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Section 508 Compliance and SharePoint

June 20th, 2013 by Doug Loo

As most of you know by now, Section 508 is about providing access to information technology for disabled Americans. Since its implementation, the rush to become Section 508 compliant has led to most all of the focus having been placed on the Internet and other external facing applications.  As an advocate for disabled Americans this has been a welcomed and huge first step to providing equal access to IT.  Now it is time to continue moving forward by providing the same level of access to your internal IT so the barriers to employment for disabled Americans are removed and the level of contributions they make can rise.

The rapid pace of Internal IT collaboration has seen huge growth and for many companies provided high ROI.  One such platform being widely adopted is Microsoft’s SharePoint platform.  Like most of Microsoft’s products, SharePoint is shipped as Section 508 compliant.  The problem with accessibility comes after application developers start customizing look and feel or implementing homegrown or third party tools to make the platform more useful.  It has been my experience that most all of the problems can be solved with training the users, providing developers with an accessibility framework, and continuous monitoring.  SharePoint is used in so many different ways that it would be impossible to address each one so my advice is to always remember that one, accessibility is part of your company’s mission goal and two the law was not evoked to eliminate technology or make things harder.  There needs to be a delicate balance on the approach to Section 508 compliance when dealing with any collaboration platform with the ultimate goal on inclusion and increased productivity.

Section 508 Framework for SharePoint

Having a Section 508 framework in place before rollout of the product to the users would be best practice, however reality says that the environment has already been deployed and is currently in use. Will this make things harder?  The answer is yes, just like developing an application with accessibility in mind is easier and less expensive than remediating the application after the fact, so is implementation of a Framework into an existing environment vs. a brand new rollout.  It would also be less costly to hire a Section 508 SME (Subject Matter Expert) that has proper training to develop your custom framework than to put this on your SharePoint Farm Administrator and expect any positive results.

So much for the bad news, the good news is that once you have management buy-in, setting up the framework and managing it will not be a mammoth job.

Some items that need to be considered:

  • Audience (external, external partners, internal)
  • Forms and Workflows to automate framework processes
  • Monitoring tools and other third party tools used for reporting and remediation
  • Priorities and KPIs to measure progress
  • Realistic goals
  • A seat on the  SharePoint Governance Board
  • MaterPage development and design policies
  • Mobile platform development
  • Third party tools connected to Farm
  • Different uses of the Platform (Project Management, Document creation, BI, Workflows, data collection, etc)

Stay tuned for our next blog, Section 508 Monitoring Tools in SharePoint


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One Response to “Section 508 Compliance and SharePoint”

  1. Doug,

    Your review of the current challenges relating to 508 Compliance of SharePoint is spot on. Though SharePoint is 508 compliant, ask a blind user what the experience is like and you wont get a favorable response. Here at Discover Technologies we have created a complete solution that addresses the challenges of “usability” of SharePoint for the blind. I would love to connect with you and introduce you to our solution. Please let me know if this is something you would have an interest in doing.

    Anthony Jones

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