Since a couple of months I've been following the SharePoint Forums @ MSDN. Most of the time I'm just checking whether there are some new questions on Web Content Management (WCM) in MOSS I could answer. Each day there are posted around 100 new questions, so you could say that SharePoint is a quite popular product and the community is really busy with it.
One of the areas on the SharePoint Forums is Accessibility where people working with SharePoint can ask their questions regarding various accessibility matters. While I've been doing some research on this particular subject for the last few months, and gathered quite a lot of interesting data, it definitely takes my full attention each time there is a new thread posted in that area. I'm really curious about other people's experience with accessibility and WCM in SharePoint.
If you've ever had a look at the Accessibility forum, you might've noticed two things. First of all the Accessible has (almost) the least threads on the whole SharePoint forum (30 threads comparing to for example 520 on Enterprise Content Management and almost 7000(!) on Development and Programming). I'm not really sure how many SharePoint developers out there work with WCM solutions in MOSS (there is no separate forum on that @ MSDN), but if WCM in MOSS is getting as much attention as other SharePoint areas, there should be way more threads in the Accessibility forum, unless...
...unless SharePoint developers already know all ins and outs of accessibility in SharePoint. Well, they don't. Let me quote a few questions from the Accessibility forum @ MSDN:
"Subsites are not accessible from other location"
"Unable to delete AppPool virtual directory"
"Search Usage Report not working in Custom Search"
Guys, are you kidding me? Do you even know what accessibility means? I'm afraid that SharePoint developers don't know what accessibility really is - at least some of them. There is however some good news.
First of all there is a lot of content on the Internet which introduces accessibility. Just type web accessibility in a search engine and you will get tons of information on what accessibility in fact is and what its purpose is.
Another good news is, that Andrew Connell has recently published his book on WCM solution development in MOSS 2007 addressed (among others) to SharePoint developers. While Andrew doesn't provide any turn-key solutions on how to create an accessible web site in SharePoint 2007, he covers the basics of the subject so after reading the chapter, you won't have any excuse not to know what accessibility is anymore.
As a preparation let me tell you what accessibility isn't:
- It is not a SharePoint Feature
- It is not a SharePoint Site Definition nor an Application Template
- It is not a tool you can enable so it will do the magic for you
Accessibility is very important: especially for any publicly available web site. Depending on the business case it might be either required by the law (if the customer is a government organization for example) or by the customer, as soon as he realizes that it will provide him many benefits. One way or another it is definitely something you should know of if you're going to do anything with SharePoint which will eventually be publicly available.