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Microsoft Dynamics CRM and compatibility with WCAG 2.0

Introduction

I am currently working on helping one of the Australian Government departments implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016. One of the requirements is that the project should be fully WCAG 2.0 compliant. This was new to me and I struggled to find any particularly useful information, so I set about writing this article. This article is a composite of material about WCAG, general accessibility and Microsoft Dynamics CRM as well as some results from our project.

One of the requirements for this implementation of Microsoft CRM is that we use no code, (other than for integration with the external data) and only use configuration in meeting the CRM requirements. The department in question has also elected to use Microsoft CRM Online for the project, which introduces some additional complexities.  I blogged about some of challenges specific to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online here. and more recently with a stronger focus on licencing here.  

Does an implementation of Microsoft CRM need to be WCAG compliant?

According to the Web Accessibility, National Transition Strategy, WCAG 2.0 is applicable to all online government information and services. Conformance is required on all government websites owned and/or operated by government under any domain. This includes external (public-facing or private) and internal (closed community) sites. That is, conformance is required for all internet, intranet and extranet sites. A website is defined by Wikipedia as "a collection of related web pages, images, videos or other digital assets that are addressed with a common domain name or IP address in an Internet Protocol-based network. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via the Internet or a private local area network".

Along with the structure and navigational elements of a website, all information that is required under the jurisdiction's website policy is included within the scope for upgrade to WCAG 2.0. Federal government agencies should be guided by the Web Guide's Online Content Requirements7. At a minimum, the following information should always be up to date and conform to WCAG 2.0:

  • contact details;
  • information about the organisation, including its role, legislation, administered functions, structure, key personnel and services;
  • current information that will help citizens to understand their responsibilities, obligations, rights and entitlements (benefits, etc.) in relation to government assistance;
  • current public notices, warnings and advice.

My interpretation of this is that a CRM solution, which is used by internal people, and not for the functions listed above, strictly, does not need to be WCAG compliant. However, it is obviously better if it is compliant, in line with the Australian Government's desire for equal access to employment for people with disabilities.

What is WCAG?

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet.  Their aim is to make information on the internet available to everyone.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web "content" generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:

  • natural information such as text, images, and sounds
  • code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities. WCAG 2.0 identifies techniques to create and manage web content (i.e. dynamic and static textual, visual, or audio electronic information) in ways that are more accessible to people with disabilities – for example, through assistive technologies like screen readers. Websites that are more accessible are also generally more user-friendly to everyone.

The difference between WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 is a change in focus from technological and code-specific guidance to user-centric guidance, based on four principles of accessibility. Rather than just meeting specific technical criteria (e.g. noting how tables should be marked up in HTML), WCAG 2.0 stipulates that content should be 'perceivable', 'operable', 'understandable' and 'robust'.

Under these four principles, there are twelve guidelines that further clarify the purpose of each principle. Each guideline has a number of success criteria, which provide a means for checking conformance to each guideline. As the success criteria can be used with different web technologies (e.g. HTML or JavaScript), there will be multiple ways in which a website could prove its WCAG 2.0 conformance. However, a failure against any success criterion would result in a failure for that level of conformance.

Who is WCAG intended for?

WCAG is primarily intended for:

  • Web content developers (page authors, site designers, etc.)
  • Web authoring tool developers
  • Web accessibility evaluation tool developers
  • Others who want or need a standard for web accessibility

Related resources are intended to meet the needs of many different people, including policy makers, managers, researchers, and others.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging.

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. The document "How People with Disabilities Use the Web" describes how different disabilities affect Web use and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using the Web.

Millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Currently most Web sites and Web software have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use the Web. As more accessible Web sites and software become available, people with disabilities are able to use and contribute to the Web more effectively.

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with "temporary disabilities" such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging. The document "Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization" describes many different benefits of Web accessibility, including benefits for organizations.

WCAG for Australian Government web sites

The Australian Government has endorsed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 for all government websites.

Advice on how to meet the new standard, including the full scope of the upgrade, is detailed in the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS), published on the Department of Finance (Finance) website.

Accessibility requirements for websites are mandated under government policy, legislation, and through whole-of-government commitments.

WCAG and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

As part of my research for this article, I put a call out on Linked In and got no response.  From this, I concluded that there is little information about the specifics of WCAG and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

When considering any application like Microsoft CRM, it must be remembered that very few implementations are completely vanilla. If problems are found, they may be in configuration or customisation rather than the core product. For my research, I was able to use a solution where we have only used configuration, and none of the problems are within aspects of the configuration that we can change.

I have also used an automated WCAG checker on our configured version of Microsoft CRM.

I was able to find VPATs, Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, for several versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM including Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016. A VPAT is a standardized form developed by the Information Technology Industry Council to show how a software product meets key regulations of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Act requires all agencies and departments of the U.S. federal government to make electronic information and technology accessible to federal employees and members of the public with disabilities. The requirements of the section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act are, understandably, very similar to the Australian requirements. However, in summary, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 is largely compliant with a few exceptions. These exceptions are:

  • Workflow editor,
  • SLA/Email to Case editor,
  • Routing Rules editor,
  • Interactive service hub,
  • External party access,
  • CRM for Outlook,
  • CRM App for Outlook
  • the sample application for the Social Care generic framework.

The Workflow editor, SLA/Email to Case editor, and Routing Rules editor are used by implementers rather than every day users and so should be something that a project team can manage.

The Interactive service hub, External party access, CRM for Outlook, and CRM App for Outlook are optional aspects of CRM and so could be avoided by certain users if necessary. The vast majority, if not all, of the functionality offered by these components is otherwise available using a browser.

When I ran an automated Web Accessibility checker over our version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016, it found 5 known problems, 0 likely problems and 131 potential problems. All the problems that it did find were not features that we could change – they were within the core product.

If you would like to see the detailed results of the AC Checker or the Microsoft CRM 2016 VPAT, please contact me.

References

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview - https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 - https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

Introduction to Web Accessibility - https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php

Web Accessibility, National Transition Strategy: The Australian Government's adoption and implementation of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/wcag-2-implementation/docs/wcag-transition-strategy.pdf

Section 508 VPATs for Microsoft products - http://enterprise.microsoft.com/en-us/industries/government/section-508-vpats-for-microsoft-products/

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