CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

Making Software More Accessible for People with Disabilities

                   Making Software More Accessible
                     for People with Disabilities



     A White Paper on the Design of Software Application Programs
     to Increase Their Accessibility for People with Disabilities






                             Prepared by
                     Gregg C. Vanderheiden Ph.D.
                           Trace R&D Center
                   University of Wisconsin-Madison
        in conjunction with Information Technology Foundation
                     (formerly ADAPSO Foundation)

       as a resource document to software developers interested
    in increasing the accessibility of their application programs

                                   

				 Release 1.2
				 June, 1992

                                   
                                   
     
       This White Paper is designed to stimulate discussion on
       the design of more accessible application software,
       leading to the development of design guidelines for use by
       industry.  Comments, corrections, input, ideas, and issues
       are solicited.  Address comments to:
                  Gregg C. Vanderheiden, Ph.D.
		  Trace R & D Center
		  Dept of Industrial Engineering,
		  University of Wisconsin-Madison
		  Madison, WI 53705
		  Internet VANDERHE@vms.macc.wisc.edu
		  Bitnet vanderhe@wiscmacc


                 (c) Copyright 1991 Board of Regents
                    University of Wisconsin System

       NOTE: To facilitate this document's review and use, you are
       free to duplicate and disseminate it freely.  You may also
       excerpt ideas and materials from it freely.  Acknowledgement is
       appreciated but not required.

       However, some of the charts and concepts in this document are
       taken from other authors and publications.  These are so
       marked, and separate permission must be sought directly from
       those authors or publications before use (apart from copying
       this whole document).

                                   

                                   

              Support for this work has been provided by
       the Information Technology Foundation (formerly ADAPSO)
                                and by
  the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research
                               (NIDRR)
      of the US Department of Education under Grant #G00850036.





       The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author
       and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Information
       Technology Foundation, the General Services Administration
       (GSA) or the National Institute for Disability and
       Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

                          Table of Contents



Introduction...............................................
  What Is Meant by Accessibility?..........................
  The Purpose of This White Paper..........................

Part I: Why Make Application Software More Accessible?.....

Part II: What Problems Do People
  with Disabilities Have?  and Why?........................
  Disability has many facets...............................
  Visual Impairments.......................................
     Background............................................
     Functional Limitations Caused by Visual Impairments...
     Difficulties Using Computers and Software.............
     Access to Documentation...............................
  Hearing Impairments......................................
     Background............................................
     Functional Limitations Caused by Hearing Impairments..
     Access to Support Services............................
  Physical Impairments.....................................
     Background............................................
     Functional Limitations Caused by Physical Impairments.
  Cognitive/Language Impairments...........................
     Background............................................
     Functional Limitations Caused by Cognitive Impairments
  Seizure Disorders........................................
  Multiple Impairments.....................................

Part III: What is the Role of Standard Application
  Software Manufacturers in Computer Accessibility?........
  Computer Accessibility: A Cooperative Undertaking........
     The Role of the Hardware and Operating System
       Manufacturers.......................................
     Role of Third-Party Access Manufacturers..............
     Role of Application Software Manufacturers............
     Role of Systems Integrators...........................
       Selection of the Hardware / Operating System
          Platform.........................................
       Selection of Standard Application Software..........
       Accessibility of Training Programs and Materials....
       Ability of Integrators to Set Up
          and Provide Maintenance for Their Systems........

Part IV: What Are Others Doing that
  Application Software Manufacturers Can Take Advantage Of?
  Access Strategies for Individuals with Visual Impairments
     (Available via Platform or Third-party Manufacturers).
     Low Vision............................................
     Blind Access (also used by individuals with low
       vision).............................................
     Advanced Graphic Access Techniques (for GUIs).........
     Braille...............................................
     Input and Control Systems for People with Low
       Vision/Blindness....................................
  Access Strategies for Individuals with Hearing Impairments
     (Available via Platform or Third-party Manufacturers).
  Access Strategies for Individuals with Physical                              
     Impairments
     (Available via Platform or Third-party Manufacturers).

     Modification to Standard Keyboard Devices.............
     Alternate Input Techniques............................

