Saturday, 28 March 2009

AKS 2.0 and Accessibility

This comes up again and again: make SharePoit accessible.

Okay the issues are many and its critical to get the entire team on board with what are the issues and what is to be done, and get user understanding and sign off on the issues, otherwise accessibility CAN become a weapon customer who decide to try and get reductions of software projects will pull.

The first issue is that SharePoint MOSS out of the book is not very accessible

This is simply due to the fact that the code produce by SharePoint, that is the HTML Source that makes the web pages, is so unorganised and poorly structured that it is very hard to read it with something other than eyes, and to navigate it with something other than a mouse and keyboard.

On top of this accessibility is not the same for each client. WC3 has established standards for accessibility on the Internet that can be graded like US Meat standards: A, AA, AAA. Frankly I think this is no service at all. It hides THINKING about accessibility behind labels, it gives near impossible standards for PM or customers to simply demand, and frankly almost no one understands what is implied in these and different computer tests of level will sometimes give different answer es.

And finally we have to admit that we don't live in an accessibility culture, in fact IT is intentionally exclusive and thinking about accessibility is a problem. CORPORATE CULTURE IS NOT INCLUSIVE OR ACCESSIBLE. In trying to make accessibility you are swimming against the stream.

Though AKS 1 and AKS 2 have some strong features and can help an accessibility project it is not a matter of install and suddenly MOSS 2007 is AA. I have encountered this repeatedly and had to deal with it again and again.

Hopefully more and more accessibility experts will blog and produces wikis about the issues of accessibility so that we can waste less time fighting against the culture.

I think the key issues on accessibility is you have to separate if you have an intranet or the web. On the web MSS WCM is going to be a hard piece of work to make accessible. Sorry, but you might just have to rewrite everything.

For an intranet you have it better, but you have to establish at the start what accessibility means for you. If your company uses a specific tool to help people with sight limitations accessibility will mean testing MOSS and your work against the tool, not against a WC3 based AA tool. You might even produce a AA site at great cost which does not work with the established tool you use!!!!!

For example imagine you have a large infoPath forms system. You might spend a vast sum of money trying to work out solutions to make the forms more accessible, or maybe you company already has an established support system for you disabled workers. Perhaps the forms will only pertain to one or two disabled users a few times a month or year, and you have an established practice to support them through email and a designated user who can fill the forms out. Why use up budget to make something accessible that has already been resolved by Culture!!!!

The lesson of Web 2.0 should be its about users and usages, not owners and orders.