Accessibility for Web Content Managed sites under MCMS was always a major challenge and sometimes even a stumbling for some customers. Now that the WCM feature set has been migrated to MOSS it is great to see Microsoft is ensuring that the Accessibility of the product is improved.
Microsoft has hired HiSoftware as a vendor to develop the Accessibility Kit for MOSS 2007, also known as Accessibility Kit for SharePoint or AKS. The decision was made primarily based on HiSoftware’s in-depth expertise and broad industry experience in providing tools and services for improving software accessibility to the point of compliance with key industry and goverment standards and beyond. The contractual Statement of Work calls for HiSoftware to deliver a kit that can significantly reduce the time, knowledge, and effort required to implement a SharePoint-based web site that conforms to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints, which are collectively known as WCAG 1.0 AA. The AKS can also be used to address the exceptions that have been identified in the U.S. government’s Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act’s Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT documents for MOSS 2007. While most of our customers find the improvements in accessibility (more info at Office Online) over previous versions of SharePoint to be adequate for their needs, a growing number has asked us to provide even more. The AKS is our near term response. Longer term, we plan to make significantly further improvements in accessibility in the next version of SharePoint, but we don’t have any details to disclose at this time.
Microsoft will be conducting a private beta as early as mid September 2007, with a release to community towards the end of October and an update in mid December.
These deliverables were established based on customer and partner feedback that we’ve received thus far and prioritized based on the scenarios that would impact the most end users of a MOSS-based web site down to the least.
- Milestone 1: AKS 1.0 Private Beta – ETA September 17, 2007
This initial milestone will provide a testable version of the kit that focuses on the web content publishing and authoring scenarios for Internet facing web sites as well as intranet portals.
- Milestone 2: AKS 1.0 Release to Web – ETA October 29, 2007
This milestone will provide a production ready version of the kit that can be used in the implementation of live MOSS based web sites or portals.
- Milestone 3: AKS 1.5 Update – ETA December 17, 2007
This milestone will provide accessibility improvements for advanced web content authoring and team collaboration scenarios.
I have been involved in delivering several WCM solutions for government and Accessibility is always involved so I cannot wait to get a hold of AKS and dive under the covers and work out how this will improve the delivery time-frames for accessible web sites!