Captioning Sucks and Needs a Jump Start

Captioning Sucks - No shit Sherlock, lets fix it
The internet is awash in video. YouTube, Yahoo Video, and other video sites host millions of videos with little attention to close captioning. For many sites, the text translations exist, they simply are not used. This sucks.

Television shows have featured captioning for many years. It’s sometimes the only way to figure out what they are saying on South Park. However, captioning standards are all over the place, the quality of text is questionable, and the industry is not supporting new innovations. This sucks.

Joe Clark is working on a new standard to fix these issues. He probably knows more about captioning than any other breathing creature in the world CaptioningSucks.com is the new home to the future of captioning. Perhaps it is time to buy the domain: CaptioningRules.com, for hopefully it won’t suck much longer.

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RNIB releases guidelines for accessible Flash banner ads

The Royal National Institute of Blind People has just released a set of guidelines for building accessible Flash ads. While these are aimed at ads, there’s no reason you can’t use the same guidelines in all of your Flash projects.

  1. Provide a text equivalent for the animation.
  2. Provide an alternative for the Flash animation
  3. Readability
  4. Looping and blinking
  5. Test your move
  6. WCAG compliance
  7. Navigating Flash with a screen reader

See the full article for more information on these Flash accessibility guidelines.

Class Equals Screen Reader Info

I’ve been using a little CSS trickery to hide content and data from the average user. I hate to mention it too often as it can open pandora’s box. There was a recent thread on the Microformat’s discussion list about this very topic. The gist of many programmers is that data worth sharing is data worth displaying.

However, there are times when your UED provides a design that lacks visual hooks for your screen reader users. A good example may be the ever-popular search form. Most sites will have an input and a button that says “search”. The label for this input is nowhere to be found.

The average sighted user can figure out such a simple form but the screen reader needs a bit more help. Here’s a sound clip of a screen reader trying to use the search form on Yahoo! Kids (.mp3). This was further complicated by the missing alt attribute on the image-based submit button.

I’ve also had to work with table based forms that need some assistance. The table is marked up with appropriate table headers and scopes, but the individual inputs lack labels due to the UED.

The simple solution

There are many ways to hide content via CSS. You want to avoid visibility:hidden and display:none. These will also hide it from the screen reader. You could use text-indent:-1000 em. I prefer using position:absolute; top:0; left:-1000em;. This hides the label by pushing it off screen yet the screen reader is still able to use it.

Updated CSS (updated 4/24/2008)

Adding a top position to your hidden may cause the page to jump when the item is focused. Only use a negative left position and leave the top position out of the equation.

Samples

Let’s look at the complicated table with hidden inputs. The table is properly coded with summary and scope. However, the table would still be difficult for a screen reader without form labels.

Here’s a sample of the HTML code:


Here’s the CSS for the labels


.srinfo {position:absolute; top:0; left:-1000em;}

Extending the hidden screen reader concept

I’ve written earlier about how Yahoo! Tech used a hidden collection of links to replicate an inaccessible flash movie. In a nutshell: screen readers cannot see a flash movie that has wmode:transparent. To get around this, we duplicated the flash content and moved it off-screen for screen readers and search engines.

You could also use this technique for providing information specific to screen reader users, such as:

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Hold the Presses, this isn’t perfect!

You can’t just throw anything off screen for the screen readers. The earlier Yahoo Tech example took about made 6 links invisible yet they were still accessible to keyboard users. So, remember, when you use the srinfo class to hide content for screen readers, keep in mind the impact on keyboard users.

Using Screen Magnifiers on the Web an Introduction Video

They Yahooo User Interface group has added another video to their accessibility library. This time Karo Caron and Victor Tsaran introduce the screen magnifier.

Screen Magnifiers assist people with limited vision by magnifying small portions of the screen. This causes new problems with “popup” dialog boxes, sliding components, and more. It’s especially important for User Interface and DHTML programmers to understand the impact of screen interactions.