OS/2 eZine - http://www.os2ezine.com
December 16, 2003
Isaac Leung (P.Eng.) got a degree in Engineering Physics followed by a Master's in Electrical Engineering after which he promptly got a job as a product engineer at a company which makes high speed datacom chips. Following the dot-com meltdown, he's back at school studying biophysics and optical properties of semiconductors. He is old enough to have cut his computer teeth on Commodore 64's and first played with OS/2 1.3 EE while at a summer job with IBM. The first PC he ever owned came with Windows 95, but he soon slapped on OS/2 Warp 3 and has been Warping ever since. In between looking for a new job, he plots to take over the world.
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From The Editor

All Flash and no substance

I'm sure many of you have experienced, as I have, of hitting a website that absolutely requires the Flash plugin. Not just any Flash plugin, but the absolute latest, most up to date version. It's practically a web standard, but (unfortunately) a closed, proprietary one. Is Flash such a bad thing though?

What for?

Technically, no. Flash has plenty of utility. What is a bad thing are those stupid web designers who insist on using Flash for some purpose which adds no value!

You all know what I'm talking about. Those sites which insist on Flash technology and are otherwise inaccessible. So, you fire up Windows, or VirtualPC or give Opera/2 a try. Only to find out ... there's nothing! What are they using Flash to do? To provided mouse-over animations on the menus! (Hello! If you're a good web-designer, you should know this is a 2-3 line job in Javascript)!

I actually had a communication with the web designer of a certain web site regarding this. I told him "Your Flash requirement adds no value!". His response? (I am not kidding). "Did you move your mouse over the side menus? Didn't you notice the cool animations?" Yes I did. The buttons lit up. That was all he was using Flash to do. Designers like that should be fired.


No, I'm not just talking about accessibility for OS/2 users, or Linux users or users of some other "alternative" platform, for which the latest Flash isn't available. (Note to web designers, you're locking out Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX...the users who are most likely to have high-speed connections and be on-line the most, since it would be part of the job). I'm talking about making sites accessible to those who have trouble seeing, or are outright blind. (Yes, the blind do surf the web too)!

I, for one, can't wait for accessibility laws to come into effect. We have to have them for buildings, elevators and all sorts of other stuff. Why not the web? Anybody who doesn't provide a Flash-less alternative is locking out the sight-impaired computer users. They ought to be sued. If only in America...

What to do?

In the meantime, I'm not sure what we can do. Contact the web master of the "offending" site and let him/her know of your concerns. The more of us that do that, the more effective it will be.

But, be polite! Being rude won't get you anywhere! Suggest an alternative (for example, if Flash is just being used for menu glitz, pass along the Javascript code). And perhaps just as importantly, money talks. Let them know that you are taking your money elsewhere and that you will advise your friends and colleagues to do the same. Maybe that will get them moving.

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