Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, William Schmarzo, Don MacVittie, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud: 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
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...