We need more Theas

Thea Eaton, Flash Developer with a focus on accessibilityI am, of course, referring to Thea Eaton, whose spotlight I just read on FlashGoddess. And by this, I don't mean that we need more gorgeous blonde chicks in the Flash world (although that wouldn't hurt at all) but that we need people who are focussing on creating accessible content in Flash and creatively using the unique features of Flash in the process.

Thea's Snert studios (love the site, by the way) specializes in creating accessible content, especially for the Kindergarten to age 6 age group. Going beyond regulatory compliance, Thea uses "self voicing" in her projects.

Self-voicing is when you make Flash content accessible, through system-level voices, instead of using a screen reader to read the content. This could mean, programming audio rollovers on buttons and adding voiced Alt descriptions to the system. Self-voicing is a great way to go for certain applications. Kiosks, in museums for example, do not run in an HTML browser, but run stand-alone. Since screen readers only work when the Flash content is within a browser, self-voicing is a great solution for stand-alone Flash executables, or for any other stand-alone Flash content on CD-ROMs for example, when screen readers are not available. Screen readers also come with a learning curve, so younger visually impaired users might not know how to use one yet, and self-voicing is a great solution for that age group as well.

For a great example of this see her Whack-a-vole game. Close your eyes and play the game using the tab key alone to see how effective it is.

Thank-you Thea -- both for your creative work in this very important area and for proving to the world how accessible Flash content can be when accessibility is not just seen as a nice-to-have or implicit requirement but as a core focus that is explicitly included in the requirements process, budgeted for and tested as an integral part of the development process.