Creating accessible applications with XPages - an overview

For Domino® developers creating Web applications, XPages is the recommended accessible solution.

Designing and creating software applications that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities is an important requirement in the business world. For Domino® developers creating Web applications, using XPages provides the recommended accessible solution. Creating an accessible application using XPages requires an understanding of the needs of multiple kinds of users, including people with disabilities and mature users with age-related disabilities.

Persons with a disability may encounter one or more barriers in an application that can be eliminated or minimized by the application developer first having an understanding of potential problem areas and then designing the application accordingly to get around these problem areas.

The four main categories of disabilities to keep in mind when designing an accessible application are:

  • visual
  • hearing
  • mobility
  • cognitive

The next sections are provided to give you some general guidelines as to think what to think about when designing your XPages application to make it accessible.

General guidelines for addressing users with visual disabilities

Keep in mind these guidelines when designing your application for people who may have visual disabilities:

  • Keep in mind the navigability of your user interface design. People with visual disabilities will not find a mouse useful because it requires hand and eye coordination. They will navigate using the keyboard. For example, the Tab key will move the focus to an item and then a screen reader announces the item so the user knows where the focus is. The user then presses the Enter key. With this in mind, make sure that your application labels and other text provide text alternatives for all non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms (for example large print, Braille, speech, symbols or simpler language).
  • Make sure that all non-text content like graphics, diagrams, etc. are presented with a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose. Screen reading technologies cannot obtain text information from images
  • Provide alternative text with client-side image maps. Equivalent text links should be provided if a server-side image map is used.
  • Make sure that your use of color in the user interface and the font size can be seen by people with low vision problems. Low vision users need the assistance of a hardware or software magnifier to enlarge the text beyond simple font enlargement. Color blind and low vision users benefit from high contrast colors.

    When information is presented by color alone, a person who is color blind misses that information. Similarly, a user who has low vision might not detect the information if it is presented using any attribute by itself (e.g., contrast, depth, size, location, font, etc.). Use multiple methods to convey information in your application. For example, if both color and a fill pattern are used on different bars on a graph, make sure they can be viewed in either color or black and white.

General guidelines for addressing users with hearing disabilities

Keep in mind these guidelines when designing your application for people who may have hearing disabilities:

  • Make sure that audio output information is provided with a redundant equivalent visual form. Provide additional support by making sure that the visual form has redundant textual options.
  • Provide descriptive labels for time-based media, including live audio-only and live video-only content. Non-text content that is used to confirm that content is being accessed by a person rather than a computer is available in different forms to accommodate multiple disabilities
  • Provide captions where needed (for example, in video)

General guidelines for addressing users with mobility issues

Keep in mind these guidelines when designing your application for people who may have mobility issues:

  • Mobility impaired individuals experience difficulties when using computer input devices and when handling storage media. Make sure that you keep in mind software/design solutions and actions that can be controlled without a mouse or without a keyboard.

General guidelines for addressing users with cognitive issues

Keep in mind these guidelines when designing your application for people who may have cognitive issues:

  • Use a consistent design and simplified language. People with cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia and short-term memory deficit, need general solutions. Details can be confusing. For example, by using a template, you can reuse the same layout and design for each page, so a person with a cognitive disability can more easily navigate through a Web site.
  • People with cognitive or learning disabilities can also benefit from redundant input. An example would be providing both an audio file and a transcript of a video.

    By simultaneously viewing the text and hearing it read aloud, a user can take advantage of both auditory and visual skills to comprehend the material better. Users less familiar with the language of presentation can benefit from the same solutions that benefit those with cognitive disabilities. Cognitive solutions, especially simplified user interface, terminology, and examples, also benefit those who may experience educational or cultural disability. For example, people who are less familiar with computers.