2008: Flash and Accessibility - challenging the accepted myths


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Presentation given by Jonathan Hassell (BBC Head of Audience Experience & Usability) at Flash at at the BBC event, London in 2008.

Covers: myth that accessibility is just about blind people (it isn't - and multimedia Flash can be enabling to more disabled people than it can be a difficulty for); myth that accessibility doesn't work with screenreaders (it does, but it is challenging to get right); myth that HTML is more accessible than Flash (it isn't) and all Flash content should have an HTML alternative (most can't - e.g. what's the HTML alternative to a game of Space Invaders)

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  • So what are those myths?
  • Multi-media is the thing which really makes things accessible… being able to get things your preferred way…
  • Tabbing can be essential for the 9% with motor difficulties…
  • I ’ ll give you three examples…
  • We ’ ve got sessions on Flash in 3D and immersive, maybe interactive, video here today – how would you progressively enhance those? It ’ s not impossible, but would you be missing the point
  • People can get information from all sorts of places From the BBC, they are increasingly expecting more
  • From the BBC, they are increasingly expecting more than information If we can do such immersive, engaging TV… why can ’ t our websites be similarly engaging? one of Erik Huggers ’ main aims for our sites at the moment is “ fun ” - the “ entertainment ” part of our values… Would you rather read an article about a volcano or watch “ Supervolcano ” and really feel the heat coming off the screen? “ Fun ” and “ immersion ” can be some of the main editorial values a website needs to have. Yes, technically there is no point in smooth transitions and Simon Cobb ’ s “ special sauce ” , this can be part of the thing which makes people want to use the site…
  • given the editorial needs of sites may include these user-experience requirements… what ’ s the best technology to use to create them? if all technologies have strengths and weaknesses, so there likely isn ’ t the perfect technology which can do it all… how do projects make the best of the imperfect choices? Don ’ t dwell on this slide…
  • 2008: Flash and Accessibility - challenging the accepted myths

