Accessibility Standards for non browser based interfaces

22 Nov 2011 - 5:56am
2 years ago
3 replies
1167 reads
hilary b
2009

Hi All,

I am working on a new system specification and at the moment we dont know if it will be browser based or not - it may be desktop / client software.
That being the case, I am less familiar with standards for non browser based interfaces. We are currently looking at some ISO's. While they cover common HCI concepts, I think they are a little thin on interface accessibility - particularly around the additional provision for partialy sighted users etc.
Could someone recommend alternative standards or reference material?

Comments

22 Nov 2011 - 6:45pm
Stephen Holmes
2009

Both Apple and Microsoft provide accessibility and assistive technologies support and tools built into their operating systems that allow for modification of the UI to aid many of the access issues you will need to cover. 

Check out the Apple site for Accessibility at http://www.apple.com/accessibility/

Microsoft have a similar jump-off page at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/

22 Nov 2011 - 8:05pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Hello Hillary,
One document that might be helpful is the VPAT - Voluntary Product Accessibility Template - which has a section on the desktop computers.  Companies that sell to US Government agencies and their contractors are required to fill out this form and indicate whether the product supports accessibility requirements.  The form also has Web and multimedia requirements as well.
Here is a link to the template:  http://www.itic.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=vpat&category=resources
Many companies put their VPATs on their public sites (e.g., Apple, Adobe, Microsoft).  
Chauncey





Hi All,

I am working on a new system specification and at the moment we dont know if
it will be browser based or not - it may be desktop / client software.
That being the case, I am less familiar with standards for non browser based
interfaces. We are currently looking at some ISO's. While they cover common HCI
concepts, I think they are a little thin on interface accessibility - particularly around
the additional provision for partialy sighted users etc.
Could someone recommend alternative standards or reference material?

(((P
23 Nov 2011 - 1:05am
Dave Katten
2008

Hi Hilary,Accessibility standards these days are generally written to be technology agnostic. That is, the standards don't say things like "use an alt attribute on an image tag" (which is highly specific to HTML), but instead say things like "provide textual equivalents for non-text content". The standards leave the implementation details to whatever platform you're developing for.
Although it's specific to web content, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are a nice place to start (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG/) and the associated "Techniques" document (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG-TECHS/) will help with, again, mainly HTML. However, the upside of the WCAG docs is that they're structured in a fairly reasonable (though not perfect) way. 
Fundamentally, you're looking to make your application Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Whatever platform you work with, the standard widget libraries will do a lot of the work for you, and will be well-documented. If you stick to using or at least deriving from those components, you'll likely be halfway there for interfacing with screen readers. The other issue that you'll need to address, however, is the tab order - just tab from control to control and make sure it makes sense. That is one of the most often overlooked components to desktop/web page accessibility, but it's also one of the most critical.
At the end of the day though, Assistive Technology doesn't actually interface with your application - it interfaces with the OS. There is always a layer between your system and the AT. You are constrained in that you can only design to that interface. This is also why different OSs and different versions of different technologies produce different experiences based on the features of that liminal layer that they support.
Lastly, while a VPAT can help you get a first guess at a specific product's accessibility, it probably won't help make your shiny new application accessible. Plus, my experience has been that they aren't entirely accurate. But that's another thread.
Good luck, and it's always nice to see designers interested in accessibility :)
Best,Dave

On Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 5:04 AM, hilary b <hilarybrownlie@gmail.com> wrote:


Hi All,

I am working on a new system specification and at the moment we dont know if
it will be browser based or not - it may be desktop / client software.
That being the case, I am less familiar with standards for non browser based
interfaces. We are currently looking at some ISO's. While they cover common HCI
concepts, I think they are a little thin on interface accessibility - particularly around
the additional provision for partialy sighted users etc.
Could someone recommend alternative standards or reference material?

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