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Archive for September, 2008


Monday, September 29th, 2008

An important part of usability and accessibility is the reading ease of text. Especially when designing content for educational media, we have to make sure that the reading level of the text meets the respective target audiences. We test all the text that we write for educational children’s media against the following tests:

Spache – useful for primary age (Kindergarten to 7th grade) readers to help classify school textbooks and literature. Also defined a list of difficult words.
Powers, Sumner, Kearl – useful for most text geared towards primary age (Kindergarten to 7th grade) readers.
Fry – useful for most text, including literature and technical documents.
Coleman-Liau – useful for secondary age (4th grade to college level) readers. This formula is based on text from the .4 to 16.3 grade level range.

Any educational project should always address the ease of reading. By taking the average of these readability formulas, we determine the reading ease of our scripts.

Tip #8 | Screen Reader Welcome Message

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Because there are not that many accessible Flash sites out there yet, it is helpful to add a small Welcome Message for screen reader users to a Flash site or a Flash application. This can be a small hidden text field, that is given the tabIndex of 1, so it is picked up first.

Because of Flash’ dynamic nature, it might be hard for screen reader users to detect any changes on a Flash screen after it has updated. These changes mostly occur after a button is pressed or other user action in Flash. In order for the screen reader JAWS to start reading from the top again, CTRL + Home can be pressed. This can be put in the screen reader welcome message. An example:

Welcome to the <insert title of the website here> website. Use the up and down arrow keys to navigate this Flash site with a screen reader. Press Enter or the Space Bar to select the buttons. Press CTRl + Home to scan each Flash screen from the top for changes after <insert button here>.

A welcome message like this alerts screen reader users that this Flash application has been made accessible, and serves as a reminder that the content might change. It can be tailored to the specific Flash site. For a quiz, for example, you can alert the user to press CTRl + Home ‘for changes after pressing the next button’.

To read all the tips, select ‘Flash Accessibility Tips’ on the side bar.

Tip #7 | Adding Meaningful Alt Text

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Writing meaningul alt text is important. Just adding ‘image of __’ is not enough, the image needs to have a meaningful description of its contents. Remember that alt texts in Flash can be longer than in HTML, so we can add more details. Here are a few Alt Text guidelines that we go by:

  • Keep text short, avoid re-using words and combine sentences where possible.
  • Write in the present tense.
  • Describe the scene, the figures and the action. Describe any image details that are of importance to the scene.
  • Start an image with ‘Image of..’
  • Start an animation with ‘Animation of..’
  • Use foreground/ background references to describe a scene set-up.
  • Do not disclose any additional information that is not apparent visually. (For example, if an image shows a painting, then describe what this painting looks like instead of giving its official title.)
  • Include all text that is written in the image. (Text as art)
  • Include colors if they are of importance.

To read all the tips, select ‘Flash Accessibility Tips’ on the side bar.

Tip #6 | Using Selection.setFocus();

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The tricky part in programming the Reading Order in Flash, is that the screen reader focus does not always re-start from the beginning of the Flash file when Flash content changes. Unfortunately, there is no way for Flash to programmatically shift the screen reader focus yet. (I am sure this will be added soon).

But there is a way to influence the focus of the Tab Order, by using Selection.setFocus(instance name); You can use this code to re-set the Tab Order focus from screen to screen. This would be useful in a quiz, for example, where you want the user to start tabbing on each new answer on each new question.

To read all the tips, select ‘Flash Accessibility Tips’ on the side bar.

TIP #5 | LoadMovie and Alt Text

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

When using loadMovie to load an external jpg or swf into a holder movieclip, make sure to replace it with the newer MovieClipLoader code. A downside of loadMovie is that it causes any properties of the movieclip to be wiped out when the new content has been loaded, including any alt text that has been assigned.

So replace this code:

holder_mc._accProps = new Object(); = “alt text”;

With this:

var mcListener:Object = new Object();
mclListener.onLoadComplete = function() {
// assign alt text here when finished loading
var loader:MovieClipLoader = new MovieClipLoader();
Loader.loadClip(“external.swf”,  holder_mc);

To read all the tips, select ‘Flash Accessibility Tips’ on the side bar.

Keep the Accessibility Institute Open

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Please sign this petition to help keep the Accessibility Institute at the University of Texas open! The positions at the instititute were never re-opened to the public. The University of Texas was a leader in the field of accessibility and we feel that by closing the institute, U.T. will lose their prominent lead as expert in this field in the educational community.