In the previous part of this blog, we had a first look over SAP Accessibility Expert Nicole Windmann’s shoulder. In this second part, Nicole tells us about the work she and her colleagues do regarding SAP Fiori and accessibility.
Nicole, how does accessibility play a role in design and user experience?
On the design side, our team is part of Global Design which considers the topic already from the start. On the technology side, our team works closely together with SAP Fiori Technology SAP UI5 so that technology also supports accessibility. In the end, all units collaborate: design, framework, and application development to come up with a delightful and accessible user experience.
There are several factors when it comes to accessibility and user experience. Not only is visual design an important factor, but also user interaction design plays a key role. A change in the technology, also if it is visually not obvious, often leads to a change of the keyboard and screen reader behavior which might lead to issues.
What can be improved in the design and development process?
I think making individuals more aware of accessibility is one of the things that can be improved. For example, accessibility makes usability better. Also, communicating that accessibility does not always mean additional efforts or resources. If you think about it from the start, for example, colors, font resizing and sufficient contrast can be easily adapted. Using SAP frameworks minimizes efforts for keyboard and screen reader support. The fewer custom controls used, the lower the adaptation efforts for accessibility later.
The reason why we need to work on more awareness is that if you study computer science, you often don’t learn about accessibility. We need to educate new designers and developers about accessibility. We have to communicate that it’s not only for a minority of users. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Many users need accessible software. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were more than 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide in 2014, and each one is an individual story. The number of people who require accessible software is likely to increase due to the simple fact that employees retire later; accessibility also encompasses impairments that occur due to getting older.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced?
In a big company, units often do not know much about each other, and this is sometimes challenging. Part of our team’s position is to bring these units together. You cannot solve things on your own, collaboration and communication are key; this is how we work.
Also, certain impairments require the support of assistive tools to access and operate an application. The interaction between assistive technology, browser, SAP technology framework, and SAP application can make pin-pointing where issues lie difficult, and is resource intensive. There are different ways to implement accessibility and we need to publish how we did it.
This is why end user documentation is very important, especially for screen reader and keyboard support. If a product uses different technologies that influence the user interaction or screen reader behavior, the user needs support to handle this. Otherwise, the user experiences a trial-and-error situation which is time-consuming and cost-intensive.
In what direction is SAP Fiori heading in terms of accessibility?
SAP Fiori is heading for accessibility – from a design and framework perspective. Accessibility in the context of business software with its complexity regarding functionalities and controls challenge our designers and developers. Since external requirements are mostly written for websites, we, as the experts, have to think about the content and the realization of requirements together with the designers and developers. There are numerous ways to realize one single requirement, and our customer may prefer a different adaptation than us. SAP Fiori’s approach to simplicity is a good one, also regarding accessibility. SAP UI5, the SAP technology used to implement SAP Fiori, takes accessibility into consideration and also provides documentation about accessibility aspects.
What makes you excited about your job?
I love this job. Accessibility deals with individual stories. Our efforts help people to be more included and make their life easier. I also like the close cooperation and discussions of our team with the colleagues who bring accessibility to life with their design and development.
My job is very multifaceted, and I still learn new things. I see all this commitment for this topic from colleagues all over the company. We always have new challenges. I know, nobody likes the word, but it is challenging. IT is such a fast business, and the market changes rapidly. Changes in devices, operating systems, or technologies influence accessibility, and we have to think about new ways to implement accessibility.
Nicole loves playing the piano and spending time with her family and friends. She enjoys visiting inspiring places, trying out new food and going for a run. Interested in learning more about accessibility? Take a look at Nicole’s blog.