SharePoint Server 2007 has announced the Accessibility Toolkit for SharePoint 1.0, better known as the AKS Solution.
Microsoft partnered with accessibility technology vendor HiSoftware to build the toolokit. It provides files, programs and utilities that enable SharePoint Server (MOSS) and SharePoint Services (WSS) sites to follow the accessibility guidelines put forth by the W3C (WCAG 1.0 AA).
The AKS Solution can also be used to address exceptions that have been identified in the Section 508 of the US Gov's Rehabilitation Act Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) documents for MOSS 2007.The kit provides the following:
* New cascading style sheets
* New master pages
* Multiple control adapters
* Reusable content examples
The AKS Solution does not provide a process to update/modify custom templates, stylesheets or controls. What it does provide is a set of guidelines and an approach to update these custom files. Essentially it’s something that can be used to help define requirements for new sites.
AKS Size Utility
The AKS size utility is a very simple C# Application that enables developers to change absolute font sizes to relative fonts sizes. Relative sizes are the standard sizing units required by the WCAG 1.0 guidelines.
AKS Style Sheets
The AKS Style sheets are a group of style sheets based on the standard set that comes with SharePoint. However, they have been altered to implement relative sizing. They do not replace the existing stylesheets, but serve as a second copy that implements the relative sizing. These style sheets are stored in the core style AKS folder in the style library.
Some of the new stylesheets are:
AKS Master Pages
As you would expect, the AKS master pages are a group of master pages which implement the new styles and additional template related corrections to provide better overall usability.
These master pages are again copies of the original master pages (they will not replace the existing ones) including master pages such as AKS_Blueband.master and AKS_Blackband.master. They include modifications for sizing, skip navigation, table summaries and use the stylesheets includes in the AKS Stylesheet library.
AKS Control Adapters
These are a group of adapters and associated guidance that enables developers to deliver a more usable and accessible wrapper for their current webparts, controls or sites. Essentially, they intercept the content before it is sent to the user for display and modify it as necessary. In this approach, developers do not have to redevelop their existing work immediately (if at all).
Each Adapter includes an adapter file (written in C#), an example of the Compat.browser entry and a document containing implementation steps.
In addition to each individual Adapter, a Super Adapter is included in the kit that contains all the functionality of the individual control adapters.
Control Adapters are copied directly to the MOSS server and implemented as required. There are 25 Control Adapters in the AKS Solution kit, including adapters for Excel, Search, lists and documents.
AKS Reusable Content
The Reusable Content functionality creates a library (repository) to store content that can be repurposed on many different areas of the site. The kit includes the ability to create text-based content and html-based content and insert it into any page necessary. This aspect of the kit is all about usability.
The AKS Solution kit (available on the codeplex site) is an executable that must be run on the MOSS server directly. It includes a Feature install that installs most of the features at the Site Collection level.
All in all it looks like a decent package to help architects and developers implement accessibility in their sites. It will be interesting to see how well it shapes up to other Web CMS' accessibility capabilities.
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