Back when computers were entirely text-based, people with physical disabilities could use them without much difficulty. Blind people could use screen-reading software that translated the text on the screen into a synthesized voice; then they could simply type their response on the keyboard. People with motor impairments could use alternative input devices to type characters . And for the hearing-impaired, a text-based interface presented no barrier at all.
Ironically, many so-called user -friendly computer technology advances in the 1980s and 1990s made computers less accessible to people with disabilities. The mouse-based, point-and-click interface proved useless for visually impaired people who couldn't see what they were supposed to click, and many motor-impaired people found that they couldn't maneuver a mouse with the necessary precision. The introduction of streaming sound and video meant that a significant fraction of the audience was cut off from multimedia content: Blind people couldn't see the video portion, and deaf people couldn't hear the soundtrack.
Even text was no longer the common denominator it once had been. Many Web sites and CDs used bitmapped text, which screen-reading software didn't recognize. Macromedia's Shockwave and Flash players were impervious to screen-reading software, so even regular text in a Director or Flash movie was inaccessible to visually-impaired users.
In recent years , hardware and software designers have been working to rectify these problems. In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires that all Web sites maintained by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. An increasing number of states and private organizations have also chosen to adhere to the guidelines established by Section 508.
Macromedia has responded to the challenge by including powerful, easy-to-use accessibility features in Director MX. You'll find separate sets of features available for making Director movies accessible to people with visual, hearing, and motor impairments. After learning how to use these features in this chapter, perhaps you'll be inspired to make your own Director movies accessible to a larger audience.