash is a very limited cinematic tool.

Flash often causes long load times. Long load times communicate that the website viewer's time is less important than the website creator's love of movement. Flash often causes Website viewers to look at "Loading..." messages.

For website viewers who do not want to run Flash and other Macromedia software, or cannot, web sites using it are broken.

By using Flash, authors of Flash content may cause the URL of their customers to be transmitted to Macromedia. If some disloyal Macromedia employee, or Macromedia itself, thought of some profitable reason to approach those customers directly, Flash content authors could lose customers.

Flash content is proprietary content. It is the money-making scheme of one company. This tends to undermine web standards like HTML. The Internet is a public utility for all of us to use. Proprietary methods go against that spirit.

Re:Considerations concerning the use of Flash: (2)

Anml4ixoye (264762) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469643)

>Flash is nearly always used to provide images that are irrelevant to the content.

Ahem. I'd like to take that point out.

As with any technology, you get people who have no idea what they are doing who shouldn't be doing it. As an earlier poster pointed out, taking HTML created by Frontpage and doing anything meaningful with it is a nightmare. If you start with the standards all along, then conforming to them is a lot easier.

But Flash is more than just a pretty image viewer. Actionscript can be a powerful tool not only for manipulating frames, but for XML parsing, server to client communication, and lots of other uses. Take for example a prototype at http://www.cornetdesign.com/e2xml.asp [cornetdesign.com] . Nothing flashy about it, it's primary job is to take a dynamically generated XML document from Everything [everything2.com] and convert it to a format for people using Pocket PC's. Is it the best for the platform? Maybe, maybe not. Another group of developers is working on a native platform viewer.

So please spare me the argument that because lousy designers do lousy stuff with a product, that the product sucks. I'm sure I could build a C++ application that would really suck. But that does not mean that the language sucks, only that I didn't know the proper methods.

This also falls into the long load times. It does not cause long load times when it is streamed properly. But if you get some lazy developer who does not feel like using that, then you get long load times. Again, a developer issue.

And Flash might be proprietary (though my spidey sense reminds me of a open-source viewer and builder I have seen somewhere), but what it is built on - SVG - is not.

>For website viewers who do not want to run Flash and other Macromedia software, or cannot, web sites using it are broken.

Unless the website designers have taken the time to develop a version that is accessible to all. But there are some things that, in order to do the things the customer wants, require you to exclude certain browser users. This is not (actually should not) be because of the developer, but because of what the client wants most of the time. I have fought many a battle for our site [hillsboroughcounty.org] to keep it from being taken over by DHTML and the like. The day I see "Best viewed by" at the bottom of the site is the day I know I have lost.

So again, please don't let the crappy developers, or the lazy developers, or the ones who have been instructed to do what they have done or lose their job detracted from the things that can be done with Flash when done properly.

Re:Considerations concerning the use of Flash: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3471158)

Here are additional considerations concerning the use of Macromedia Flash:

And here are the refutations.

Flash presents unknown security risks. Sometimes Flash and other Macromedia products have been the point of entry of trojans and viruses, as mentioned in this documentation of a very serious bug, Macromedia Flash Activex Buffer overflow

To date, there has been *three* potential security holes found. None of them have been exploited. Compare that to ssh, sendmail, or wuftpd, which are known security hazards, and are responsible for dozens of security breaches weekly.


Flash on a website advertises Flash. There must always be some notice that says "Download Flash if you don't have it", and a link to Macromedia, so that web site viewers can get the latest version. This forced added content distracts from the intended content.


That's absolutely not true. I've designed many web pages with flash objects that don't advertise it, and have seen many more like that in my casual browsing.

Flash is nearly always used to provide images that are irrelevant to the content. Except for those who care about bright, shiny things more than content, Flash gets in the way. Flash authors are seldom qualified to provide moving picture content, and, even if they were, Flash is a very limited cinematic tool.

