SharePoint Gets Smart Accessibility Capabilities

4 minute read
Barb Mosher Zinck avatar

HiSoftware,SharePoint Accessibility v2.0
Accessibility is an important part of any collaboration or web content management system. For SharePoint this is no exception. In partnership with Microsoft, HiSoftware has developed an Accessibility Toolkit for SharePoint. That toolkit has just been updated to version 2.0 offering a number of new features to help you meet World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints (WCAG 1.0 AA) and the newest WCAG 2.0 AA Candidate Recommendation.

The Accessibility Toolkit for SharePoint

The Accessibility Toolkit for SharePoint, also known as the AKS, provides a number of tools and components that help with accessibility in SharePoint. Also included in the toolkit are documentation and tutorials that will help you ensure your SharePoint website will meet the accessibility standards set out by the W3C.

The first version of the Toolkit was released in December of 2007. That version of the kit included the following items:

  • New cascading style sheets
  • New master pages
  • Multiple control adapters
  • Reusable content examples

An update to version one was released early last year, introducing the "Compliance Sheriff". The Compliance Sheriff enables users to create web content in SharePoint prior to publishing through an integrated workflow testing process. Content testing and reporting options are provided according to the standards-based policies outlined by WCAG 1.0 and Section 508, and all of this can be done before deploying content into live SharePoint sites.

The latest version offers a number of new tools that will help not only with compliance to the WCAG 1.0 specification, but also newest WCAG 2.0 AA candidate recommendation.

What's New in Version 2.0?

Along with the following new components of AKS, you can also get a French version of all documentation and control adapters to help you deploy a French language accessible web content management website in MOSS. HiSoftware states that the French version is an example of how you can create websites using the AKS toolkit in a different language.

Smart Control Adapters

Control Adapters are programs that intercept the rendering of a control or web part, modifying the output to be more "accessible" to the end user. Smart Control Adapters require no configuration once they are deployed to the server.

AKS 2.0 offers 10 Smart Control Adapters but all control adapters are expected to be replaced with these Smart ones over the next few months. These adapters can be used for new or existing content whereas the regular adapters are best for new content.

Web Part Zone Smart Control Adapter

The Web Part Zone Smart Control Adapter is designed to replace all TABLES tags with DIVS to provide the layout of a webpart.  This adapter works in display mode only and is used together with CSS friendly adapters to help conform to the best practice of limiting tables in display.

By only working in display mode, content editors still have the design mode with tables to help format their content easier.

There is also a version designed especially for WCAG 2.0 that doesn't allow the use summary attributes in layout tables in edit mode.

Learning Opportunities

XHTML 1.0 Strict Validation

For MOSS based websites that want to use standards-based XHTML , the XHTML 1.0 Strict Validation - Publishing Override for ECM/WCM modules will help you do this. Installed as a Feature in MOSS, the HCCE or HiSoftware Compliant Code Engine will help create code that is compliant with XHTML 1.0 and HTML.

HCCE only works on Web Content Management or Enterprise Content Management sites in MOSS, but you can use it for specific content strings as well as web controls.

Canadian Common Look and Feel guidelines (CLF 2.0)

AKS 2.0 provides additional features to meet the requirements of the Canadian Common Look and Feel guidelines. This includes requirements related to language, usability/look and feel and web content accessibility guidelines.

To ensure compliance with CLF 2.0, you need use AKS Master Pages and reusable content that is combined with the HiSoftware Compliant Code Engine (HCCE).

WCAG 2.0 AA Candidate Recommendation

To enable compliance with the new WCAG 2.0 Candidate Recommendation, a new set of Master Pages, CSS stylesheets and controls have been created for ASK 2.0.

Looks like every effort is being taken to assist organization using SharePoint for web-based publishing site ensure they are developing accessible solutions for their audiences.

The Accessibility toolkit has been downloaded by over 4,000 organization to date. It is a community-based project that anyone can contribute to. In addition to the toolkit, HiSoftware provides a number of other goverance based solutions for SharePoint -- WSS and MOSS.

You can learn more about AKS 2.0 and download the toolkit on their website.

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