SharePoint Accessibility – Is MOSS 2007 accessible?

UPDATE: 4th August 2007
Accessibility in MOSS may get that much easier with the announcement that HiSoft have been selected to develop an Accessibility Kit for MOSS.

…The kit will provide templates, master pages, controls and Web parts along with technical documentation to advance MOSS accessibility for people with disabilities. All of the source code will be provided via the Microsoft Permissive License and will be available on CodePlex (www.codeplex.com) later this year for customers and other Microsoft partners to download, reuse and extend…

When trying to get a Microsoft SharePoint solution implemented in any Public Sector organisation one of the key stumbling blocks is if the lack of (or unknown ) conformance to any accessibility standards.

Microsoft were indicating, nothing officially, that MOSS 2007 would be accessible although to what level was open to debate and conjecture. One of the difficulties encountered is how to test solutions, this includes any web parts you develop or theme or style changes. I do not intend to cover the options here or the available tools and processes, instead I direct you to JimThatcher.com who is a published author in this field.

What I will cover is the published accessibility in MOSS 2007, its comparison to SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and some links to content that supports this and provides guidance on areas that can be improved. Microsoft have reviewed the products against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0. Some may ask why have they used a guideline published in 1999 and not the WCAG 2.0 specification which started publication in April 2006? Apologies for not answering the question here but I suggest you read To Hell with WCAG 2, by Joe Clark, where he explains in detail why the standard was not worth the wait. You can of course read the WCAG 2.0 guidelines @ 72pages, Understanding WCAG 2.0 @ 165 pages or the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 @ 221 pages. In all over 150,000 words! if you really want to.

At this point you either decided to skip the WCAG 2.0 standards or Microsoft have probably released MOSS 14 so the rest of the article is out of date :)

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

These guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines are intended for all Web content developers (page authors and site designers) and for developers of authoring tools. The primary goal of these guidelines is to promote accessibility. However, following them will also make Web content more available to all users, whatever user agent they are using (e.g., desktop browser, voice browser, mobile phone, automobile-based personal computer, etc.) or constraints they may be operating under (e.g., noisy surroundings, under- or over-illuminated rooms, in a hands-free environment, etc.). Following these guidelines will also help people find information on the Web more quickly. These guidelines do not discourage content developers from using images, video, etc., but rather explain how to make multimedia content more accessible to a wide audience.

Checklist of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

How SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Microsoft Office Server 2007 meet the guidelines.

