Simplifying accessibility requirements

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Happy 2021!  To kick off the new year at IBM Accessibility, we had a soft launch of our new IBM Requirements page (formerly known as the IBM Accessibility Checklist).  The IBM Accessibility Requirements are a unified list of requirements that incorporate several accessibility standards and regulations. IBM product offerings, applications, websites, learning materials, and services are expected to conform to these requirements, as are third-party products purchased by IBM for internal use. The requirements fully cover WCAG 2.1, US 508, and EN 301 549 regulations and standards.

The team has been kicking the tires and squashing some bugs, but we wanted to get the word out so that everyone could start using this new simplified list of requirements on their projects – along with the rest of the tools and guidance that make up the IBM Equal Access Toolkit.

What’s New

The language used in regulations and standards needs to be very specific.  They are often written using legalese and contain technical jargon.  This can make it very difficult for not only those new to accessibility, but even experienced professionals.  Our goal with the IBM Requirements has always been to summarize and simplify each requirement using plain language and then provide pointers on how to meet the goal of the requirement.

With this new release we listened to user feedback and made it even easier to find what you need where you need it.  The full list contains 96 requirements!  That can be a lot to sort through and find what pertains to you and your product.  We’ve added filters to make this task much easier.

The filtering allows you to select your Technology:  Web, Software, Documentation for web, Non-web documentation, or Authoring tools.  You can also filter by standards:  WCAG 2.1, US 508, or EN 301 549.  You can select multiple options to really target the exact requirements and guidance specific to your situation.

Filter options for Technology, Standards, and Levels to achieve.

And speaking of guidance, each requirement in the list provides targeted information for Designers, Developers and Testers. Each role can quickly find what they’re responsible for in a requirement without having to wade through unnecessary content. Instead, they’re presented with a succinct, bulleted list of tasks. We’ve heard from our advanced users that this was very helpful in letting them spot check a requirement. Each list item also links back to further guidance in the Equal Access Toolkit for users that need or want to dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of designing, developer or testing each requirement.

Tab groups separate content for Design, Develop, and Test

We also provide the ability to filter the list of requirements by Levels that match the Equal Access Toolkit.  The toolkit divides tasks and considerations into three levels of progression:

  • Level 1: The most essential tasks to perform, normally with the least investment. Completing these tasks will address many of the top concerns of people with disabilities.
  • Level 2: Complete these tasks along with the first level to address the next-most important issues that may keep certain users from fully using your product.
  • Level 3: Completes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) portion of the IBM accessibility checklist.

There too, we arrange the guidance in a way that a user who may be new to accessibility, can follow a guided journey to learn what to do when, for each role. A more experienced user let us say, a Visual Designer, could jump straight to a topic and scan the bullets for each level much like they would a checklist.

We’re keeping this new Requirements page up to date with the latest regulations and standards. In our continued effort to “shift left” and intentionally plan and implement for accessibility, we have also included new EN 301 549 requirements which won’t become the law of the land for 6 months. You will find those additional requirements under the Version filter by selecting “7.2”.

Version filter

We’ve been getting quite a bit of positive feedback from our internal users on the look and feel of the new IBM Requirements page.  They like the simplified language, the ease of filtering, the quick bullet points with links to further guidance, and they can now expand all sections and quickly search the page for topics and keywords.  Just like the Equal Access Toolkit, the Requirements page is open source and free to use for everyone.  We expect that this new page will help you and your teams as you unravel accessibility standards.  We welcome any feedback you have on the page and how we might improve it going forward.

Senior Accessibility Engineer

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