Tag Archives: accessibility

Collaborative intranets for engagement must be accessible to everyone first

My thanks to @dianarailton who tweeted an article ‘UK retailers still failing to meet web accessibility standards‘.  With so many barriers in stores if you are disabled, shopping online from the comfort of your home is an attractive option.  Furthermore, under the Equality Act 2010 all retailers must provide access to their goods online as well as in store.

There were several common themes why all of the web sites failed to meet the Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.  This means that disabled people would face difficulty in buying a product on each site, with half of the sites completely inhibiting people at certain points in their journey.

The Equality Act 2010 applies to intranets as well as external sites in the UK.  Other countries have similar laws their intranets need to comply with.

Are you serious about engaging with people and collaboration?

How can an organisation engage with all its employees if a minority cannot use the intranet?  How do employees collaborate using the tools on the intranet if some people cannot access them?  First, your intranet must be accessible for this to achievable.

When I hear people talk about making their sites accessible, some still think as long as the design can be read by JAWS for people who are blind.  It does!  But the scope is far wider than that for a site to be truly accessible to everyone.

It is accepted that 10-20% of people have some form of disability.  This includes people whose finger joints become stiff or eyesight needs glasses and the size of text to be enlarged.  Most of these disabilities happen just through the normal ageing process and wear and tear on life at work and home.

For your intranet to be fully accessible these barriers that prevent employees fully engaging and collaborating must be removed.

How to make your intranet accessible?

Wearing my governance hat I believe you need to take the following steps:

  1. Have a governance framework that covers how content is published and who is responsible for creating and managing it.
  2. Have an Accessibility publishing standard that refers to the WCAG guidelines and explains how a publisher creates accessible content.
  3. Have publishing templates that mean content can be enlarged to allow everyone to read it.  Have images with mandatory fields to describe what they show as alternative text for people unable to view the images.
  4. Provide training to help educate your publishers to understand why this is important and how they comply.
  5. Audit random samples of content to ensure it complies with the Accessibility standard.

If you put all these steps in place you will have a solid foundation for your intranet.  You can encourage people to engage with your organisation and to collaborate with each other.

You can then be confident you can reassure your stakeholders this will happen.

 

The lowdown on publishing standards

Publishing standards are key to providing the right foundation for your intranet.  Your organisation will invest in the technology needed to publish information but technology will not be enough.  For people to be more productive, they need to be confident in the integrity and reliability of what they use and technology alone does not deliver that.

Publishing standards make that critical difference.  They form the basis for your intranet’s user experience to be consistently good.  These standards need applying to different types of content and tools.  You can set up publishing standards based on the following requirements:

  • Information policies
  • User needs
  • Legal
  • Regulation

The publishing standards you should consider are:

  • Ownership
  • Timeliness
  • Security
  • Findability
  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Navigation
  • Copyright
  • Compliance

As well as making your intranet the best experience for people using it, you also need to make it a good publishing experience.  The better the processes and support offered, the more likely it will be that publishers will follow the standards.  Make it easy for publishers to seek the right guidance by providing it on the intranet, saving everyone’s time.

With confidence in the integrity of your intranet content and applications, people will want to use them more frequently and become more productive.  To ensure that this happens, you also need to take steps to ensure publishers comply with each standard.  Compliance, implemented in a smart way, can be simple, effective, and of great benefit to your intranet users.

Find out more detailed information and publishing standards best-practice examples in ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Try the introductory chapter for free.

I wrote a book about governance: ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersWhen an intranet loses its usefulness over time, and people become disengaged and end up working around it rather than through it, I often find that the strategy and governance have been neglected.

Even a strong and appropriate strategy will founder if the governance isn’t in place to execute it.

I see governance as the foundation of a great intranet, and by ‘great’ I mean an intranet that is useful, useable, and supports the organisation’s goals and people’s needs.

I often blog about intranet governance, but my brand new book offers a lot more than I could ever drip-feed via short posts.  Writing a book has helped crystallise my thinking around governance, and delve deep into my past experience as an intranet manager, and as a consultant.

Take a look at my book now – it’s called ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ and I mean for it to be relevant to intranets, collaboration, digital workplace and mobile workspace governance, while focussing on intranets.

I’m so pleased to have it published through Intranätverk, it’s been great to work with Kristian Norling and his team.  Seeing the final book on my tablet has made the months of writing all worth the effort.  I’m thrilled to be able to offer you my experience, guidance, and tips and hope you’ll consider my book a toolkit to better governance and a better intranet.

Please take a look at what the book offers you and your organisation – this is a ‘business book’ that should help organisations of every size, but I also hope it’s of interest to individual practitioners and ‘lone intranet managers’. I think this book can support you.

* Digital success or digital disaster? – Book available now.

* Follow me on Twitter – let me know what you think!

Accessible content for everyone and every device

Everyone whether they have a disability or not needs to have the same experience when using any intranet information or applications. Employees with a disability may use devices to help them. Your intranet needs to be compatible with these to avoid risking breaking the guidelines and any law that applies in the country where the person works.

Accessible content is also easier to adapt to use with mobile devices e.g. smartphones, tablets, and laptops with their different screen sizes. Try thinking of accessible content as being a step further on from it meeting your usable standard.

