Mink Machine

Silverlight and accessibility

About a year ago, a friend asked me how Microsoft would obtain world domination with Silverlight, since almost everyone already have Flash installed and Silverlight is yet another browser plugin. The answer was as simple as horrifying: Windows Update. There is no need to worry about such things as user preferences when you control the operating system.

Just as I expected, Silverlight 1.0 was going out as an optional Windows update yesterday. It includes installers for the browser plugin with IE and Firefox.

I first wrote about Silverlight in March 2006, and a lot has happened since then. Changing the name from WPF/E to Silverlight really boosted the hype and made a larger audience aware of the product. Silverlight is a funny toy, no doubt about that, but I’m still concerned about the accessibility, or rather lack of accessibility.

I’ve seen half-lame excuses mentioned on the web. For instance, you can use the Accessibility Object to provide information for a screen reader. A limit of the object is that only the entire plugin area can get focus and not individual elements. Without focus you cannot get tab index, keyboard cannot be used for navigation and so on. Also, this object is not available for Mac. In short, all this means that the accessibility object is pretty useless.

Also, the sites should provide graceful degradation in case the user doesn’t have Silverlight installed. One way to achieve this is by using the framework SilverSpine by Todd Anthony Spatafore, where it’s possible to use a HTML version of the site. I’m generally against keeping several versions of a site, but at least it’s a start.

It’s been said that version 2 of Silverlight will support the same accessibility model used by WPF (UI Automation) which will address some of the issues mentioned above, but we’ll see what happens.

Accessibility and RIAs are not exactly a match made in heaven. The same goes for SEO and sometimes even usability. Silverlight is however no worse than the other players in the RIA arena. But don’t take my word for it, go try it yourself. Don’t fight the future, create it.

Comments

No comments yet.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured stories

Roaming through Banff

"Even though the main town is surrounded by mountains with names such as Sulphur Mountain, it is as far away from Mordor as one could imagine."

The fairytale castles of Sintra

"The Portuguese town of Sintra is famous for many beautiful castles. Palácio Nacional da Pena is arguably the most stunning of the lot. "

Roaming the cobblestones of Istanbul

"Inside the church there are still traces of rune inscriptions made during the Viking age by Varangians, an elite guard made up of Scandinavian immigrant warriors."

Historic locations in Gothenburg

"Hundreds of houses were quickly build, but unfortunately all of it was burned to the ground in 1611 by Danish forces."

Aliens in Nevada and New Mexico

"We turned around and went down another dirt road, past countless Joshua trees until our car was covered in dirt and we finally arrived at the Front Gate of Area 51."

Wazzup in Vaduz

"Vaduz Castle is overlooking the town from a hill, a short walk from the center. It’s really a postcard view with the alps in the background, which I’m sure the prince enjoys as he sips his morning coffee while towering above his loyal subjects."