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SAP Is Building Accessibility into Solutions Right from the Beginning

by Audrey Weinland | SAPinsider

October 1, 2002

by Audrey Weinland, SAP Labs SAPinsider - 2002 (Volume 3), October (Issue 4)

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 for development.

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 markedly improved.

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.

Figure 1 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.

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