Yeah, and jpeg files are nearly always used to provide graphics. What's your point?
Flash is used to provide images, vector images, vector animation, and compressed sound. For interactive demonstrations, it is an ideal medium.

Flash often causes long load times. Long load times communicate that the website viewer's time is less important than the website creator's love of movement. Flash often causes Website viewers to look at "Loading..." messages.


Guess what, genius, large files of any sort will often cause long load times.

For website viewers who do not want to run Flash and other Macromedia software, or cannot, web sites using it are broken.

No, it means they can't view the flash object. They can still navigate and view everything else. And for those that can't view gif images, is a website using them broken? For those that can't read English, is an English web site broken?

By using Flash, authors of Flash content may cause the URL of their customers to be transmitted to Macromedia. If some disloyal Macromedia employee, or Macromedia itself, thought of some profitable reason to approach those customers directly, Flash content authors could lose customers.

Chicken. Little. Sky. Falling.

Flash content is proprietary content. It is the money-making scheme of one company. This tends to undermine web standards like HTML. The Internet is a public utility for all of us to use. Proprietary methods go against that spirit.


Macromedia has released a full specification of the flash (.swf) format. Open source flash viewers have been written. They may offer it as a standard (which would increase the number of other vendors creating tools for it.

Even Macromedia managers admit security failures. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3471341)


"To date, there has been *three* potential security holes found. None of them have been exploited."

A machine for which I am responsible was taken over by someone exploiting a Flash security hole. Even Macromedia managers admit that this is sometimes a problem.

Re:My biggest complaint.... (2)

Technician (215283) | more than 11 years ago | (#3475319)

Flash can not be set to not run by default. If it could be set up to provide a box with a play button, I might reinstall it. Most flash content is very intrusive advertising. Even some of the ads with a moving background (race car) unchecking play and loop did not stop the moving background. These ads that were unstoppable (very annoying) were what motivated me to remove the Macromedia products. If I visit a site (rare) that actualy uses flash for content, I boot up another computer with flash to view that page. It is not my primary machine. The only way to shut the ads off was to remove flash. I e-mailed Macromedia support regarding this several months ago and did not receive a reply. Now if I visit a site like Yahoo, with IE, it prompts do I want to install flash Y/N. It would be nice to have it installed and have it ask do you want to play the annimation by doubleclick Y/N?
Until they fix this lack of basic controls, I can not reinstall flash on my primary machine.

Re:Considerations concerning the use of Flash: (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 11 years ago | (#3485090)

Flash presents unknown security risks.

Oh well, fuck me. Doesnt this statement also apply to all other programs that you run on your system? Live a little. Its a computer, not your life.

Flash connects to the Internet. (2)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3485957)


Flash has software designed to connect to the Internet. Other software doesn't. That's the difference. We've seen, extensively, how much difficulty Microsoft has in making communication software bug-free. Far less energy is expended in finding Macromedia bugs, but the potential for bugs must be considered to be the same.

Re:Considerations concerning the use of Flash: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3500901)

There are people who use computers as tools to get their jobs done, you know. =P

flash plugin for links (1)

caca_phony (465655) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469477)

I, for one, would like a flash plugin for links (that is not a typo, lynx is not the only text mode browser). Often, I feel like I am compromising by accepting a curses based interface, not to mention X11. Now ed for the web, that would be nice for those days I have absolutely no time for bullshit.

Flash is still pointless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3470657)

When I go to a website, it's because I want information. I don't want a ridiculous splash screen, I don't want to weave my way through stupid animating menus.

I can't really see any reason why the US govt would want to use flash anyway.

Dump Macromedia.

Right.. (1)

Kingpin (40003) | more than 11 years ago | (#3476430)

How about fixing that damn annoying "freeze Mozilla when other unit uses sound dev" bug. It's the most annoying bug I've had w. most anything.

doeblay@aol.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3504701)

failures to comply with terms and conditions
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