Welcome!

Websphere Authors: Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Sanjeev Sharma

Related Topics: Websphere

Websphere: Article

Make All Available to All

Achieving accessibility in WebSphere applications

As your company makes more of its applications available on the Web, you will need to determine the level of accessibility for each of those applications. The term accessibility describes how IT hardware, software, and services address and/or neglect the needs of a user community, including users with disabilities. To achieve this aim, accessible applications often include or interface with assistive technology such as screen reader software, voice recognition, screen magnifiers, and special keyboards.

For WebSphere Web- and applet-based applications, accessibility compliance is primarily a consideration of user interface design:

  • Information should not be lost when using an alternative presentation, such as with assistive technology (e.g., processing images with text-to-speech software).
  • Site navigation and input controls should also be available in non-default usage scenarios (such as keyboard-only access).
  • The overall user experience should not be a diminutive one for users with disabilities - resolve problems of information loss, inaccessible controls, and layouts that may be frustrating or long-winded from different views.
Users today expect higher levels of convenience and ease of use from software applications. However, wider adoption of the technology by new demographic groups, such as older users and special-needs communities, leads to new requirements of the software for accessibility. These requirements go beyond enhancements of convenience and constitute functional changes. Software compliance may address the needs of those with limitations of dexterity or mobility, vision impairments, loss of hearing, eye/hand coordination problems, and cognitive disability. Consider that images flashing at a certain frequency can incite epileptic seizures in some users; this is an example of why accessibility factors need to be taken seriously.

Some of the measures that address special-needs users include:

  • Text-to-speech synthesizer software for visually impaired users
  • Greyscale mode and high-contrast settings for color-blind users
  • Keyboard-only alternative for users with limited hand usage
These few examples of functionality are detailed in government standards for accessibility. The most commonly referenced standard is Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, which places a requirement on all U.S. federal agencies to use products and services that are accessible to people with disabilities. Similar directives exist in the EU, Japan, Australia, and across the globe.

Assistive Technology
Assistive technology includes software and hardware solutions such as screen reader software, voice recognition, screen magnifiers, special keyboards, and wireless communications. IBM provides screen reader software called Homepage Reader which is available as a beta download. Another example of assistive technology is the MS-Windows NT/XP operating system Accessibility Options (see Figure 1). These are reached via:Start Menu -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Accessibility Options.

These options include:

  • Settings for cursor flashing
  • The enabling of special keyboard settings such as StickyKeys, Filter Keys, ToggleKeys
  • The settings for high-contrast mode, including different larger and bolder fonts, combined with customizable background/foreground color schemes
Figures 2 and 3 of the same Windows XP desktop illustrate the effect of high-contrast settings.

As shown in Figure 3, the application's background has become black and many of the fonts are now bolder and larger. The font settings are adopted from the new system settings. Note that the figures include a Web page in Internet Explorer 6.0 and windows from MS Outlook and MS Word applications. All of these applications converted properly to the high-contrast settings, but this is not guaranteed to be the case.

Readers are encouraged to try out these settings and explore how different software packages and applications are affected. The results will vary according to software and version, and depend on whether or not it ignores or blocks Windows systems settings or overloads functions such as special keys. In general, the software needs to support these APIs explicitly, so it is not safe to assume it will be accessible by default.

Web Design Considerations: HTML
The main focus of accessibility considerations for Web applications is on how the content is presented using HTML, stylesheets, JavaScript, and media content. This is irrespective of whether the rendered pages are static or are created using dynamic server-side technology such as Servlets, JSPs, or Windows ASPs. Since it is the final product rather than the creation process that is key, the principles will apply to different types of architectures. This article focuses on WebSphere applications.

Clean Up the HTML
Many browsers are flexible in accepting HTML that does not meet HTML and XML standards. You cannot assume your rendered HTML meets specification even if it looks acceptable in the predominant browsers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape. The HTML needs to be cleaned up; assistive HTML readers do more than handle basic presentation and therefore require a coherent base to interpret. They are not as flexible in handling unstructured HTML as are normal browsers.

Here are some areas that will need to be addressed:

  • Add missing HTML end tags. Single tags such as <br> also require an end tag, as per XML guidelines.
  • Avoid uppercase HTML tags. XML is case sensitive so use lowercase tags only.
  • Use quotation marks in tag parameters.
Such changes will appear trivial at first, but if these formatting issues permeate most of the site's pages, a seemingly simple task becomes a large and tedious project.

There are tools to assist with the HTML cleanup work that automate fixing problems such as those highlighted above. IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer 5.1 provides a facility to clean up HTML and JSPs. The "Cleanup" function is available via Web Perspective -> select HTML/JSP > right-click Cleanup Document (see Figure 4).

Clean Up the Forms
Before using automated tools to clean up the HTML, first check the format of forms. This requires a manual process, otherwise, if the HTML is reorganized by a tool (e.g., WebSphere Studio -> Cleanup Documents -> Insert Missing Tags) and form tags are moved around, you will likely lose information that is intended for submission to the server, which will break the application's functionality.


More Stories By Max King

Max King, based in Prolifics' London office, has extensive experience delivering WebSphere solutions for clients worldwide, including JP Morgan Chase, NYSE, Wal-Mart, Lufthansa, BNP Paribas, MetLife, Honda, and Hertz. As a senior member of the Prolifics WebSphere Consulting Division, he specializes in J2EE architecture and best practices, application development and deployment, production 'crit-sit' support, production readiness assessments, application migration, and messaging and integration.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.