Accessibility and Adobe Captivate

You can create output that is compliant with Section 508 for users who have visual or hearing impairments, mobility impairments, or other types of disabilities. You can also take steps at the design level to remove obstacles for people with disabilities viewing your Adobe Captivate projects.

These solutions support government agencies in meeting their users’ needs through Section 508 compliance, as well as companies who are committed to improving accessibility.

Worldwide accessibility standards

Many countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, and countries in the European Union, have adopted accessibility standards based on those developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). W3C publishes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a document that prioritizes actions designers should take to make web content accessible. For information about the Web Accessibility Initiative, see the W3C website at

In the United States, the law that governs accessibility is commonly known as Section 508, which is an amendment to the U.S. Rehabilitation Act. Section 508 prohibits federal agencies from buying, developing, maintaining, or using electronic technology that is not accessible to those with disabilities. In addition to mandating standards, Section 508 allows government employees and the public to sue agencies in federal court for noncompliance.

For additional information about Section 508, see the following websites:

What is Section 508- compliance?

Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requiring that federal agencies develop, maintain, acquire, or use electronic and information technology to make the systems accessible to people with disabilities. The most recent (1998) version of Section 508 establishes enforceable, government-wide standards.

What does accessible mean?

In general, an information technology system is accessible for people with disabilities if it can be used in various ways that do not depend on a single sense or ability. For example, users should be able to navigate with a keyboard, in addition to a mouse (not with a mouse only). Also, the visual and auditory elements of a user interface must accommodate both hearing-impaired and visually impaired users.

What other types of assistive software do end users need?

Screen readers or text-to-speech utilities (which read the contents of the active window, menu options, or text you have typed) and screen review aids translate onscreen text to speech or to a dynamic, refreshable, Braille display. This assistive technology can provide keyboard assistance or shortcuts, captions for speech and sound, and visual warnings such as flashing toolbars. Tools available include Windows Eye and JAWS.

What does Adobe Captivate do to be Section 508 compliant?

Selecting the Enable Accessibility option makes certain elements in Adobe Captivate projects accessible or open to accessibility technology. For example, if you select the Enable Accessibility 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 the Enable Accessibility option is selected:

  • Project name (derived from Project Properties)

  • Project description (derived from Project Properties)

  • Slide accessibility text

  • Slide label (derived from Slide Properties)

  • Buttons

  • 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 Enable Accessibility 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).

To access Flash files using a screen reader, users must have Flash Player 9 or later installed.

The Access Board is an independent federal agency committed to accessibility for people with disabilities. For more information about making your output compliant, see the Access Board website (

Adobe Captivate accessibility web page

For the latest information on creating and viewing accessible Adobe Captivate content, visit the Adobe Captivate Accessibility Overview page on the Adobe website.

Creating accessible content

Create 508-compliant projects

Create an Adobe Captivate project using the Section 508 option to view and test the output. Generating the Adobe Captivate project updates source files containing information about your project and creates output files that you can publish for users. Read the tips for authoring and use the following procedure.

  1. In an open project that you want to publish as 508-compliant, select Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Adobe Captivate > Preferences (Mac OS).

  2. In the Category panel, expand Project, and select Publish Settings.

  3. Select Enable Accessibility in the Project panel.

    Enable accessibility

Tips for creating 508-compliant Adobe Captivate SWF and HTML5 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.

  • Accessibility in Adobe Captivate demos works better when all the slides have interactive content. If you are using JAWS 6.1 or later, be aware that JAWS sometimes does not clear the Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) tree. As a result, the content of previous slides can replay when slides are continuous. This problem does not occur in JAWS 4.5.

  • Ensure that the Accessibility dialog box is not blank. Import slide notes or type appropriate instructions in the Accessibility dialog box.

  • Time your slides and objects appropriately. Provide enough time for the user/screen reader to read the contents on the slide. You can make use of interactive objects; interactive objects pause the movie until the user interacts.

    If you do not factor in sufficient time, the movie advances to the next slide before all objects can be read. In such a case, some objects on the next slide may not be read by screen readers.

  • Specify alt-text for images. Otherwise an image is read as just 'image' by the screen readers.

