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Thread: SECTION 508 - And other Accessibility issues

  1. #1
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    Okay, I understand section 508 and why it was passed into law last month, but questions still remain as to how to make flash files accessible.

    If you know nothing about section 508, here are some links:
    http://www.section508.gov
    http://www.macromedia.com/software/f...accessibility/

    Is anyone else out there caught up in this section 508 nightmare?

    Thanks! :)

  2. #2
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    dont panic

    Dunno what all the fuss is about.
    this law apparently, applies to federal agencies only, the reasons that they are implementing this are quite clear.
    unless you are working on a site of this type, dont panic.

  3. #3
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    The Minister of No Crap

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    Catteron,

    Are you working for a government agency that has to make their site accessible?

    -scott
    http://www.scottmanning.com

  4. #4
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    I think that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg on this issue. I don't live in the US and I doubt that I will ever be doing any work for the US government. However, other jurisdictions around the world are adopting these types of regulations and it is only a matter of time before we will bump up against accessibility guidelines that are adopted by major corporations and smaller government bodies, such as states and municipalities.
    Just as privately owned building, such as theatres, are required to make concessions and arrangements for the disabled, private companies will eventually have to make some concessions along these lines.
    Macromedia seems to be looking ahead on this issue. Besides the article referred to above, they have also made some Dreamweaver extensions available which help to find and repair accessibility problems with html sites.
    In some ways, Flash is inherently more accessible than html. The ability to progressively display information by animation and to include a high quality narration can be very helpful for certain types of disabled people. Flash has taken a bad rap concerning usability from the likes of Nielsen, et al. If we don't become a bit proactive on the accessibility issue, we could lose further ground. By paying attention to the accessibility guideline and suggestions laid out by MM, we might be able to actually enhance Flash's image in the WWW by creating high accessibility and good looking interesting design.
    Rather than ignore this issue, I think that we should start taking it into consideration with everything we create. Does this mean that we should be making accessible versions,even when we're not required to do so? No. Being ABLE to when we are asked to do so can only help, though.

  5. #5
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    accessability

    the problem i can see here is designing.
    using bigger text to cater for visually impaired ppl for example will inevitably cramp style.

    i do sympathise, but unfortunately you've got to go for the majority of end users.





  6. #6
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    darkstar and jelve definitely have a point here. It comes back to the whole usability issue. Just because it looks pretty, doesn't mean that you should do it. You have to think about the people.

    I can see the book now:

    "Usability and Accessability"
    By the Flashkit Boardroom Junkies

    -scott
    http://www.scottmanning.com

  7. #7
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    Perhaps, the simplest solution to the issue in many cases will be to have an alternate version to a site that is highly accessible. Many of us already offer an HTML version of our portfolio/company profile sites. These could be the accessible version. Or, we may even make a really stripped down version of a site - text only, etc.

    I've actually been doing quite a bit of work on this topic, lately. There is a whole industry sector being built up around the W3C accessibility guidelines and 508 compliance.
    See:
    http://www.cast.org/bobby/
    http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/
    http://www.tracecenter.org/
    http://www.usablenet.com/
    http://www.webable.com
    http://www.siteusability.com/
    http://www.w3.org/People/Raggett/tidy/

    An interesting BBC initiative can be seen at http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/betsie/

  8. #8
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    accessability

    i must say, jelve, that your suggestions for alternative sites catering for the visually impaired can only be a good thing.
    i have been working with sound in flash and a spoken voice on buttons etc may be quite useful and fairly easy to implement.
    perhaps this is just one of many instances where flash would be far more usable then html.

  9. #9
    Modding with Class JabezStone's Avatar
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    When we consider any type of usability issue, we need to build around a common goal for our product. With some products, not everyone is intended to use it. When we want to reach the broadest audience, we need to give the simplest site. As we target a smaller, closer audience, we cater to that audience's needs.

