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Web Design Reference Guide

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Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

Because Macromedia Flash is compatible with most computers and gaining access on handheld devices, sites take advantage of the technology. Furthermore, when done right, Flash files are small and load fast. According to NPD Research, 97.6% of Internet-enabled computers had the Flash plug-in as of June 2005. Unfortunately, few Flash designers consider the accessibility issues that come with adding Flash to Web sites.

Macromedia Flash 8 has features to support the creation of accessible Flash movies including text equivalents, ability to control reading order, managing keyboard access, adding captions, and providing control over audio to the user. Some sites create HTML versions of their Flash pages. WebAIM and Macromedia offer detailed articles on how to ensure Flash pages are accessible.

Have you been on a site where you select an item from a drop-down menu and the site immediately loads the selected item like the example from Foodnetwork.com in Figure 1? What if you made a mistake and meant to select the one above the selected item? Annoying, eh? I love watching Foodnetwork's TV programs, but my clicking finger doesn't like searching for delicious recipes on its site. This method often uses JavaScript, which screen readers don't understand. Add a button next to the drop-down and that'll take care of the problem. Another solution for reaching those who have JavaScript turned off is to use the <noscript> tag.

Like browsers, screen readers don't all work the same way. It would take a book to explain the idiosyncrasies of each and how to work around them. In references, you'll find books that address the screen reader software and what they can and can't do, how they read pages, and how mark-up impacts their reading.

Building accessible Web sites doesn't mean creating boring pages or separate text-only pages. Instead, they reach a wider audience, which includes people with disabilities, those using handheld devices and WebTV, and "Silver Surfers."