A few years ago I was in Canada teaching Captivate for a large Toronto-based company. We were just getting ready to cover the accessible features found in Captivate when I was informed that I could skip the section because Canadians were not required to create accessible content.
Fast forward to a recent online Advanced Captivate class that included students from South America, Australia, and Canada.In speaking about accessibility with the class, it became apparent not only does the Canadian government now require compliant eLearning, but according to the Canadian students in class, the rules in Canada are often more stringent than those in the United States. I was also happy to learn that other counties, such as Australia, are also addressing accessibility when it comes to eLearning.
If compliant eLearning is a requirement for you, I would encourage you to review your local laws to familiarize yourself with as much information as possible. If you work in the United States, or create eLearning content for a U.S. company, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Section 508 compliance online. If you are working with Canadian companies, you should familiarize yourself with the Canadian compliance laws. (Note: The Section 508 website may be down due to the U.S. Govt. shutdown. If so, you'll need to try accessing the site once the shutdown is over.)
What Does Captivate do to be Section 508 Compliant?
Selecting the Enable Accessibility option (Edit > Preferences > Publishing) makes certain elements in Adobe Captivate projects accessible or open to accessibility technology. For example, if you select the Enable Accessibility option and you have filled in the project name and project description text boxes in Project preferences, a screen reader will read the name and description when the Adobe Captivate SWF file is played.
The following Adobe Captivate elements are accessible when Enable Accessibility is selected:
- Project name (derived from Project Properties)
- Project description (derived from Project Properties)
- Slide accessibility text
- Slide label (derived from Slide Properties)
- Playback controls (The function of each button is read by screen readers)
- Password protection (If an Adobe Captivate SWF file is password protected, the prompt for a password is read by screen readers)
- Question slides (Title, question, answers, button text, and scoring report are read by screen readers)
Output generated with the Section 508 option is displayed by all supported browsers. However, your output may not be Section 508-compliant unless it is viewed with Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer is the only browser with support for MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility).
Note: To access Flash files using a screen reader, users must have Flash Player 9 or later installed.
Tips for Creating 508-compliant Adobe Captivate SWF Files
While Adobe Captivate Section 508 output is compliant for navigation, make sure that other elements are also compliant in your project. Assistive software must be able to "read" elements on the screen to visually impaired users. Use these tips to design accessible projects.
- In the Project preferences, write a meaningful name and description for your Adobe Captivate projects.
- For users with hearing impairment, add text equivalents for audio elements. For example, when delivering narrative audio, it is important to provide captions at the same time. One option is to place a transparent caption in a fixed location on slides, then synchronize the text with the audio using the Timeline.
- If your project contains visual multimedia, provide information about the multimedia for users with visual impairment. If a name and description are given for visual elements, Adobe Captivate can send the information to the user through the screen reader. Make sure that audio in your Adobe Captivate projects does not prevent users from hearing the screen reader.
- Supply text for individual slides that screen readers can read.
- Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information. For example, if you use blue to indicate active links, also use bold, italics, underlining, or some other visual clue. In addition, make sure that foreground and background contrast sufficiently to make text readable by people with low vision or color blindness.
- For users with either visual or mobility impairment, ensure that controls are device independent or accessible by keyboard.
- Users with cognitive impairments often respond best to uncluttered design that is easily navigable.
- If mouse movement is critical in your Adobe Captivate project, consider making the pointer twice its normal size for easier viewing.
- Document methods of accessibility for users.
- Avoid looping objects. When a screen reader encounters content meant for Flash Player, the screen reader notifies the user with audio, such as "Loading....load done." As content in a project changes, Flash Player sends an event to the screen reader notifying it of a change. In response, the screen reader returns to the top of the page and begins reading again. Therefore, a looping text animation on a slide, for example, can cause the screen reader to continually return to the top of the page.
- If you are creating click boxes, you can make them more accessible by adding sound. The sound can play when users tab to the click box or hover over it. To add this accessibility feature, attach a sound file to the hint caption. (If you do not want the hint caption to appear on the slide, you can make the caption transparent and add no text.)
- Accessibility in Adobe Captivate works better when all the slides have interactive content.