These days, we are spending quite a substantial amount of time talking with 508 coordinators and other people within Federal agencies and commercial enterprises who are in charge of ensuring their organization is “508 compliant.” We find a large number believe that by simply scanning their data and making the information accessible, they are in compliance with Section 508 regulations. They may not realize there are two main requirements in the mandate that are equally important to satisfy in order to become compliant. Section 508 requires comparable accessibility and usability of data and information, to that which non-disabled coworkers enjoy.
While working with visually impaired workers in a large Federal SharePoint environment, we learned firsthand, how difficult it is for the blind to “use” SharePoint even with accessible data and documents. We decided to develop a solution that is easily added to SharePoint that addresses the section 508 comparable usability standard. Now, addressing only accessibility means “partially compliant” and in other words, not fully compliant. Microsoft’s SharePoint is prolific within Federal agencies as the go-to collaborative platform for data and information sharing. There are necessary, typical, collaborative functions that SharePoint workers have to perform daily in order to be productive. Tasks including entering, reading or modifying an event on their calendar, accessing and modifying a SharePoint list or form, working with lists and libraries and simple SharePoint navigation all should be comparably usable when compared to available usability for sighted coworkers.
There is a staggering increase in the time and difficulty required for a visually impaired SharePoint worker to complete these tasks using OOTB SharePoint. With Discover Access for SharePoint™, those tasks are much easier to complete and visually impaired SharePoint workers may have a much more comparable SharePoint experience. More software companies need to concentrate on enhancements for software made by companies who haven’t or will not address the usability standard of section 508 in their initial designs. It is also important that Federal agencies switch their efforts toward becoming compliant with the forgotten, but equally important requirement of Section 508; comparable usability. Without comparable usability, vision impaired SharePoint workers have a difficult time trying to become as productive as their sighted coworkers. After all, isn’t that the real mission behind Section 508?