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sharepoint 2007 and Accessibility

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Reply with quote Has anyone seen any evaluations/reports on sharepoint 2007 (i'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned here?!)

So far i've found:

Improvements in accessibility

I'm reviewing the CMS part (which as you can imagine being microsoft is pretty bad)

some things to note:

* It has a 'Turn on more accessible mode' which requires javascript to work
* lots of ahref="javascript: .. " (ajaxy type things)
* very very bloated code

I'd be interested to see how it performs with a screen reader (not very well i'm guessing)

The thing that worries me, is i'm reviewing it to be used as a CMS system for a university! Shocked
Reply with quote I've conducted a comprehensive accessibility test of Windows SharePoint Services 2 in Sharepoint 2003 last year but have not yet tested SP2007.

From discussions with Microsoft I do not believe that the accessibility issues I identified in SP2003 will have been addressed in SP2007. Consequently the results may be relevant to you.

In task based testing:
  • Keyboard only: On the whole tasks were completed reasonably quickly and easily. Some actions could not be completed without recourse to ‘mouse keys’.

  • Supernova: Tasks generally did not take much longer using Supernova than they did when using the Keyboard alone. One complete task failed.

  • JAWS: Using SP with JAWS was very challenging with most tasks taking a long time to perform. Many tasks could not be completed without the advantage of seeing the screen first (and hence failed).

The technical compliance check showed numerous checkpoint failures and the HTML validation errors.

I have not had any 'hands on' experience of the CMS in SP2007 (so can't comment on the accessibility of the CMS interface) but I have conducted a very quick and high level review of a site that we've recently relaunched that uses the CMS (www.shareview.co.uk) so I have a feel for some of the issues that might arise.

My main concerns (with the delivery platform, not design) are:
  • The apparent inability for the ‘out of the box’ rich text editor to define headings (h1, h2, etc) and the bloated markup it generates.

  • Some 'out of the box' functionality generates invalid and semantically incorrect markup, e.g. the lists feature which you can use to build simple forms.

I have heard that the Telerik r.a.d.editor is a good alternative to the default rich text editor that ships with SP2007.

I believe the RNIB have been looking into SP2007 so they might wish to comment further on the real-life challenges of using the product.
Reply with quote Thanks Meerkat for this. Have you got any write ups of this?

I have gone through a brief AA compliance check of the -out of the box installation and it is pretty appalling
Reply with quote Sorry for the delay in responding.

I don't see a problem sharing it as long as I know who it's going to and how it's going to be used - I need to avoid conflicts of interest, confidentiality, that kind of thing. I would therefore prefer to share via PM.
Reply with quote I ran some tests on sites using SP 2007 earlier in the week for a mate of mine.

None had valid HTML or CSS and all failed single A.
The three sites were
Obviously what I don't know is how many of these problems were caused by bad site design and how many by the product. Confused

If it can go wrong it will. So don't worry about it.
Reply with quote Meerkat, we've used the Telerik r.a.d. controls with the previous version of Microsoft CMS (which now seems to be bundled up with Sharepoint), and they're an improvement on the default controls.

The results are still well short of perfect, but whether that's down to Telerik, the underlying .NET platform, or our implementation of the system is hard to say.

Have you tried the CSS Friendly Adapters for .NET which Johann007 mentioned a couple of months back? They look useful, although I've only played with them so far and not used them seriously. (http://www.asp.net/cssadapters/)
Reply with quote Thanks toms - I was aware of possible benefits of switching to the Telerik r.a.d. control from the folks at the RNIB, but I haven't come across the CSS adaptors before... I shall investigate.
Reply with quote Last week at Techshare 2007 we launched the free Accessibility Kit for SharePoint (AKS) and the community portal at http://aks.hisoftware.com .

The first release of AKS is targeted for end of Oct 2007.

-Mark Harrison-
Reply with quote I'm also looking at Sharepoint, and found some discouraging posts:

SharePoint 2007 is a powerful portal platform, but it falls short when you examine its Web design techniques. The main complaint about the sites delivered by the SharePoint platform is the lack of adherence to Web standards.

SharePoint follows the previously discussed approach of Microsoft Word by leaning on HTML tables for layout. The built-in Web parts included with SharePoint spit out HTML tables for all facets of layout. Therefore, the use of CSS for layout is nonexistent. Even the most basic standards support via XHTML and accessibility are poor. It makes you wonder if Microsoft has abandoned Web standards altogether.


and Cameron Moll's blog:

Sharepoint is "a collaboration tool that offers a lot of nifty features but falls short (way short, in fact) in terms of semantic, accessible markup and “don’t make me think” workflow.

Prior to my arrival, SharePoint was chosen as one of the apps used internally by employees, and I’ve been tasked with not only skinning the look and feel but also cleaning up the code. It’s been an insurmountable task at times, to say the least, but we’ve made some decent progress along the way. .. All of this has required considerable customization"


Moll's blog entry provoked some gloomy comments, too:

"Our organization is considering SharePoint and .Net 2.0 for all of our future development needs. Even with my limited interaction with these platforms, I tend to have nightmares. It’s an ugly, backwards system that defies convention wisdom. "

"It’s a horrible, HORRIBLE system but the powers-that-be have made the choice. Your customization gives me hope!"

"When customizing past versions of SharePoint we always ran into a huge issue that required us to basically fold and resign ourselves to the MS way - that was upgrades. Any patch or update would inevitably make a change in the XAML or other areas that destroyed customizations or hobbled the product."

