Written by: Francesco Mariani and Afonso Rodrigues
Long before it became law, IBM was committed to making its products accessible. In this article we explain how IBM Social Program Management is continuing this commitment to accessibility through our accessibility strategy and looks at how we integrate accessibility into our development process. Achieving and maintaining an accessible application is a key priority for IBM and the Social Program Management team, we want to:
- Ensure that our products can be used by people with disabilities.
- Contribute to the development of harmonized international standards and government policies for accessibility.
- Enable an accessible and usable solution that adheres to accessibility standards.
- Develop and test with new technologies to improve how our product works for people with disabilities.
- US Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508 amendment 1986, 1998 and revision, 2017). This is is the most comprehensive accessibility legislation addressing information technology.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA – 992)
- US Telecommunications Act (Section 255)
- Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA)
- US Section 503 Affirmative Action (updated in 2013)
- Air Carrier Access Act
- W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 â level A & AA
- WCAG 2.1 level A & AA compliance from 2020
- Revised Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act
- EN 301 549 – accessibility requirements that are suitable for the public procurement of Information and communications technology (ICT) products and services in Europe
Our accessibility strategy
Social Program Management is committed to making its product widely available and accessible, regardless of the abilities of the user.
To achieve this, our team develops formal plans for addressing accessibility considerations at all stages of the design, development, and testing of new features and enhancements. Accessibility verification is integrated into testing and validation procedures.
Accessibility issues that are identified in released versions of Social Program Management are addressed as a priority. Where possible, in the next release. Otherwise, every effort is made to ensure that all accessibility issues are resolved no later than 12 months after the issue was raised.
Legislations, standards, and our compliance
The Social Program Management application is accessible and adheres to accessibility standards and legislative requirements. Accessibility features are provided to aid users with disabilities to navigate the application.
Legislations and standards for accessibility are broad, with some overlap. In the United States, for example, the legislation that addresses accessibility includes the following list:
Legislation like the ADA and the Affirmative Action exist in many places around the world, including Europe and Canada. Moreover, several governments directly refer to accessibility standards in their legislation. For example, Canadian federal government websites specify compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
The Social Program Management product adheres to various international accessibility standards and legislations, including:
To monitor and make accessibility compliance publicly available, Social Program Management records and reports the accessibility conformance in the Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR, formerly VPAT). To see our current and previous ACRs visit able.ibm.com/request.
The report assesses Social Program Managementâs compliance with over 50 checkpoints. The checkpoints revolve around the following four principles:
- Information and user interface (UI) components must be presented to users in ways that users can perceive.
- User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Information and the operation of the UI must be understandable.
- Content must be sufficiently robust so that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
A single recorded issue against any checkpoint results in a failure. The ACR records details of the issues that resulted in the failure.
Integrating accessibility into our development process
Product teams that start thinking about accessibility only when the product is in the testing phase might find it a cumbersome goal, difficult to implement, and time-consuming. This is because accessibility is not something that you can âadd to the productâ at the end. In fact, the opposite is the case. The earlier you consider accessibility, the easier and the more efficient is to make the product accessible and usable to people.
In Social Program Management accessibility is an integral element of our product development process. The following are some examples of this:
- All team members are trained to be accessibility aware and on developing and testing for accessibility.
- Project lifecycle documentation.
- Requirements gathering and design – we include accessibility questions in user research, and in our personas and user scenarios. When we produce early design concepts, we think about how the accessibility standards can be incorporated into the designs. As we get close to development, our user stories include the accessibility requirements for the feature.
- Build, and test.- Developers must apply accessibility principles as they code and test. We ensure that developers and testers are trained and equipped with accessibility skills and that everyone uses the accessibility testing tools.
All teams perform a formal Accessibility Verification Test (AVT), using semi-automated tools and assistive technologies, for example, screen readers, and manual inspection techniques. We have innovated our testing processes to use AI tooling.
- Launch and maintenance, including recording and reporting conformance publicly available ACR. Post-launch, as previously mentioned, we prioritise resolving any Accessibility issues that arise in customer deployments.
During all phases, Social Program Management teams work closely with our IBM Accessibility Focal, the subject matter expert who reviews the design and implementation strategy, and who helps us ensure that we meet the accessibility compliance requirements.
Accessibility topics in the IBM Knowledge Center.
For supported assistive technologies, see IBM Social Program Management Supported Prerequisites.
Social Program Management ACR
If you want to learn more on how we integrate accessibility into our development pipeline or want further information, leave a comment below.