FlashAid version 1.0 released

FlashAid logo

Executive Summary: FlashAid enables Ajax/JavaScript to find out if a user's screen reader is currently communicating with the browser and turn off the JavaScript functionality accordingly to make their sites accessible. It only works on Internet Explorer on Windows.

And now the full story...

I just released an update to FlashAid that, well, actually makes FlashAid useful.

You can see a live demo of FlashAid here.

(FlashAid only works on Internet Explorer on Windows. Make sure you have your screen reader on before testing.)

Version 0.1, the previous release, was a proof-of-concept that I hacked together after a talk with Jeremy. All it did was pass the value of the System.capabilities.hasAccessibility property from Flash to JavaScript.

The Adobe Flash docs for System.capabilities.hasAccessibility states the following:

A Boolean value that is true if the player is running in an environment that supports communication between Flash Player and accessibility aids; false otherwise.

What the documentation should state, is:

A Boolean value that is true if the player is running in Internet Explorer on Windows.

Essentially, that's all hasAccessibility appears to show. The Flash player uses MSAA to talk to screen readers but it only works in Internet Explorer (FireFox has MSAA support but the Flash player returns false for hasAccessibility on that platform, for example.)

So, the FlashAid proof-of-concept was essentially useless (you can check for IE on Windows with one line of code in JavaScript.)

Version 1.0, though, does have an important use. It's a one trick pony that communicates the value of Flash's Accessibility.isActive property to JavaScript. This one's useful because, on Internet Explorer on Windows, it tells you whether the user's screen reader is actually communicating with the browser.

Why is this important? Because it allows Ajax developers using progressive enhancement to detect whether the user is using a screen reader and turn off the Ajax/JavaScript functionality to allow these users to access their sites and applications.

Again, keep in mind that this only works for Internet Explorer on Windows but it's still an improvement on what was previously possible.

I hope you find FlashAid v1.0 useful.