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How to design for digital accessibility in Salesforce

June 06, 2019By

From Victoria Tang, a Tractionite with firsthand experience

As a person who is hard of hearing, I live every day with the awareness that everyone in the world has different abilities. One aspect of my work that I'm passionate about is improving digital accessibility for users of Salesforce. Thanks to the diversity of our client base, I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to use my technical know-how and design skills to build a Salesforce solution that is accessible to everyone, regardless of differences in perception, motor ability or cognitive ability. When you take the time to make your Salesforce system accessible, you're opening your system up to a larger, more diverse user base.

What is digital accessibility?

When determining if your system is accessible, consider how well users can perceive (see and hear), interact with and understand your system. The international standards for accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, indicate that your system should be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. In plain terms, this means asking important questions:

  • Can you see and hear the content?
  • Can you click on a button even without a mouse?
  • Can you identify a warning even if you can't see the screen or hear the audio?
  • Can you use other technologies with your system, such as screen readers (software that will read out what is on the screen)?

How does Salesforce help with digital accessibility?

Salesforce includes many accessibility features in its software. These features can be under the hood, like making sure your custom code uses attributes that are specified in international standards, or visible to users, such as ensuring that all standard font colours and sizes also meet these standards.

Salesforce also publishes a pattern library to help developers use best practices in design. The pattern library includes both the “why,” explaining the use case for building a feature in a certain way, as well as the “what,” in specifying the elements that need to be built or configured to produce behaviour that will feel familiar to end users. So that might mean understanding that the three-line hamburger button usually indicates a menu of some kind.

Are My Colours Accessible? is a nifty online tool that allows you to test your font design.

The Salesforce community includes groups that you can connect with to learn more about accessibility from the people who actually use and develop Salesforce. There are Power of Us Hub groups like Admins with Disabilities and Differently Abled Admins.

Salesforce itself has an accessibility team that publishes public resources. Personally, I enjoyed the podcast episode “How to Build Accessible Apps,” which features two examples of accessibility in action. One is the inclusion of a screen reader demo, during which you can hear how the screen reader interprets non-text information (such as a heading level) at the same time that it reads out the actual text; for example, the title of this blog section would be spoken aloud as, "How does Salesforce help with digital accessibility, heading level two." The other example of accessibility is the podcast is accompanied with a transcript, which is fantastic for hard-of-hearing people like me.

How can you test for accessibility on the web?

The best way to test for accessibility is to test your system with as many different users as possible. Real users will give you feedback on what works or doesn't, and they can provide insight into what has worked for them in the past.

If you don't have a defined user base at the ready, you can try it out for yourself! There are a few easy ways to test your system:

  • Unplug your mouse and see if you can navigate Salesforce entirely with a keyboard. This simulates assistive technologies like screen readers. As a bonus, it also indicates how well your system works with a keyboarding power user.
  • Set your monitor to grayscale. Do your dashboards still make sense? Can you read all of the different inputs and system messages, like error messages?
  • Turn your zoom down to simulate low vision. Do you understand what's significant on a page layout? Do you know where you can fill out each field, and can you click into the field you want?
  • Mute your videos. Do you still get the gist of the content or are you—and any other hearing-impaired users—hooped?

Why build for digital accessibility?

Building for accessibility isn't just the right thing to do, it's also one of the smartest. Building for users with specific needs is an excellent motivator to build exactly what you need—no more, no less—and to consider the user experience holistically, which will benefit all users.

Stay tuned for part two of our accessibility series

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