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Intranet accessibility conference

I spoke on “Intranet accessibility” at a conference for lots of nice managerial people in suits yesterday (and only swore once!). The main points I made were

Bread and butter stuff for regular readers, so I’m not publishing the presentation, but the questions I was asked may be of interest.

If you were one of the attendees, thanks for not falling asleep, and apologies that question time was so limited; I could see many more hands than were called by the chair.

What do you think of the RNIB‘s “See It Right” audit scheme?

From what I know,the See It Right audit is good. But the RNIB are dedicated to helping blind people, and there’s more to accessibility than overcoming the problems that one single group of people face. So, by all means use the RNIB – your site will be much better for it than if you don’t – but be aware that this doesn’t guarantee full accessibility.

There’s an organisation called The Shaw Trust that also offers an audit service. I’ve never used them, but have heard good things of them. (Another delegate indicated good experience too.)

These schemes complement each other; neither “accreditation” has any legal force.

Are there any portal products/ content management systems that are compliant out of the box?

Not that I know of (which doesn’t mean “no”). Accessibility is equally a content issue, so even if the CMS produced fabulously accessible code on day 1, it won’t protect against the uploading of a pdf that’s a scan of a paper document, or untranscribed audio.

There’s no correlation that I can see between price of product and accessibility, and vendors’ claims often wildly overstate the accessibility of the product, hopefully due to a misunderstanding of what accessibility is, rather than a criminal attempt to deceive customers.

I’ve heard good things about greenbeast CMS; I use a heavily customised WordPress installation, which has the extra advantage of being free. Neither of these are suitable for enterprise-level sites.

My company produces a DDA-compliant CMS. How can I get it certified thus?

Firstly, what is “DDA-compliant”? That’s for a lawyer (IANAL), not a technician, as the DDA doesn’t mandate any specific technical requirements.

I’d make sure the code validates and then ask a third-party organisation to come in and test it with disabled people. Open it up to the community with an online demo. You’ll get a lot of free consultancy that way!

Is there an example of a real-life accessible site that isn’t all text and ugliness?

For hard-nosed commercial organisations, here’s one that will bet with you about how quickly you’re going to die; you don’t get much more hard-nosed than selling life insurance.

Legal and General are pretty damn accessible, yet still manage to look good, and even have small Flash movies to replace text so it’s in a non-standard, sexy corporate font.

Will the new age discrimination rules change Intranet policies?

Yes; as the average age of employees increases, they will become subject to all the ills that the flesh is heir to: eyesight problems, motor problems. Accessibility (or the lack of it) will become more important.

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7 Responses to “ Intranet accessibility conference ”

Comment by Dan B

Hi Bruce, I was one of the people at the conference with my hand in the air who didn’t get chance to ask my question. It was this …

Q. I’m assuming that the DDA is applicable to both fat and thin client apps. I can see how I can use WCAG to evaluate our intranet and website, but what evaluation criteria could I use for a document management system?

Cheers, and thanks for the informative presentation!


Comment by Bruce

Hi Dan; what Jim said above. If your document management system is being used by staff as a browser-based app, then it should conform to WCAG; in my opinion (I am not a lawyer) you should aim for AA+ conformance.

If it’s not browser-based, I guess WCAG 2.0 could be a good test, but it’s not finished yet (WCAG 2 is technology-neutral, so doesn’t pre-supposed html content). I’m just making this up here; there may be official tests for the accessibility of non-browser desktop systems, but that’s outside my field of expertise.

Comment by Dan B

Hi Bruce, sorry, just found another question I’d scribbled on my notes.

The “panacea of PDF” was mentioned at the conference, and I wrote down no back button and no navigation – is there anything else you could add?

Comment by Bruce

Nice to know someone was interested, Dan!

PDF makes people happy as they think (incorrectly) that a PDF uncopyable and unamendable and a good way to get a document “on the web”.

99% of PDFs are therefore verbose, narrative rather than written for web and probably inaccessible.

As PDF isn’t html, the screenreaders can’t jump around it (yet) like they can html. For example, in html you can jump from heading to heading, list to list. In PDF, only the very newest JAWS (JAWS 7) can jump from heading to heading.

So, in my opinion, PDFs aren’t as accessible as html – and it’s a lot more difficult to make an accessible pdf than an accessible webpage.

(Pimp alert:) There’s a lot more about it in my book.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

Comment by Why, Blog, Why?

Quick points on accessibilty…

In a recent post, Bruce Lawson, a member of the Accessibility Task Force and notable funny-guy, gives the following pointers on accessibility:

Accessibility is not text-only or a separate “cripples-only” site
Disability is more than blindness…

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