As accommodating users with disabilities gains importance among employers
in both the public and private sectors, SAP is pursuing many avenues to
provide our customers with solutions that meet those users' needs. In
our pursuit of accessibility, we are focusing heavily on the future, taking
steps from the start to build accessibility features into products planned
One of the best ways to prioritize accessibility
into future solutions is to incorporate accessibility into the appropriate
stages in the solution development lifecycle (SDLC). In April of 2001,
the SAP Accessibility Competence Center, together with Global Quality
Management Palo Alto (GQM), began developing tools for development teams
to use in all phases of the SAP SDLC to help achieve the accessibility
of new SAP products. We're excited to note that we used these tools during
the development cycle for R/3 Enterprise (planned for general release
in Q1 2003), and as a result, the accessibility of the R/3 solution is
The three basic stages where accessibility
is considered in the SAP SDLC are: planning, development (which includes
testing), and production (see Figure 1). The Accessibility Competence
Center (ACC) focused first on providing development teams with a high-level
tool for planning for accessibility and checking that the accessibility
plans were carried out. This tool is a handover checklist known as the
Accessibility Plan/Report, which is used in the Solution Production handover
meetings from planning to development and from development to production.
||Tools for Accessibility in SAP's Solution Development Lifecycle
While the Accessibility Plan/Report ensures
that accessibility is taken into consideration during the overall product
development lifecycle, we realized that more was needed to facilitate
the development of accessible solutions that are consistent across products.
For this, the ACC developed sets of tools for ABAP and web-based development
teams. For the ABAP teams, we formulated an ABAP-specific standards checklist
and a set of automated checks of code, along with an intranet site just
for ABAP development. For web-based developers, we produced an implementation
guide and accessibility standards checklists, along with an intranet site
that gives web-based developers a central location for answers to technical
questions and other accessibility-related information.
The implementation guide for web-based
solutions provides developers working on non-ABAP development projects
at SAP with explanations of how to develop code that meets SAP accessibility
requirements. The guide includes sample code, screenshots of properly
coded interface elements, and text formulations for screen readers.
The checklists are designed to help developers
check their code during the development phase. The SAP accessibility standards
checklist for ABAP is designed to assist developers working on new development
in the R/3 backend, while the checklist for web-based solutions guides
developers working on web-based products and the HTML frontend for R/3.
Supporting the ABAP checklist are automated
checks, which flag accessibility errors in ABAP code. Both checklists
are also used during the testing phases, to check whether the resulting
products meet the SAP accessibility standards.
Finally, to be certain that all SAP employees
understand their roles in making SAP solutions accessible during the SDLC,
the ACC and GQM developed the "Ensuring Accessibility" document.
This process guideline details the responsibilities of each role involved
in the development of accessible SAP software solutions.
As a result of incorporating these tools
into the SDLC of R/3 Enterprise, we are proud to say that R/3 Enterprise
has achieved a greater measure of accessibility than any previous releases
of R/3; a significant number of transactions in SAP's flagship product
are now usable by people with disabilities, helping to distinguish SAP
as a concerned provider of accessible ERP solutions.
As SAP continues our efforts in the accessibility
arena, we plan to refine these existing accessibility tools based on the
experiences of the developers and testers who use them, and to develop
additional tools as needed to support accessible development. SAP is concentrating
on making sure that the future will be an accessible one for all SAP users.
Watch for more information from the SAP
Accessibility Competence Center on SAP's accessibility initiatives at
Audrey Weinland first joined SAP in 1989 and has worked for the SAP Accessibility
Competence Center since early 2001. As a member of the ACC team, she is
responsible for supporting SAP in its efforts to develop products and
solutions that are accessible to all users.