SPS2003 MOSS2007 Notes
1.1 Does each graphic have text to display as an alternative to the graphic? Yes, with customisation Yes
1.2 Is the alternate text for each image relevant to the context in which the image is viewed? Yes, with customisation Yes
1.3 Are graphics that are used only for decorative purposes commented with ALT=””? Yes, with customisation Yes
1.4 Is the alternate text for each image no more than 60 characters long? Yes, with customisation Yes
1.5 Are all comments that are linked to clickable areas of a MAP image relevant? N/A N/A
1.6 Is the alternate content for each text image at least the equivalent of the text appearing in the image? Yes, with customisation Yes
1.7 Do all images that require a detailed description provide comment text? Yes, with customisation Yes, with customisation
1.8 If a detailed description is provided for an image, is the content relevant? Yes, with customisation Yes, with customisation
1.9 Does the text used in the ALT attribute for each image provide the function of the link? Yes, with customisation Yes
2.1 Does each frame have a NAME attribute? N/A N/A Iframes not used for core solution
2.2 Are the names assigned to frames relevant? N/A N/A
2.3 Is there a NOFRAME tag? N/A N/A
2.4 Is the content of the NOFRAME tag relevant? N/A N/A
2.5 Does each frame have a TITLE attribute? N/A N/A
2.6 Is the content of the TITLE attribute relevant? N/A N/A
2.7 Does each page have a maximum of three frames? N/A N/A
2.8 When frames are used, is scrolling automatic? N/A N/A
3.1 Is information provided by color still readable when colors are disabled? Yes Yes
3.2 Is there enough contrast between colors to be distinguishable by users who have impaired color vision? Yes, with customisation Yes
4.1 Can the information that is conveyed by multimedia be provided another way? Yes Yes
4.2 Is the Multimedia content synchronized with the alternate support? Yes, 3rd Party tool needed Yes, 3rd Party Tool needed
5.1 Is the SUMMARY attribute present and relevant? No Yes
5.2 In a data table, does the CAPTION tag provide the title of the table? Yes, with exceptions Yes
5.3 In data tables, are the column headers appropriate? Yes, with exceptions Yes
5.4 In a data table, does a HEADERS attribute link to each of the data cells in the table? Yes, with exceptions Yes
5.5 Is the content in formatted tables in correct sequence? No Yes
6.1 Are Link titles no more than 80 characters long? Yes Yes
6.2 Are links explicit enough? Yes Yes
6.3 Is the TITLE attribute used, if required, and is it no more than 80 characters long? Yes Yes
6.4 Does the TITLE attribute provide more information about the link than the link title itself? Yes Yes
6.5 Do all identical link titles lead to the same target? Yes Yes
7.1 If a script requires alternate text to make it accessible, is the information provided by the alternate text equivalent to the information provided by the script? No Yes More Accessible Mode option
7.2 Can actions be performed even if the peripheral for which they were designed is disabled? No Yes More Accessible Mode option
8.1 Is the DOCTYPE tag present at the beginning of the page source code? No, not by default No, not by default
8.2 Is the LANG attribute present at the beginning of the page source code to clearly identify the language used? No, not by default No, not by default
8.3 Is there a TITLE tag in the page header? Yes Yes
8.4 Is the content of the TITLE tag explicit? Yes Yes
8.5 Is the content of the TITLE tag different from one page to the next? Yes Yes
8.6 Are language changes on a page indicated? No N/A multi-language support now part of MOSS 2007
9.1 Is information structured consistently for the general context of the site? Yes Yes
9.2 Is the Web page presented in a consistent fashion? No Yes
10.1 Is page content separated from content introduction? Yes Yes
10.2 If style sheets are disabled, is the information still accessible? Yes Yes
10.3 If style sheets are disabled, is the order in which information appears the same as initially defined? Yes Yes Improved
11.1 Are the LABEL tag and its corresponding attributes (ID, FOR) present? No, not by default No, not by default
11.2 In a form, is the SUBMIT button relevant? Yes, with customisation Yes
11.3 Is the data entry control in online forms accessible? Yes Yes
12.1 Is the main navigation menu on the Web site located in the same place on all pages? Yes, with customisation Yes Improved with MAM
12.2 If keyboard shortcuts are defined for the site, are they active on the page? Yes Yes
13.1 Can the user control screen refresh? Yes Yes
13.2 If the user is automatically redirected, is it without using a script? N/A N/A
13.3 Is a Web site visitor alerted when new windows appear? No Yes
13.4 Is there an alternative to scripts for opening new windows? No Yes More Accessible Mode option
13.5 Is additional information available to describe files that can be downloaded from the Web site? Yes Yes
13.6 Does the specific presentation or layout of information interfere with the ability to access its content? Yes Yes More Accessible Mode option

Note I have downgraded some of the Yes, with customisations to No as they proposed that you should use FrontPage or SharePoint designer.

More Accessible Mode in MOSS 2007

On an MOSS 2007 technologies-based site, most user interface (UI) elements, such as links, form controls, and buttons, are designed to use Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA). MSAA enables people with disabilities to interact with content by using assistive technologies such as screen readers, which are devices that provide a synthesized speech or Braille description of what a blind or low-vision user is unable to see on a computer screen or Web site. Proper MSAA names are given on all editable controls, links, and buttons.

Because some custom UI elements do not use MSAA properties, the More Accessible mode enable to render custom controls as an equivalent standard HTML controls so that they will be better recognized by AT devices. “More accessible mode” is exposed via the Document Object Model (DOM) so that third parties can create solutions catered to screen reader users.

More Accessible Mode does not enable alternate versions of every UI element. For example, if a custom control has been added to a MOSS 2007 technologies-based site, enabling More Accessible Mode does not automatically create an alternate version of that control.

More Accessible Mode enables the following items to be rendered in a way that optimizes them to work better with AT devices such as screen readers:

  • Menus – Instead of displaying a drop-down menu of options for files in a document library, a new browser window is opened that contains all of the menu items as hyperlinks. This format is easier for AT devices to interpret. At the same time, the user is informed that a new window will open if he clicks on the menu link; the TITLE attribute contains the Open menu terminology.
  • Optimized fields – Some fields are difficult for accessibility tools to interpret. When More Accessible Mode is enabled, these fields are replaced with fields that are optimized for accessibility tools. For example, some WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007 lists support enhanced text fields that enable users to add formatted text, images, tables, and hyperlinks. Because of the way these fields are rendered in a browser, some accessibility tools cannot read them. When More Accessible Mode is enabled, such fields are replaced with standard plain text fields that are compliant with accessibility tools.

