Kilian Valkhof

Front-end & user experience developer, Jedi.

Flash is accessible

Life, 9 February 2007, 3 minute read

Visit a random forum and you will have standardista’s right and left proclaiming that Flash is the spawn of the devil and all because it is supposed to be inaccessible. But it’s not. And I’ll tell you why.

As some of you may know I follow a Graphic Media study in Rotterdam (And I’m blogging about it (Dutch alert!)) The past 6 weeks I’ve been involved in a project for a daycare for children with multiple disabilities. (This also explains my lack-of-posting, by the way)

These kids are not capable of functioning at the same level as other children their age, but it is still very important to stimulate them and to try to let them reach their full potential. Thriving to do that, a father made a series of simple computer games to train basic capabilities like fine motorial and cognitive abilities. The program had been incredibly useful, but it was getting old, and the kids longed for something new.

And that’s where our school came in. The assignment for this project was to develop new games for these kids, that would help them improve themselves and give them something new to do. You can guess what we were going to make them in…yeah, in

Flash

During the development I started to think about what accessible really meant. Sure, Flash isn’t very good for your pagerank and it also isn’t very good for people that rely on screen readers. But is it really inaccessible? These kids have no problem with using these programs. They use a touch screen, or a (special) joystick to control these games.

Flash responds to this input in a very direct, accessible way, making it the ideal program for these games to be developed in.

Examples

My project group developed two games. One specifically to improve the motorial abilities and the other to train their cognitive abilities.

In the first game, a vehicle with an animal in it is controlled with a joystick. The child has to make the same movements as the ones he or she will use when controlling an electric wheelchair. This game already trains him in the controls needed to make him- or herself mobile and less dependent on others.

The second game is controlled using a touch screen. Various associating objects are shown on the screen, and by touching the ones that belong together, a child advances in the game. It might be hard to imagine, but the repetition here is very important, because that is what helps them make the link and recognize pairs of objects.

Throughout the project we really tried to develop games that would make a (even if only a small) difference. The access that flash gives them through various input devices is great, and allows them to use the computer to their full ability. Isn’t that was defines accessibility?

Rethink

Just because using flash on a website could be considered inaccessible (Hey, I never hear people complain that windows media player in websites is inaccessible. Though I have fights with that program far more often!) does not mean that the entire environment is. Everything has it’s place and I think I just found the ideal spot for flash, as standalone application for easy user interaction.

Thanks for Reading!

I am Kilian Valkhof, a front-end and user experience developer from the Netherlands.
Contact me or ping me on twitter.

  1. If you look at J.K. Rowling’s website, it’s apparently accessible Flash as well. People like qualifying text-based websites as accessible, but they forget that Flash is a medium as well. Just curious: are there Flash accessibility guidelines as well?

    I think what you’re doing is really cool. I know the games will be a lot of fun for the kids (but I wouldn’t mind trying them out too :P), so keep it up :D

  2. Interesting read…

    I’ve never used Flash for new projects (It’s been quite a while since I did use it too!) but ALA has a nice article on making your Flash site accessible using web standards and compares different solutions you can use:

    http://alistapart.com/articles/flashembedcagematch

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