17 February 2023

​W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 have been in place for several years as a standard for defining how to improve accessibility for people with various disabilities. 

At the January 2023DUG4GOVmeetup, hosted by Microsoft and the Dynamics User Group(DUG), presenters from Microsoft talked about the importance for state and local governments to provide the same level of service online to all their constituents, regardless of their abilities. And they explained some of the ways that Microsoft Power Apps can be developed to conform to WCAG guidelines so people with vision, hearing, and other impairments can successfully use applications.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the average,according to the Accenture report"Getting to equal [is] the disability inclusion advantage," according to Mary Pantelopoulou, a business value engineer at Microsoft who spoke to the user group event.

Governments benefit from ensuring their workers with disabilities have the tools they need to do their jobs, she added. Organizations in the U.S. that support disability inclusion will have access to an additional talent pool of more than 10.7 million people.

"This population represents an enormous untapped talent pool at a time when we are all in need of great talent," Pantelopoulou told the audience.

Pantelopoulou explained that having employees with disabilities across departments helps ensure that a company's products and services are truly inclusive.  Making things more accessible for people with disabilities can also translate into products and services that benefit people without disabilities. For example, home devices using natural voice recognition, such as Alexa, were developed for people with disabilities.

During the presentation, Tim Hanewich, Power Platform Technical Specialist at Microsoft, gave a demonstration of how to incorporate accessibility features into the application development process. He discussed some of the core accessibility properties in Power Platform, like the TabIndex and AccessibleLabel properties. 

The purpose of the AccessibleLabel, he explained, is to enable developers to provide text that a screen reader can read out to help users with visual impairments who are using screen reading software, he said.

Another accessibility property in Power Apps is the Live property, Hanewich said. He explained to the audience that dynamic changes are challenging to visually-impaired users. When visually-impaired users access apps through a screen reader, they are only focused on one part of the app, so they won't be aware of a change that happens in another part of the app. Developers can resolve this issue by adding live regions that screen readers track. So if the content in a live region changes, a screen reader will announce that change to the user.

Hanewich also told the audience about the accessibility checker tool.

"This basically scans your application and points out to you areas where you need to improve it to make it more accessible," he said. "Not only that but it also describes to you why you're doing that, so while you develop your application you are also becoming more knowledgeable and more mindful of how you make your actual application."