Adobe Captivate 6 can be used to create multimedia training presentations that include text, graphics, recorded audio, recorded screen video, and interactive quizzes. Captivate produces presentations in Flash format that can be played in a web browser with Flash Player 10 or later.

Captivate 6 offers a number of features designed to help make presentations accessible to people with disabilities. Its Closed Captioning tool is one of the best available. Unfortunately, not all of Captivate's other accessibility features work as needed.

Key Features

The following features are key to making Captivate 6 presentations accessible:

  • Enable Accessibility - Captivate automatically handles the technical aspects of activating behind-the-scenes Flash accessibility features. This feature is noticeable only in the Preferences dialog, where the "Enable Accessibility" check box is checked by default. The only action necessary is to confirm that this check box remains checked.
  • Accessibility Name - Almost all Captivate objects have Accessibility Name properties that can be read by screen readers. Text Captions and Buttons automatically use their on-screen text as their accessible name (using the "auto label" setting). The author can easily set the Accessibility Name for Images and other objects. Accessibility Name can be left blank to tell screen readers to ignore decorative or redundant objects.
  • Accessibility Text - Each Captivate slide allows Accessibility Text that can be used to provide extra or alternative information to screen readers when object accessibility names don't do the job. If set, Accessibility Text is read before any other text on the slide.
  • Closed Captioning - Closed captions are the only way for users who are deaf to understand information presented in audio. While adding closed captions is an additional step, Captivate provides a powerful and flexible closed captioning tool that makes the task as easy a possible.
  • Shortcut Keys - Interactive elements such as buttons are typically activated using the mouse, but, to be accessible, must also be operable using keyboard commands. Text buttons, image buttons, and the buttons on the Captivate playback bar (the toolbar that contains the play, pause, back, forward, etc., controls) can be activated using standard keyboard commands ("tab" key to move focus to a button and "spacebar" or "enter" to activate it).

Key Failings

Even with the improvements in accessibility in Captivate 6, several issues still make it frustrating to create truly accessible presentations:

  • Reading/Tab Order - While it is now possible to make the objects on a Captivate slide individually accessible, it can be difficult to keep the reading and tab order correct. Reading and tab order is automatically set based on position, following lines running from left to right, but angled slightly upward, so the order is often not what would be expected. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any way to set the reading or tab order.
  • Smart Shapes - Smart Shapes are new, vector-drawn objects that seem poised to replace Text Captions in Captivate presentations. Unfortunately, their accessibility implementation appears incomplete, as auto labeling does not work and text must be entered and updated twice (once on the Smart Shapeand once in the Accessibility Name) for every Smart Shape with text. Smart Shape buttons cannot be labeled even with Accessibility Name, so they cannot be used at all.
  • Themes - Themes are a powerful new feature for contolling how presentations work. Unfortunately, the built-in Themes all use Smart Shape Placeholders for text, requiring authors to enter and update text twice for every placeholder. Fortunately, in custom themes, Text Caption Placeholders can be used instead.
  • Quizzes - Captivate documentation continues to indicate that only three of eight quiz question types (Multiple Choice, True/False, and Rating Scale) are accessible, and even these quiz types remain difficult to use with modern screen readers.
  • Table of Contents - The automatic Table of Contents component has problems with keyboard operation, several buttons are unlabeled, and the reading order with a screen reader is wrong, running from left to right across both the TOC and the slide.

Accessibility of Captivate 6 Objects

Object Accessible Issues
Project Yes Project Name becomes HTML title element which is read each time screen reader user goes to top of page (e.g., each new slide). Project Description (optional) is not read.
Themes Problematic Default themes use Smart Shape Placeholders for text, so text must be entered and updated both on the Smart Shape and in Accessibility Name for each placeholder. In custom themes, use Text Caption Placeholders instead.
Slide Yes Slide Name (optional) is read first. Slide Accessibility Text (optional) is read second. Do NOT include redundant information in these fields. Slide must be paused (e.g., by presence of a Next, Jump, or Continue Button) so that it can be read. Screen reader user must go to top of page (Ctrl+Home) on each new slide.
Text Caption Yes
Image Yes Must set Accessibility Name. Do not include the words "image of", "graphic of", etc.
Highlight Box Yes No Accessibility Name. Use for decorative purposes only.
Smart Shape Yes* Must set Accessibility Name. *Auto Label does NOT work on Smart Shapes with text, so text must be entered and updated both visibly AND in Accessibility Name.
Text Animation Yes* Must set Accessibility Name. *Do NOT use animations that introduce extraneous tab stops (e.g., spindle).
Rollover Caption Problematic Must set Accessibility Name. Rollover Caption must follow Rollover Area in reading order or equivalent information must be provided in Rollover Area Accessibility Name.
Rollover Image Problematic Must set Accessibility Name. Rollover Image must follow Rollover Area in reading order or equivalent information must be provided in Rollover Area Accessibility Name.
Rollover Slidelet Problematic Must set Accessibility Name. Rollover Slidelet must follow Rollover Area in reading order or equivalent information must be provided in Rollover Area Accessibility Name.
Zoom Area Yes No Accessibility Name. Use for decorative purposes only.
Text Button Yes
Image Button Yes Must set Accessibility Name. Do not include the word "button".
Transparent Button No Accessibility Name does not apply to button.
Smart Shape Button No Accessibility Name does not apply to button. Button is not focusable unless Hand Cursor is checked.
Click Box Problematic Must set Accessibility Name. Must set Hand Cursor to make focusable. Success, Failure, and Hint text may not appear in findable place in reading order, so must be non-essential or repeated elsewhere on the slide.
Text Entry Box Yes Must set Accessibility Name. Hint text must be non-essential.
Demonstration Yes* Narration must describe all important elements and actions using device-independent language. Text of all narration must be shown in Text Captions or Closed Captions. *If narration is not used, an equivalent text description/explanation must be provided. It may be provided as a Text Caption or as Slide Accessibility Text on a separate slide, using branching to enable screen reader users to skip the Demonstration.
Simulation Problematic All Click Boxes and Text Entry Boxes must have Hand Cursor checked and Include in Quiz unchecked to be focusable for keyboard users. An equivalent text description/explanation must be provided for screen reader users. It may be provided as a Text Caption or as Slide Accessibility Text on a separate slide, using branching to enable screen reader users to skip the Simulation.
Quiz Slides Problematic Use only Multiple Choice or True/False questions. If Correct, Incorrect, or Incomplete Captions are used, add Accessibility Text on the first question slide to indicate "When prompted to press 'y' to continue, use your screen reader pass-through command first. For example, with JAWS, press Insert + 3, then y". Do not use the Retry Message, which cannot be read by screen readers. Do not use Likert questions since reading order is incorrect and buttons do not indicate whether they are checked or unchecked.
Table of Contents No Reading order is incorrect. Search and Bookmark buttons are unlabeled. Can't click buttons in "Continue from where you stopped" dialog using keyboard.