If your intranet has information or applications that are not accessible to all employees, you will be breaking the web accessibility guidelines. Legislation and codes of practice based on the latest World Wide Web, Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C Accessible content WCAG 2.0 AA) guidelines will apply in most countries. US Section 508 and UK DDA 1995 are two examples. These guidelines are at three levels, A, AA, and AAA covering the most basic problems to the most advanced problems experienced by people with a disability when using your intranet.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people with disabilities to use your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People with disabilities using your intranet will have the same or similar experience to anyone else. This will encourage more frequent and extensive use because the intranet is accessible and usable and meets the needs for everyone.
  2. You can encourage your publishers to make their content and applications accessible to meet their legal requirements. There is the added, sometimes overlooked, benefit that accessible content also displays well in other devices such as tablets and smartphones if it meets accessibility standards.
  3. Your organisation complies with a legal requirement. It can also see investment made in your intranet has the benefit of being available in other devices that help with new ways of working and while mobile.

My next post on navigation will be the last in this series.  I hope you have found them helpful.

Are your intranet standards ‘smart’?

I have reviewed many intranets and have been amazed at the variety of publishing standards and how they are enforced.  These vary from no publishing standards through to everything being locked down depending on the importance of complying with standards.  More importantly it is the amount of time, effort, and money that is used to enforce people to comply with the standards when they publish information.

I sometimes think organisations lose the plot and forget to look at the costs being spent for the  benefit being gained.

Your intranet needs standards to make sure your organisation complies with business, user, regulatory, and legal requirements in any country it operates in.  The best approach is to have ‘smart’ standards that need the minimum time, effort, and cost which achieving the maximum effectiveness and benefits.  How many of these questions can you answer “yes” to?

  1. Do you train your publishers on what your intranet standards?
  2. Do you also train your publishers on why your intranet has these standards?
  3. Do you educate and support your publishers with guidance to understand more about your standards?
  4. Do you embed any of your standards in the publishing templates e.g. branding, navigation menu?
  5. Do publishers need to comply with your standards before their content is published e.g. images need to have alternative texts before they can be used?
  6. Do you review content for compliance?
  7. Do you remind your publishers if their content is non-compliant?
  8. Do you remove content if no action by your publishers to comply?
  9. Do you measure how compliant your intranet is?
  10. Have you measured it more than once?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions then award yourself a gold medal!

If you answered “no” to any of these questions perhaps you had better contact me?

Standards that make SharePoint 2010 a success

When you are faced with implementing SharePoint 2010 your intranet needs the right standards to make the launch and ongoing use a great success.

How can you do this?  Firstly you need to be clear why you have standards.  The reasons why usually include:

  • Legal: web accessibility, copyright and image rights
  • Regulatory: compliance with country and international agreements
  • Business: content reviewed regularly and up to date
  • Users: content ownership clear, easy to use and find

Your intranet standards need to:

When using SharePoint 2010 I recommend five standards you must include.  These cover the different types of content and tools that you can use with SharePoint 2010 ranging from accredited information through to collaborative discussions.

1. Ownership

You need to be clear that all your information is managed and has an owner.  Intranet managers need to be able to contact an owner if there is a problem with their content quickly and easily.  People need to know who to contact if they need more information not shown or wish to check about anything that has been published.  You need to reassure your senior managers that any risk has been removed of non-compliance from information not managed.

2. Currency

Your employees must be confident they are using the most up to date information.  You need to clearly show a review date, in line with your information retention policy, for people to see.  Your content must be reviewed regularly and be removed if it is no longer needed and out of date.

3. Security

SharePoint 2010 permissions need to be correctly set so people only see the information they have permission to see.  Get these right at an organisation-wide level to save time and effort later.  Owners (site administrators) of content can decide at a site level who can have permission to create, edit, as well as view content published.

4. Usability

Your information must be usable and valuable to people using it.  Use SharePoint 2010 webparts to create the experience research with people has shown is needed.  Train your publishers on ‘tone of voice’ and ‘writing for the web’ to help achieve this.  To use the full range of SharePoint 2010 features well you must make it easy for people to share views, discover other people and their skills, find the right information and use what they find with the minimum of effort and time taken.

5. Accessibility

This is not an optional extra.  It is mandatory.  You need to go that extra step beyond usable content and make sure your content is accessible to everyone whether they are impaired or not.  It needs to meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines.  Legal requirements do vary from country to country.  For the UK AA level is the current expert recommendation.

What you need to do is check standards are complied with.  This can be achieved by using people or outside auditors to check content or better still, if you can afford it, an automated compliance checker tool.

The ‘font’ of all (intranet) knowledge?

This is another example of BT’s intranet standards used to give users a great experience.

Most browsers, and especially those for people with visual impairment, allow users to adjust font sizes to suit their needs. Therefore, it is important that you do not fix font in an exact, or ‘absolute’, size because users may not be able to see it!

Style sheets in content management systems will take care of font sizes, but if you create your own HTML & style sheets, you must use relative sizing, e.g. -1, or +1.

HTML <font> tag

You should use style sheets instead of the <font> tag to define font attributes. If you still have existing <font> tags within your site you should make sure they are relative and not fixed. You must then switch to style sheets at your next re-design.

Using styles for fonts

When using  styles also always use the relative tags, such as percentage or plus and minus. For example if you want a headline to be bigger then use something like +2, or 150%, or ‘bigger’. Similarly, to make something appear smaller in scale to the rest of the page use -1, 75% or ‘smaller’.

The use of percentage,  ’em’ units or other ‘relative’ mechanisms to define the font size makes it easy for users to change the text size using their browser settings. 

Testing

Testing should be done in the initial stages of creating a set of styles so that subsequent pages linked to the same style sheet will work:

  • you need to check pages using the “Largest” and “Smallest” text size settings in the browser
  • also test using a range of browser resolutions and settings to ensure the content does not become truncated or cause overlapping sections of content and text
  • switch off the style sheet in the browser to ensure the content is still meaningful.