Desktop Software Standards

By Jim Fruchterman's Outline, this is number 5.3.2.

These standards are based on the "Requirements for Accessible Software Design," Version 1.1, March 6, 1997, published by the Department of Education:

The best first step towards providing accessible applications is to use platform supported tools that promote accessibility.

1 Keyboard Access

1.1. All actions required or available by the program must be available from the keyboard (i.e., keyboard equivalents for all mouse actions).

1.2. The software must provide logical interaction with interface objects (logical tab order between buttons, lists, etc.).

1.3. Assigned keyboard access (e.g., Ctrl+P for Print, Escape for cancel) must be provided for commonly used objects.

1.4. All keyboard access shall be documented with the product and/or follow documented operating system conventions.

1.6. The software shall not interfere with existing accessibility features built into the operating system (e.g., Sticky Keys, Slow Keys, Repeat Keys).

1.7. If timed responses or timed instructions are used by the software, then it shall allow user adjustment of response time to be at least 5 times average response time.

2. Object Information

2.1. Provide a well defined visual focus indicator that moves among interactive objects as the input focus changes. This focus indication must be programmatically exposed to assistive technology.

2.2. Assistive technology must be able to determine enough information about user interface objects to be able to understand their use (e.g., object is a text box with label "enter password," or a check box which is checked).

3. Icons

Definition. An Icon is an image representing an object or the state of an object. Interacting with an icon representing an object usally opens or runs that object.

3.1. There has to be a way for assistive technology to associate text with icons by, for example, having text next to icons (see the desktop icons in Windows 95) or making text available as text pop-ups, tool-tips, or bubble help.

3.2. The use of icons shall be consistent throughout the application (e.g.,use the same folder icon or the same icon to indicate 'selected' if such is used in several places in the application).

4. Sounds

4.1. Provide a visual cue for all audio alerts.

4.2. Wherever and whenever information is presented in audio format, it shall be capable of being displayed by the user in text format, either as closed captioning, a pop-up window, or other means, in parallel and/or in synchrony with the audio content.

4.3. Allow the user to disable sound and adjust the volume.

5. Display

5.1. Provide text through an API (application programming interface) supporting interaction with assistive technology or use system text drawing tools. The minimum information that must be available to an assistive technology is text content, text input caret location, and text attributes.

5.2. Do not use color coding as the only means of conveying information or indicating an action. The software must provide an alternative or parallel method of displaying information that can be used by individuals who do not possess the ability to identify colors.

5.3. Provide a wide variety of color and font settings. Inherit and respect system-wide color settings.

5.4. If patterned backgrounds behind text or graphics are part of your product, allow users to turn that feature off.

6. System startup and failure

6.1. System startup and restart must be accessible without the need for assistive technology.
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