    1. 1. Jonathan Hassell Head of Audience Experience & Usability Flash at the BBC event 22 nd August 2008 Flash & Accessibility - challenging the accepted myths…
    2. 2. Flash and accessibility – three myths… <ul><li>Myth 1: it ’ s not accessible… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(though we ’ re not sure if we ’ ve defined the term) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Myth 2: it doesn ’ t work with screenreaders… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(though we ’ re not sure that ’ s correct any more) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Myth 3: anyway, we like progressive enhancement… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(so you must include an HTML alternative) </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Myth 1: Accessible to whom, exactly…? <ul><li>let ’ s actually use some stats…difficult to be exact, but… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>approx 22% of all adults are recognised by the DDA… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and the breakdown may be surprising… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>accessibility isn ’ t just for blind people </li></ul><ul><ul><li>get rid of “ it is/isn ’ t accessible… ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>replace it with “ it is/isn ’ t accessible by people with this disability ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or maybe even “ it is/isn ’ t usable by people with this disability ” </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><ul><li>blind people make up max 2% of disabled people in the UK </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hearing impaired – approx 41% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>maybe I need subtitles… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>literacy difficulties – approx 27%... </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>whoever said text was a great way to communicate? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>motor difficulties – approx 9% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>maybe I need keyboard access or tabbing… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>severely/profoundly deaf – approx 4% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>maybe I need sign-language… </li></ul></ul></ul>Looking at the needs of ‘ the other 98% ’
    5. 5. <ul><li>text can be a real problem… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>what if the user doesn ’ t know ATs exist? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or they can ’ t understand the complexity of installing or using them? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>no child under 10 uses a screenreader… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>maybe make the text self-voice… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>maybe use font resizing or Plain English… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>why not just use video? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>great for sign-language… needs video or avatars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but not great for everyone… e.g. that 40% who need subtitles… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>don ’ t use rich-media, use multi- media </li></ul><ul><ul><li>get your point across more than one way </li></ul></ul>Multi -media
    6. 6. So if that ’ s what everyone needs…? <ul><li>could Flash be a more “ accessible ” technology than HTML? </li></ul><ul><li>an example: tabbed navigation around elements on a page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ordered, non-structured… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>tab around every single control on the page (yawn!) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>structured/hierarchical… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>group your controls to allow the learner to get to the one they want more quickly </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>structured/hierarchical + intelligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>some inspiration from UA-chess… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Flash is great at this; HTML isn ’ t… </li></ul>
    7. 7. Myth 2: Flash doesn ’ t work with screenreaders… <ul><li>isn ’ t actually true… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>although it is true that many blind people think that </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I ’ ll leave Niqui to give you some examples… </li></ul><ul><li>and we ’ ve already shown how accessibility isn ’ t just about screenreaders… </li></ul><ul><li>for the record, I thought it might be good to see what else doesn ’ t work with screenreaders… </li></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><ul><li>(ie. much of the things you use Flash for… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>find me the screenreader that can… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>make video accessible to blind people… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>or games accessible to blind people… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>or Second Life accessible to blind people </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the web is less and less about things which screenreaders can handle </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>this is why new techniques are necessary (cf. WCAG 2) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>subtitling, AD, signing, audiogames... </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>accessibility doesn ’ t need to depend on ATs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>even if Flash didn ’ t work well with screenreaders, that ’ s not necessarily ‘ Game Over ’ </li></ul></ul>Video… games… immersive experiences…
    9. 9. Myth 3: Progressive enhancement & alternatives… <ul><li>PE = great theory... </li></ul><ul><li>forgetting the problem of cost-multiples for a moment… </li></ul><ul><li>most of what we do in Flash, you can ’ t do in HTML </li></ul><ul><li>how do you progressively enhance? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>wandering around a 3D landscape </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interactive video </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beethoven ’ s 3 rd symphony podcast </li></ul></ul><ul><li>think if PE is actually trying to make things accessible for disabled people, or for other purposes? </li></ul><ul><li>because how would HTML help make things like space invaders accessible? </li></ul>
    10. 10. Alternatives cf. distinctiveness… an example <ul><li>so was the HTML version of the site really distinctive from the rest of the market? </li></ul><ul><li>the whole point of the Bloom site was: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ in a crowded marketplace… build something that looks like nothing else… ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>make it fun… </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. So what kinds of alternatives do make sense? <ul><li>something which actually is a real alternative, which gets across the point… </li></ul><ul><li>and that doesn ’ t always mean HTML </li></ul><ul><ul><li>that isn ’ t the best tech for everything… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>some examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a fun, calculation-based immersive game </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>the calculation part could be done in HTML </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>but providing a spreadsheet template would work much better… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a 3D adventure game </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>you could do this as a text adventure… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>but wouldn ’ t sound FX and real voices make the game more enjoyable? (which is the point, anyway…) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 12. It all comes down to the point… <ul><li>the point of the product – the editorial proposition & values: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>content/information/learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>tone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>style </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>fun </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interactivity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>production values </li></ul></ul><ul><li>what its audiences are </li></ul><ul><ul><li>everyone… or more targeted… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>and whether you can get all of these values to all of the audiences </li></ul><ul><li>it ’ s not about accessibility, it ’ s about user experience </li></ul>
    13. 13. The importance of User Experience <ul><li>the web isn ’ t just about “ information ” to be “ accessed ” </li></ul><ul><li>check our Reithian values: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Inform </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Entertain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Interact) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>fun is not a dirty word </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes it ’ s what gets us an audience to make our point to… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes it ’ s the only point… </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. What ’ s the right tech to create great UX? <ul><li>Html </li></ul><ul><li>Flash </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Good at Bad at </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>re-usability </li></ul><ul><li>easy interfacing with ATs </li></ul><ul><li>simplicity </li></ul><ul><li>needs other techs added to do multi-media </li></ul><ul><li>tabbing </li></ul><ul><li>tabbing </li></ul><ul><li>video </li></ul><ul><li>immersion </li></ul><ul><li>re-usability </li></ul><ul><li>exposure of semantics to ATs </li></ul><ul><li>almost too flexible… over-metaphoric interfaces </li></ul>
    15. 15. Be aware of the real difficulties of using Flash… <ul><li>Search-Engine Optimisation </li></ul><ul><li>closed format </li></ul><ul><ul><li>closed containers – lack of ability to be easily repurposed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. mash-ups, simple multi-platform </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>closed ownership – owned by Adobe, not the open community </li></ul></ul><ul><li>so, yes, it would be good if we had a tech that could: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>do what Flash does </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but get over some of those problems too… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>in the meantime… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>think hard - Flash may or may not be the right tool for the job… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but don ’ t use “ accessibility ” as a sloppy argument against Flash </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. How we go forwards… <ul><li>not just about Flash </li></ul><ul><ul><li>what about Air, Silverlight, Ajax, google maps…? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>make a standard for when to use multi-media techs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>working out if you really need them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>what would the rich-media technology add to the experience? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>can the point be gotten over through something simpler? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>what kinds of alternatives might be possible & appropriate? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and what the accessibility implications are </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>we are working on charts for what each tech provides for accessibility </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>and working with Adobe, Microsoft etc. to improve these charts </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>whether to interface with ATs or provide your own accessibility features </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>how to constrain your innovation to what ’ s usable </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>we ’ re creating web experiences, not shrink-wrap software </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>just because the technology let ’ s you build it, that doesn ’ t mean you should… </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>accessibility statements and disclaimers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>explaining ourselves to our audiences when everything isn ’ t possible </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>ensure all our standards work cross-technology </li></ul>
    17. 17. e: jonathan@hassellinclusion.com t: @jonhassell w: www.hassellinclusion.com Contact me