Specifying Tab order for interactive and non-interactive objects

When using a screen reader, your readers can use:

  • The Tab key to navigate through interactive objects. Specify the Tab order by clicking the up and down arrows. The Tab key does not work for non-interactive objects. The Tab order works for questions as they are non-interactive.
Tab order for interactive objects
  • The arrow keys to navigate through interactive and non-interactive objects. For HTML5, use the up and down cursor keys.
Arrow keys for interactive and non-interactive objects

If your course requires your users to navigate through only interactive objects, you can include appropriate instructions as accessibility text (Accessibility dialog box).

By default, the interactive objects are read based on their z-order. You can change the order in which a screen reader must read the interactive objects when users press the tab key.

  1. Click Tab Order in the Property Inspector of the slide.

    All interactive objects, except click boxes and rollover objects, are listed in the Tab Order dialog box. Click boxes are not visible at runtime and therefore are not listed in the Tab Order dialog box. For Rollover objects, add accessibility text to Rollover Area and users can use arrow keys to navigate to the object.

  2. In the Tab Order dialog box, use the arrow keys to place the components in the order in which you want them to be read.

Add accessibility text to slides

A screen reader can read aloud text that appears on the computer screen. Screen readers are useful for people with visual impairment. In Adobe Captivate, you can write text describing each slide for screen readers to read aloud.

  1. Open the slide to which you want to add accessible text.

  2. In the Property Inspector, click Accessibility.

  3. Type the text that you want the screen reader to read aloud.

  4. To use the slide notes (Text-to-speech and closed captioning included), click Import Slide Notes, and click OK.

Customize accessibility text for objects

You can add accessible text to individual objects on a slide. When the object appears in the movie, the screen reader reads that text aloud. If you do not specify accessible text for an object, the screen reader reads the default text. For example, if the object is an image, it reads Graphics Image. This default text is generally not sufficiently descriptive to help a visually impaired user. Also, objects other than text captions and text entry boxes do not contain any text. Accessible text for such objects can help users understand their purpose in the movie.

  1. Select the object whose accessibility text you want to customize.

  2. In the Property Inspector, click Accessibility.

  3. Deselect Auto Label. When Auto Label is selected, the text in the object is read aloud by the screen reader.

  4. In the Item Accessibility dialog box, do the following:

    Accessibility Name

    Enter the accessibility name. For a text caption, you can enter “This text is in a caption,” for example.

    Accessibility Description

    Add a description to clarify information for the person using the screen reader. For example, consider the text caption “Select File > Edit Image.” You can change the text to “From the File menu, select the Edit Image command. This command is available only when an image is selected on the slide.”

Testing accessible content

Tips for testing

If you are designing your Adobe Captivate project to work with screen readers, download several screen readers. Then test your project by playing it in a browser with the screen reader enabled. Make sure that the screen reader is not attempting to “talk over” places in your project where you have inserted separate audio. Several screen reader applications provide a demonstration version of the software as a free download. Try as many as you can to ensure compatibility across screen readers.

If you are creating interactive content, test it and verify that users can navigate your content effectively using only the keyboard. This requirement can be especially challenging, because different screen readers work in different ways when processing input from the keyboard. For this reason, your Adobe Captivate content might not receive keystrokes as you intended. Make sure to test all keyboard shortcuts.

About screen reader technology

Screen readers are programs designed to navigate through a website and read the web content aloud. Visually impaired users often rely on this technology.

JAWS®, or Job Access with Speech, from Freedom Scientific, is one example of a screen reader. You can access the JAWS page of the Freedom Scientific website at Another commonly used screen reader is Window-Eyes®, from GW Micro®. To access the latest information on Window-Eyes, visit the GW Micro website at For Windows users, Microsoft provides a free, downloadable product called Microsoft Reader that contains a text-to-speech component. For more information, visit the Microsoft website at

Because different screen readers use varying methods to translate information into speech, the way your content is presented to users can vary. As you design accessible projects, keep in mind that you have no control over how a screen reader behaves. You have control only over the content, not the screen readers. You cannot force screen readers to read specific text at specific times or control the manner in which that content is read. It is important to test your projects with various screen readers to ensure that they perform as you expect.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License  Twitter™ and Facebook posts are not covered under the terms of Creative Commons.

Legal Notices   |   Online Privacy Policy