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Accessibility has presented unique challenges to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) community as a whole due to the range of laws and guidelines related to it, and the rapid pace of changes in technology, and the impact across nearly every aspect of product development from initial design through Support. Learn how Oracle is meeting those challenges below.
The Oracle Accessibility Guidelines are based on the 2017 Revised Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, and the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 guidelines at the AA level (WCAG 2.0 AA).
Oracle is committed to developing new products in conformance with Revised Section 508 and the WCAG 2.0 AA standards to the extent practicable. As new products and revisions are released that conform to the Revised Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 standards, we will publish Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) that use the updated VPAT 2.0 template. Until then we have VPATs that include a table of all of the WCAG 2.0 'A' and 'AA' standards, in addition to the old Section 508 standards. For VPATs that contain only the old Section 508 standards, you may use information from the U.S. Access Board and the WAI to assess the degree of conformance with WCAG 2.0 that our products may already exhibit.
In 2017 the U.S. Access Board announced the Revised Section 508 standard that is based on the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. In 2014, the European Union standard EN 301 549 ‘Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe’ (PDF) was issued in response to Mandate 376, and it too was based on the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Oracle has been an active participant in the development of these guidelines and is closely tracking their progress.
Any standard is subject to some amount of interpretation; see Standards Interpretation for a detailed look at how Oracle addresses specific standards.
Oracle products are tested for accessibility using a variety of techniques including automated tools, expert heuristic review, visual inspection, manual operation, and testing with various AT by both disabled and non-disabled users. We report the outcome of that testing using the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) to create the Accessibility Conformance Report. The VPAT was developed by ITI and GSA to assist Federal contracting officials and other buyers in making preliminary assessments regarding the availability of commercial ICT products and services with features that support accessibility. See Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates for an in-depth discussion of how we use the VPAT, and to locate the VPATs for Oracle products.
Oracle's Accessible Customer Service Plan for Ontario, Canada (PDF) outlines the policies, practices and procedures approved by Oracle in order to meet the obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and specifically Regulation 429/07. Oracle's Multi-Year Accessibility Plan (PDF) outlines Oracle's commitment to compliance to Ontario’s accessibility standards.
We provide this interpretation in response to customer inquiries regarding specific HTML content, particularly when automated validation tools indicate non-conformance. The majority of issues arise from the fact that these regulations and standards were written in 1999 or 2001, and the technology of browsers and assistive technology (AT) has advanced significantly since then. Oracle welcomes the rewrites of both Section 508 and WCAG, which modify or clarify many of the provisions discussed below to take into account technological changes, and we are actively participating on the committees that are effecting those changes.
For brevity, a reference such as '1194.22(l)' refers to provision 1194.22(l) in the Section 508 standards (which can be found at Part 1194 of Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations), and a reference such as 'WCAG 1.0 #6.3' refers to standard 6.3 of WCAG 1.0.
Several HTML tags have no bearing on accessibility, and browsers are known to interpret tags differently. The key point is that the tags related to accessibility must be interpreted unambiguously by the browser and assistive technology. Oracle's HTML may not exactly adhere to a formal grammar for a variety of reasons:
Provided the customer is current on technical support, Oracle will resolve any issue where 'non-standard' HTML impedes accessibility, in accordance with Oracle's standard technical support policies, but Oracle will not necessarily correct 'invalid HTML' that is reported by an automated tool but has no negative ramifications on accessibility.
Some customers have interpreted these standards to mean that any operation that can only be performed with a mouse, such as a double-click, is prohibited. Oracle is committed to providing a rich user experience to all users, and in situations where actions require complex mouse actions such as double-click or drag-and-drop, alternative mechanisms that can be performed with the keyboard only will be provided.
Oracle has encountered many situations where frames were viewed as either being a 'violation' of accessibility standards, or not considered 'proper HTML.' Oracle believes that frames are a legitimate part of HTML, and we only certify with browsers that support them. In our products, frames are properly marked up according to the relevant standards cited. One exception is the use of an iFrame, when it is being used simply to communicate with the server. In this case, Oracle intentionally does not title the frame so as to make the element invisible to the user (just as it is to a sighted user).
Oracle interprets this standard to mean that information ('content') and presentation should be separated. For example, HTML should have semantic markup identifying the information, and an external style sheet should be used to render a particular look and feel. When a user accesses the page with assistive technology, the information must be communicated in a meaningful sequence. However, Oracle does not accept that the product must run with style sheets disabled in the browser, because:
When possible, we will use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) exclusively for layout, but the use of tables for layout purposes does not necessarily preclude an accessible solution, provided they are coded properly. In such cases, Oracle includes an empty summary tag on the table to indicate that it is a layout table as opposed to a data table.
Many plug-ins, such as Adobe's PDF viewer, are now ubiquitous, and are often pre-installed on computers. In some cases, such as with the Oracle JInitiator, the plug-in is shipped with the product and automatically installs itself. Furthermore, providing a link to a site outside a company firewall, or enabling a user to download and install a plug-in, may be in violation of corporate policy. Oracle products therefore will provide links to plug-ins that meet this standard when they are either not considered ubiquitous, or are not shipped with the product.
Many Oracle products provide a link that will move focus to the 'main content' of a page. However, Oracle is also aware that most AT supports a mechanism that allows the user to move to various sections of a page using standard structural markup tags. Oracle may, when appropriate, use this mechanism as a means of accomplishing the goal of this provision.