Windows Speech Recognition is a speech based assistive technology that is available in Windows Vista. Windows Speech Recognition enables users to perform actions by speaking (in English) instead of using a keyboard or mouse.

In addition to enhanced text fields, several other types of fields are replaced with alternate fields in More Accessible Mode:

Field in standard mode Alternate field in More Accessible Mode
Enhanced text field Multiple line text field
Graphical summary charts (for surveys) Table with table headers (see point 5.3 in section 5.1.6 Tables)
Gantt chart (in a project list) Table with table headers (see point 5.3 in section 5.1.6 Tables). A table with table headers also appears below a Gantt chart in standard mode.
Contact selector Text field

Finally, screen reader friendly Instant Messaging presence status and menu interaction on presence enabled people fields. ALT text that describes the presence status on people fields have been added on the WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007 sites, and made ENTER the action of opening the menu for these to simplify the keyboard only experience.

Additional Information

Visit the Microsoft Accessibility site. (Updated 4 Oct 2007)

Please forgive me for posting an article on Accessibility from Word! But its a good test for Microsoft commitment to accessibility :)

This entry was posted in Accessibility, SharePoint and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • RYAN

    Content and Code has launched two W1 accessible websites, http://www.fifteen.net and http://www.wise-woman.net/Pages/default.aspx. These two websites show that you can create an attractive and accessible website using SharePoint 2007 whilst not loosing any functionality.

  • Ishai Sagi

    Good article (and similar to my old one on accessability in sps2003). What about using tables for layouts – you didn’t mention it.

  • Andrew Woodward

    ishai, the article is a summary of the document which covers the Priority 1 (Level “A” compliance) requirements of the WCAG 1.0 specification.

    Section 5.3 of the guide does allow for tables for layout, however it is also regarded as a Priority 2 requirement. I need to follow up the article with a comparision to the Priority 2 (Level “AA”) compliance.

    Hopefully the article will help people understand how MOSS 2007 has improved, but also that it is not a silver bullet and still needs improvement.

  • Thomas

    Hi Andrew

    Interesting article. Do you have a link to the source of Microsofts list that you present here?

    kind regards
    Thomas

  • Andrew Woodward

    Thomas,

    Links to the source material should be in the article. I assume you refer to the WCAG checklist which is http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html

  • Michael

    Andrew,
    It seems that your list is inconsistent with the official WCAG list – am I missing something?

  • Andrew Woodward

    Michael,

    It appears that the WCAG article has been updated and the reference numbers seemto have changed!

    The links in the post have been updated to point to the one they refer to http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990324/

    For the updated list see

    http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html

  • Jag

    Andrew Nice article. Helped me in understanding on how SharePoint 2007 can tackle Accessibility requirements for my clients (especially those public sector ones!).

    Note that URL for Microsoft Accessibility site for developers is broken. the latest one is http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/default.aspx

    Ta
    Jag

  • Access Curmudgeon

    Great article, but even after reading the comments I cannot reconcile your numbering with WCAG 1.0 Checkpoints! For example WCAG (both the March 1999 and final versions) stop at 1.5, but you have 1.6 – 1.9! (And that’s only the most obvious disconnect.) Can you please explain where your questions came from? Thanks!

  • http://blog.thekid.me.uk Vince Rothwell

    Andrew,

    I have now released ARF (http://www.spworks.co.uk/arf/accessibility.aspx), which makes creating accessible publishing sites much easier.

    –Vince

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  • http://modestadventurer.com Traveller_Adventure

    This is quite impressive, I am pleased to read this post, keep posts like this coming, you totally rock!
    Cheers,
    Buat Duit Dengan Blog

  • http://modestadventurer.com Traveller_Adventure

    Great post, really help me alot. Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Buat Duit Dengan Blog

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  • http://www.itransition.com/ Itransition

    Looking forward to Sharepoint 2010 I suppose that MOSS acessibility will be maintained much better. I hope It will be well-integrated with W3S standarts in the field of websphere development and web portals development.

  • http://www.itransition.com/ Itransition

    Looking forward to Sharepoint 2010 I suppose that MOSS acessibility will be maintained much better. I hope It will be well-integrated with W3S standarts in the field of websphere development and web portals development.

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  • Anonymous

     Article is fine and want to see microsoft sharepoint accessability.