Skip to main content
Michigan State University

Creating Accessible Course Pages Using Multimedia Tools (e.g., Flash)

Accessibility considerations when using Flash and third-party multimedia tools

There is an abundance of new and emerging electronic tools that have been designed to enable and streamline the creation of instructional materials intended to engage and support diverse modes of learning.

Today, a dynamic and animated presentation can be published online using tools like SlideShare, Prezi, and SlideRocket. Interactive animations and videos can be easily created using Xtranormal Movie Maker, Stupeflix VideoMaker, and GoAnimate. Multimedia-rich timelines can be created using tools like Dipity, xTimeLine, and Learning Tools Timeline Tool.

Each of these tools was designed to effectively communicate complex information and concepts in a fun and intuitive way. Software developers created these tools using Adobe Flash, jQuery, AJAX, Ruby on Rails, and similar software development frameworks.

While these tools make creation and delivery of engaging content easier for instructors, the technology used to deliver the experience and present interactive media can pose challenges for students who are blind or have low vision.

Students with a vision disability are able to access and use the Internet because of screen reader software that attempts to interpret content displayed on individual webpages (e.g., JAWS, OSX VoiceOver, and Microsoft Narrator), screen magnifier software that enlarges or scales the content displayed on a monitor, and/or tools that modify the color and contrast of on-screen text. Often, the screen reader software can’t be used effectively to access interactive multimedia content. This can be due to gaps between evolving content publishing tools, Web browsers, and accessibility software or because of an error or oversight on the part of the developer who created the multimedia tool.

In order to provide every student with equal access to the instructional materials you post online, it is recommended that when creating new materials you begin by working in a format that can be delivered in an accessible way and then create a version using the interactive multimedia tool of your choice. The key goal is it to provide each student with equivalent access and the ability to experience the core learning objectives and information regardless of whether the student is viewing the material as an online multimedia presentation or via a standard PowerPoint.

For example, before putting a presentation into a third-party multimedia/interactive tool, you should first create an accessible PowerPoint presentation, which can include images, charts, graphs, and tables with descriptive text that can be read and navigated by screen readers. The third-party multimedia version and the accessible document version should both have a link from the same location so the student can choose which version to use.

When developing custom interactive learning tools, you should review and observe the best practices for developing software that is compatible with screen readers and similar assistive technology. For more information on developing accessible custom software, visit the Adobe Accessibility Resource Center, the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite website, and the W3C’s Understanding Time-based Media Accessibility Guidelines webpage.