Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

We helped make RNIB’s intranet accessible for blind and partially sighted users.

What was the challenge?

We helped make Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) intranet accessible for blind and partially sighted users. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the UK’s leading charity offering information, support and advice to over two million blind and partially sighted people. Among its many services, RNIB offers accessibility consultancy and training and has pioneered accreditation for websites that are accessible to blind and partially sighted users. As part of RNIB’s work to remove barriers to information for people with disabilities, they wanted to provide improved services for customers and staff through their website and intranet.

RNIB wanted their intranet to serve as the prime source of knowledge and information and a key channel for internal communication. It was also important that blind and partially sighted staff could upload content to the RNIB website, including text, images and web parts. But most of all, the new sites needed to meet RNIB’s stringent ‘Surf Right’ accessibility standards. These are more demanding than regular Web Accessibility Inititative AA standards and had never before been achieved with Microsoft SharePoint. In terms of development, this was one of the biggest challenges Content and Code has ever faced.

“An intranet is key to good internal communications and knowledge sharing. An accessible solution was essential to us, so by adapting Sharepoint, we have an intranet that can be used to its full potential by all staff. It is growing daily in popularity.”

Fiona Batchelor, Head of Publishing and Internal Communications at RNIB

The solution

Content and Code worked with RNIB to redevelop and redesign their website and intranet. The result was the first-ever SharePoint implementation with accessible content management features.

Intranet: ‘iSite’

The new RNIB intranet is called iSite and features a more powerful search engine that is able to find information, no matter which document library or database it is stored in.

We delivered iSite with a multitude of additional features. These included:

Discussion forums where users can share information and opinions
A corporate directory tied directly to the HR system
The capacity to display very small or very large resolution screens, with expanded and contracted views to help users.
A more flexible home page where content managers can quickly publish daily news headlines
RNIB website

SharePoint Accessibility Solution

Our Solutions Architects designed a SharePoint Accessibility Solution (SAS) that works with SharePoint. For the first time, blind and partially sighted staff are able to use the website’s content management system.

SAS represented such a leap forward in SharePoint accessibility that, in recognition of our achievement, we were named 2010 Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year for Enterprise Content Management.

Accessible web parts

SharePoint drag and drop web parts are unfortunately inaccessible to blind and partially sighted users out of the box. To solve this problem, we created web parts that can be added to a page using drop-down menus.

Accessible Rich Text Editor

One of our biggest technical challenges was creating a Rich Text Editor (RTE) for adding content that was accessible to both blind and partially sighted users. The problem with existing RTEs is that screen readers treat them the same as they do regular web pages. That is, they read the page as though it is there to get information from, not put information into.

To solve this problem, we teamed up with SharePoint accessibility experts Telerik to implement an editor-accessible RTE that could be operated with shortcut keys.

“Content and Code listened to our needs intently, particularly around balancing accessibility and usability of the back end of the system. They rose to the challenge of meeting our strict accessibility criteria. Users can meet other blind people on the website. There are discussion forums that they can take part in. And they can add events to the event calendar and arrange to meet.”

Kelly Harrison, Web and Digital Marketing Manager

The results

iSite users can enjoy most of the benefits offered by SharePoint regardless of their disability. This accessible platform provides RNIB with a central hub for communication and knowledge sharing, enabling all staff to support themselves in their daily work.

RNIB can now be more productive by making use of different SharePoint features that have all been made accessible, including shared documents, lists, forums and meta data.

RNIB are also delighted with their new website. They’ve had lots of positive feedback about the design and ease of use, particularly from their trustees.

RNIB website editors find the content management system easy to use. They can make pages stand out by adding extra web parts, and they like the enhanced flexibility it gives them.

RNIB have recently made further developments, adding social networking features for people with disabilities and developing microsites for funding drives and other campaigns. The new website has given them a solid foundation on which to do this.