News | July 11, 2017

DLA group learns use of tools to ensure blind, visually impaired users have equal access

By DLA Information Operations

Defense Logistics Agency participants in a recent workshop learned to use special software to ensure blind and visually impaired users can read and navigate web pages easily.

The Web Page Testing Using Job Access with Speech workshop, June 7-8, in Lorton, Virginia, was the first in a planned series of events to familiarize employees with assistive technology.

Through JAWS software, users can read a computer screen through text-to-speech output or a refreshable Braille display.

The DLA Section 508 Office, named for the section of federal law requiring government websites to be equally accessible to users with disabilities, hosted the workshop.

“The 508 Office considers system developers the tip of the spear in the accessibility battle,” said Curtis Williams, the senior 508 representative at the workshop. “Developers have a firsthand opportunity to effect change.”

Williams also noted that building in accessibility from the beginning is less costly than adding it later. In addition, “The accessibility standards have matured over the years, and we want to provide users a training base so they can continue to learn as technology standards mature,” he said.

The 508 Office will soon deploy additional compliance software. FireEyes is a desktop tool software developers can use to check each page of code. WorldSpace Comply is a server-based tool that automatically scans an application to produce accessibility metrics and then suggest ways to improve accessibility.

Although automated testing can offer valuable information, manual testing will always be needed, Williams said, and the workshop gave DLA testers and developers a chance to hone their skills.

In addition, the 508 Office plans to recruit volunteer embedded accessibility managers to help implement the new software and train employees, he said.

These volunteers “will take the knowledge and training back to their teams and train them, kind of like a hybrid trainer,” Williams explained. “We see great benefit of implementing the software in the manner… a win-win situation for everyone.”

The 508 Office will offer the workshop again at various DLA locations beginning this fall. The ultimate goal for DLA is to design content, products and services so that all people, regardless of disability, have equal access to information and services.

Those involved in developing or testing DLA content or applications who are interested in these tools can contact the DLA 508 Office at DLASection508@dla.mil for information about future workshops.