Accessibility is part of ArcGIS

November 28, 2016 George Kouroupis

Discover how to develop WCAG compliant apps with ArcGIS

This is the first part of a continuing blog series dedicated to ArcGIS accessibility. In the US, this accessibility falls under Section 508 requirements, and in Canada, the standard is based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

From Wikipedia, Section 508 was enacted by the US Congress to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals.

Section 508 reinforces Esri's goal of providing software and technology that everyone can access and use. Esri is committed to providing the information you need to evaluate the impact of Section 508 on your geographic information system (GIS) environment. Esri reports the current accessibility status of Esri products using the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).

Canada has adopted WCAG 2.0 as the guiding standard for ensuring web accessibility. Ontario has introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). AODA aligns with WCAG 2.0 as the standard for web accessibility. When discussing accessibility, we will simply refer to WCAG as the guiding accessibility principles.

Integrating accessibility in ArcGIS is an ongoing effort. We understand the need to provide GIS access to people regardless of their abilities. Our goal is to design and implement accessible GIS products and technologies aligned with industry standards.

Esri’s accessibility strategy is to:

  • Develop products, technologies and services that are accessible and usable by as many people as possible
  • Leverage accessibility technologies available in operating systems, web servers and database management systems (DBMSs) when and where appropriate
  • Develop GIS-specific accessibility technologies to enable all people to use and apply GIS
  • Empower customers to make informed choices about the Esri products they use by disclosing products' accessibility capabilities

Screen readers like ChromeVox or JAWS are currently compatible with ArcGIS web apps and ArcGIS Online. There have been many advancements these past few months toward accessibility. The folloiwng Esri blogs also discuss and provide guidance for accessibility with ArcGIS:

WCAG Colour Guidelines
Accessibility Guidelines: Colour Contrast Testing for Configurable Apps

Basic Viewer Support for WCAG
What’s New in Configurable Apps (June 2016)

WCAG for Developers
WCAG 2.0 AA – Top 5 Criteria to Consider as a Web Developer

Comment below if you have any questions or suggestions about accessibility with ArcGIS.  In my next blog, I will discuss the various tools and approaches for building WCAG-compliant apps.

About the Author

George Kouroupis

George Kouroupis is the Director of Technology and Solutions for Esri Canada. His efforts are focused on advising customers and business partners on the latest ArcGIS trends and technologies. With over 35 years’ experience in software development, project management and product management, George takes a holistic and pragmatic approach to addressing customer’s technical and business problems.

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