Chris’s SharePoint Reflections

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  • Chris Zhong

    IT consultant Australia

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MOSS accessibility part 2- How to avoid “eggs on the face” situation

Posted by chrissyz on May 10, 2008

Well, here comes to the fun part.  How to make your SharePoint site more accessible? Well, there are various products in the marketplace that can tell you when a site is out of compliance, according to that product’s particular interpretation of  accessibility standards. That’s good, but not good enough, since a list of the non-compliant code is much easier to generate than replacement code that compiles with accessibility standards. J

Although it is not all doom and gloom, to make a SharePoint accessible would take a lot of effort. Management really needs to justify the investment before make the requirement. I am not a UIdesigner, but there are some general suggestions I feel like to share:

1.       Right purpose

I would suggest using WCM features ONLY in your SharePoint publishing site. I understand Content Management is just one small part of MOSS, but it is the essence of many publishing sites. Many SharePoint Collaboration features generate a lot of non-W3C validating code and you are not going to get your fully featured intranet to be conformant as I really couldn’t justify the cost for doing that.


2.       Keep it simple

Here are some successful SharePoint Websites which did a great job on accessibility

One common thing among them is simplicity. I believe that delivering a site that is visually attractive and navigates well for browsers as well as “Screen reader” is really hard. There is a trade-off between accessibility and rich UI.


3.       Don’t use OOTB Master Pages and CSS

On our project, we have gone through the pains of tweaking the OOTB master page.  And at the end of the day we have to give it up and use our own master pages. It is really good practice to start fresh with Minimal Master Page or AKS’s master page


4.       Use third part solutions for content edition

Some publishing web controls like PublishingWebControls: RichHtmlField control doesn’t generate xhtml compliant makeup, so even if your master page is xhtml compliant, the content created through the authoring UI creates non-compliant markup. I would suggest to use Telrik RAD Editor (W3C WAG Level A) or AKS accessible rich text editor.


5.       Minimum use of Web Part

As a mentioned in my last blog, web part generates a lot of non-compliant markup and the only way to fix it is to override the render method.  I recommend keeping web part use to a minimum. Web part zones should definitely not to be used; they introduce a large amount of layout tables and non-compliant HTML


6.       AKS

I would definitely recommend AKS and it should be installed on every developer’s machine. Its development tool is free to download from codeplex. It addresses some major issues regarding the accessibility of SharePoint and provides workarounds. However, like its own CEO Kurt Mueffelmann said “AKS is not a magic pill, but more of a methodology in starting to create a more accessibility site.” It is not a solution but will definitely make your life a lot easier.


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