Accessibility in SharePoint 2010 needs people, process AND technology

Prepared in partnership with Microsoft, the “Accessibility in SharePoint 2010” document sets out the learning from Vision Australia’s experiences to date delivering an accessible implementation of SharePoint 2010, including our assessment of SharePoint 2010 conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

And their conclusion? After examining SharePoint 2010’s Document Management and Team Sites features they found:

“While SharePoint 2010 offers improved accessibility out of the box, a successful implementation is reliant on appropriate customisation and governance as part of a SharePoint deployment. “

They do also consider the issue of user-created content, although I sense they are treating SharePoint as a WCMS rather than a collaborative platform since their advice includes:

  • Training. 
  • (More) Governance. 
  • Approval workflows. 
  • Templates. 
  • Built-in accessibility checking tools.

Remember, the content in your intranet or extranet needs to be accessible too, not just the shell of the Website it sits within. This expands the scope well beyond SharePoint alone (and this is true for any Web platform used in the same way). I mention this because historically organisations have avoided training users on productivity tools (like Microsoft Office) and “groupware” (like Lotus Notes). However, clearly accessibility is another reason to invest in providing this kind of support to users but it will require as much of a mind shift as the commitment to delivering technically accessible Web tools.

Of course, the one elephant in the room that this report doesn’t address is if there are a more accessible tools available. Ignoring the specific issue of accessibility, technical governance of SharePoint remains a massive issue for many organisations yet you won’t be compliant without customisation.