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2008: Flash and Accessibility - challenging the accepted myths
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2008: Flash and Accessibility - challenging the accepted myths



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

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 2008: Flash and Accessibility - challenging the accepted myths Presentation Transcript

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