/ Flash (In)Accessibility for the Speed Impaired

Flash Context MenuFlash tends to be a taboo when discussing accessibility on the web.

Mainly because the textual content in a Flash SWF file is not accessible to screen readers[*]. It’s for this reason that the WCAG 1.0 states that equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content be provided.

That’s all well and good for those who have physical impairments, but what about us folks whose computers are the ones that are impaired? My home computer didn’t fly off of the assembly line last week and isn’t going to win any performance contests anytime soon. So when I try and access Flash content that’s a little on the heavy side, I like to be able to right click it and set its quality to “low”. That way, I can enjoy the content of the Flash animation without watching it melt down before my very eyes because of a shortfall in processing power. Anti-aliasing a ton of vectors takes a lot of juice.

Flash Context Menu (disabled)Which brings me to my point. Disabling the Flash context menu is a bad idea! By turning it off (actually setting the menu property’s value to “false“), you’re not only not allowing me to lower the quality of the animation, but you’re also not allowing people with impaired vision to be able to zoom the content for easier reading. So, though it may be cool, or “in” to do it, the next time you’re tempted to turn off the context menu, do us slower computer owners a big favour and don’t.

*Update: John Dowdell and Tom have brought to my attention that screen readers can in fact access the contents of SWF files. My bad guys.


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