"I had the same task of reskinning SharePoint to match the corporate look & feel, and of attempting to clean the code up. I have a confession. When I quit this job, I did not tell them the reason I quit. Let’s just leave it at that. Yeah, so… I gave up. It’s nice to see someone who trudged on through and came up with something as beautiful as possible with this horrible piece of software."

"if anyone’s looking to dive in to SharePoint design, plan on giving up a good chunk of your life during the learning curve. "

"We have scrapped the idea of using Master Pages for any internal install of SharePoint. Too much effort for too little gain. We put in a “ticket” with Microsoft and they said that there is no supported method that they could recommend. They offered a couple of work arounds but there was no magic bullet. The solutions they offered were similar to others around the interweb.

Maybe in a future edition MS will have sorted this mess out but in the mean time I need something that works consistently so I’m sticking with CSS.

I link one stylesheet (custom.css) and import over-ride-calendar.css, over-ride-controls.css, over-ride-core.css, over-ride-datepicker.css and over-ride-portal.css. I believe that is how others are doing it as well. I strip out everything from all the style sheets and start customizing the CSS to get a “non sharepoint” look and feel. I use Firebug in FireFox to pick out the classes I need and then I cut and paste one class at a time from one CSS to the other and modify those classes as needed.

It’s time consuming and boring but it’s consistent and supported and I know it will not break with updates down the road."

Web Evanglist, Opera, WaSP Accesibility Task Force
Study the Web Standards Curriculum

International Lothario (retired)
Reply with quote Check the quality of the HTML emitted by the following SharePoint sites :


The Accessibility Kit for SharePoint will make it even easier to deliver AA compliant sites.

Reply with quote Well the trustcorgi site is a disaster area in terms of code the others are pretty good though.

The nhs site actually is reasonably accessible Shocked That's the first sharepoint I've seen that is though. Rolling Eyes

If it can go wrong it will. So don't worry about it.
Reply with quote It concerns me that to make a Sharepoint site approach accessibility, you need a third party add-in. This is no reflection on hiSoftware, just my misgivings that a whopping great big enterprise system like Sharepoint treats accessibility as an optional end-of-process bolt-on.

My reasons:
    If there's a new version of Sharepoint, how long is the lag until the plug-in is updated? Does that compromise accessibility in the interim?

    The plugin is free. Is there a guarantee that it'll always be so?

    If the Accessuibility Kit for Sharepoint "significantly reduces the time, knowledge, and effort required to implement a SharePoint-based Web site that conforms to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints, which are collectively known as WCAG 1.0 AA", is that a guarantee of valid code (implied in the claim to AA standard)?

    It strikes me that Sharepoint being unable to produce good code out-of-the-box is indicative of a deep architectural malaise in the system.

Is the AKS page http://aks.hisoftware.com/index.html made with Sharepoint+AKS? It uses nested presentational tables, non-standard attributes and doesn't validate to its doctype.

Does anyone know if Sharepoint is accessible as an authoring tool?

Web Evanglist, Opera, WaSP Accesibility Task Force
Study the Web Standards Curriculum

International Lothario (retired)
Reply with quote
The plugin is free. Is there a guarantee that it'll always be so

It will always be free ... all the source code will be published.

great big enterprise system like Sharepoint treats accessibility as an optional end-of-process bolt-on

Accessibility is not optional. Lots of effort was made around accessibility for 2007 ... this is part of a message from a blind user that I received:

"I hated Sharepoint 2003 - there was inaccessible Javascript all over the place. However, kudos to the Sharepoint team - 2007 is really rather nice to use. I always turn on the accessible mode (accessed via an invisible link at the top of each page) and this replaces many inaccessible aspects of the product, like mouse-over menus, with more accessible alternatives. With these enhancements it really is quite nice to use - I've used it for usual document libraries as well as blogs and wikis"

However - Microsoft want to do even better ... and thats whats driving sponsorship of the AKS.

If there's a new version of Sharepoint, how long is the lag until the plug-in is updated

The next version of SharePoint is a long way off (2009/10) but with accessibility really high on everyones radar, its not expected that the AKS will be required. The desire is for timings to work such that it can align with WCAG v2 and it be compliant out of the box.

Reply with quote Thanks Mark - that's good to know.

I don't suppose that you could ask your colleagues in Microsoft to join this conversation? There's questions which I realise I unfairly asked of you (as you're from the plug-in manufacturer rather than from Microsoft itself), but which need an answer, eg my questions about code validity, table-layout, Sharepoint's conformance to ATAG.

You mention the "accessible mode" which bypasses the "many inaccessible aspects of the product". I think I read on another forum that this link is only available if the user has JavaScript enabled. Can you confirm? If that is the case, then it seems like it fail checkpoint 6.3 - a WCAG 1.0 priority 1 checkpoint requiring "that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported".

Web Evanglist, Opera, WaSP Accesibility Task Force
Study the Web Standards Curriculum

International Lothario (retired)
Reply with quote Happy to have a direct conversation with you

mark <dot> harrison <at> microsoft <dot> com

Alternatively or perhaps in addition - join the discussion on this by sending an email to Listserv@listserv.HiSoftware.com with "Subscribe AKSCommunity <Your Name Here>" in the body. There are people from Microsoft / HiSoftware / Partners / Customers on this discussion list. We would welcome your input / concerns / etc .

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