Part V: What Should Application Software Manufacturers Do?
  -- Overview --...........................................
     1) Using an Open Systems Approach.....................
     2) Cooperation with Access Utilities
       and Access Features in the Operating System.........
       Using System Tools and Conventions/Standards........
       Provide Software Access to Commands.................
     3) Designing Software to Minimize the Skills
       and Abilities Needed to Operate It..................
     4) Providing More Accessible Documentation and
       Training............................................
       Electronic Documentation............................
       Print Documentation.................................
       Training............................................
     5) Product Testing with Access Software and Hardware..
     6) Provision of Special Customer Support Lines or
       Specialists.........................................
     7) Provision of Special Developer Support Lines or
       Contact People for Third-Party Manufacturers of
       Access Software and Hardware........................

Appendix A
  Initial Listing of Specific Techniques
  for Increasing the Accessibility of Application Software.

Appendix B
  Resources Available to Help..............................

Appendix C
  A Collection of General Notes on Accessibility
  (with specific comments in relation to
  Computers and Application Software)......................





				Introduction




A variety of federal and state legislative actions, not the least of which is
the Americans with Disabilities Act, have combined with public sentiment
resulting in increasing emphasis on accessibility.  In concert with this
movement, the software industry has been asked to make its products more
accessible to people with disabilities.  This has raised questions among the
members of this industry as to what exactly the problems are, and what
specific types of steps they can take to help make their products more
accessible.  This paper is a first step in an effort sponsored by the
software industry to create materials for themselves which will help to
address these questions.  Since the industry contains both advocates and
skeptics, and individuals who are knowledgeable in this area and those to
whom this is entirely new, this document serves several purposes.  First, it
is a mechanism for those who have knowledge to collect and present that
information which is known.  Second, it is a mechanism to document the
rationale and importance of software accessibility.  Third and most
important, it is a means to disseminate information to and among designers
and policy makers within industry to help them better understand the problem
and what they can do to help ensure that their products are more accessible.


		      What Is Meant by Accessibility?

Accessibility refers to the ability of products and environments to be used
by people.  In this particular context, accessibility is used to refer to the
ability of standard application software to be accessed and used by people
with disabilities.  Although the way people access the software may vary, a
program is accessible to an individual if the individual is able to use it to
carry out all of the same functions and to achieve the same results as
individuals with similar skills and training who do not have a disability.
(For a further discussion of accessibility, see Appendix C.)


** The Purpose of This White Paper

This particular document is targeted toward application software developers.
However, it is not possible to make applications more accessible unless the
basic hardware platforms on which they are running also include accessibility
features.  Thus, understanding "application software accessibility issues"
requires an understanding of the roles that computer manufacturers, operating
system manufacturers, and third-party accessibility developers all play in
making computer systems more accessible.  A key point of this document,
therefore, is to examine the overall accessibility issue, and separate those
aspects which must be addressed by others (hardware manufacturers or
third-party assistive device manufacturers) from those issues which must be
addressed by the application software manufacturers, so that application
software manufacturers can more clearly understand their role in this area.

To achieve these objectives, this overall paper is organized into five
sections, centered around the following questions:

       I. Why make application software more accessible?
                                          1
       II. What problems do people with disabilities have? and why?

       III. What is the role of manufacturers of standard application
       software?  How does it relate to the role of computer
       manufacturers; of operating system manufacturers; and of third-
       party assistive device manufacturers?

       IV. What are manufacturers of computers, operating system and
       special devices doing that application software manufacturers
       can take advantage of?

       V. What could application software manufacturers be doing
       (overview)?

These are followed by four appendices:

       Appendix A: Specific guidelines for the design of standard
       application software that would increase its accessibility

       Appendix B: Resources are available to help

       Appendix C: A Collection of General Notes on Accessibility

       Appendix D: Section 508 Procurement Guidelines

This paper represents the beginning of a process to compile a document (a
software design guideline) to address these and related questions.  Input to
this industry/researcher/consumer cooperative effort is sought from all
interested parties.  Anyone can participate in the process by marking up and
returning a copy of this paper or submitting additional comments, problems,
or ideas.

This cooperative effort is sponsored by the Information Technology
Foundation, a non-profit foundation of the Information Technology Association
of America (formerly ADAPSO), a trade association which includes software
manufacturers, and by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation
Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Office of Education.  The effort is
headquartered at the Trace Research and Development Center of the Waisman
Center and Industrial Engineering Department at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do
not necessarily reflect an official position of the Information Technology
Foundation, the General Services Administration (GSA) or the National
Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).