    For example, if our site is meant to be visually stimulating, a blind berson is not the target audience. If our site is audio-based, it may not be the first choice for a deaf person... and so on.

    Considering handicap-accessibility laws in the physical realm, we have to also consider what is required of the builder. The ramp that handicaps use is not usually the same ramp that everyone else uses... it is an alternative entrance. In bathroom stalls, all toilets are not generally handicap accessible... there is usually one that is an alternative for them. In other words, when we build for the general population, it is perfectly acceptable to build with them in mind and then offer alternative entrances for others with disabilities.

    Here's a quandry... let's say our governmental site (which requires 100% accessibility) is a straight HTML4 site, and conforms totally to the standard. Now, on this governmental site we have an .mpeg file of a Space Shuttle launch. This file is completely unaccessible to a blind person. Does this mean that we do not include the movie file, just because not everyone can see it? What about an audio clip of a yellow-breasted warbler chirping out a beautiful tune? A deaf person would never be able to hear and enjoy this file. Does this mean we do not include it?

    It is impossible to include everyone. We need to be considerate of our target audiences and build to suit them, even if it does include Flash! Remember, we can always add a ramp.

  10. #10
    Vote for your dog
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    to be blunt...

    the blind cannot see,

    the deaf cannot hear,

    and governments cannot think.

  11. #11
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    I am no expert in the legal/regulatory aspect of the accessibility issue. My reading of the 508 rules and W3C/WAI leads me to understand, though, that we are not being told that we can't include multimedia features in our work - only that when we do so, we should include an alternative description for those who are unable to view or hear what we are presenting.
    If, for example, we are including that mpeg of a shuttle launch, then all that I understand to be the regulatory requirement is to include a textual description of what the mpeg is displaying. The same holds true for the bird song. If you have ever watched TV which is captioned for the deaf, you will see that when music is part of the narrative, notes are displayed and/or the lyrics are shown.
    Indeed, the greatest challenge with all of the does appear to be making a product which is percepually compelling and is also inclusive.
    In HTML sites, compliance mainly means making the text resizable and applying <alt> tags to images which carry significant information. With Flash, the challenge may be more daunting. Some types of sites aren't suited to the blind, deaf or otherwise physically impaired. If we want to communicate with these people (or if our clients are required to comply with these rules), then we need to look at making alternative sites or, at least, alternative sections of sites.
    An interesting consideration is that fact that since much of this is regulated and does require extra work, it should result in higher fees being levied for doing that extra work. Rather than looking at accessibility 'laws' as an impediment to design, we could consider them to be an opportunity to sell a value-added product.

  12. #12
    Modding with Class JabezStone's Avatar
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    Jelve,

    I agree completely. As brought up earlier, there is an entire industry being built on the back of this, and other, accessibility rulings.

    In a way, this creates an opportunity for some intuitive designers to develop another stream of revenue.

    sample conversation:

    customer- "How much do you charge for site development?"
    developer- "I charge X amount of $$"
    customer- "Are your sites handicap accessible?"
    developer- "For an additional fee, we will develop your site to comply fully with government regulatory standards."

  13. #13
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    (Wow!! What great help! I didn't think anyone would respond!)

    1. Yes, I work for a production company who does government multimedia work and who needs to comply within the 508 standards to set an example for present and future government work. However, this issue, to me, goes beyond the fact that it is now a U.S. government law. I believe that this will eventually affect all of us who design and develop within the industry.

    2. As for making flash compliant to section 508, there have got to be other ways of making flash more accessible to people with disabilities. Has anyone successfully used the <embed> tag, or any other HTML tag for that matter, within the HTML that holds the flash movie to make descriptive text that is readable for accessible software, such as Jaws and or Window-Eyes?

    3. Does anyone else have any additional resources that deal with this matter?

    THANK YOU, AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sincerely,
    Caron
    :)
    [Edited by Catteron on 07-17-2001 at 03:22 PM]

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