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Chapter 13. Enhancing Accessibility thro... > Multimedia Expands Accessibility Opt...

Multimedia Expands Accessibility Options

In the context of Web design, we use the term multimedia to refer to audio and/or video content that is integrated with the static or animated text and graphic elements of a Web site. This is a fairly standard definition. Aiming for maximum accessibility, however, may also mean thinking about multimedia in a slightly different way than you’re used to. It may mean broadening your definition of multimedia to include, for example, the synthetic speech that screen readers and talking browsers generate. It may mean combining media in new ways to meet the needs of a diverse user population. Accessibility isn’t just about using text (either onscreen or off) as an “equivalent alternative” to graphics that are unintelligible to people who can’t see them. Even though you may need to supplement a Flash movie by adding text to the <object> element that usually embeds the Flash on the page (we’ll show you how later in the chapter), you may also be using that same Flash animation or other imagery to assist people who have reading difficulties.

We will demonstrate a few useful techniques for integrating multimedia. For example, closed captions—words moving on the screen in time to the rhythms of the soundtrack—help people who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as people who may be unfamiliar with the language spoken in the video. Written transcripts of audio files serve similar purposes when aural information is delivered on its own. Excellent results can also be achieved by adding a second audio track to a video clip—laying in short, narrative phrases in the little spaces where nothing’s going on in the soundtrack. These synchronized audio descriptions—like ALT text on the fly, but spoken, not written—help people who can’t see the screen or have trouble understanding what they see.


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