Accessible Intranet: Navigate Through Linchpin via Keyboard

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is defined in article 9 of the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and is defined as to:

“... take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.”

To summarize, becoming more accessible means to try and achieve equality. More specifically, it seeks conceptual equality - an equality that is always an essential part of the initial plan. Whether it's software, a building entrance or a kitchen gadget — everything should be designed so that it can be used meaningfully by people with and without disabilities from the start.

Of course, just about any staircase can be converted into barrier-free access afterward. Depending on the situation, however, this may not be so easily feasible structurally or may become quite expensive. What’s much worse: Until then, some people are excluded from using said staircase. It is therefore all the more important that we as a society learn to think in an accessible way, so that situations that disadvantage people because of a disability cannot arise in the first place. Of course, this also applies to software - and therefore also to us as software providers.

Linchpin becomes accessible: keyboard navigation (read access)

Anyone who has already gotten to know Linchpin, the teams behind Linchpin, and/or Seibert Media as a company, knows that we stand for certain values such as fair play, sustainability, (individual) responsibility and teamwork.

With our Linchpin Intranet, we aim to connect people to teams.

Breaking down barriers and achieving inclusion should therefore be very important to us, and actually, it is. However, we have to admit that we started quite late to tackle these issues in a very decisive way. However, we have now done our homework (at least a large part of it - but we are already working on the rest).

We therefore proudly present the first results of our efforts: The Linchpin Intranet Suite is now a social intranet that can be fully navigated with the keyboard in read-only access!

​​linchpin accessibility - 1
(We explain a little further below why Linchpin cannot yet be operated meaningfully with the keyboard in edit mode. tl;dr: Confluence is not quite ready yet).

Skip the boring stuff

A new feature that provides accessibility in Linchpin is the so-called skip links (also called skip navigation links, bypass blocks or skip link navigation).

Skip links can be used to skip over content that appears on each page. Starting with Linchpin Intranet Suite 5.3 and Linchpin Essentials 2.3, you will be asked if you want to skip certain elements (such as the navigation) when tabbing through your intranet.

linchpin accessibility - skip links

This is very convenient because skip links save you an enormous amount of time (and frustration). Elements like navigation menus are usually present on (almost) every single page in the system. So if the navigation (which, depending on the company, can sometimes range from huge to HUGE) has to be "skipped through" manually with the Tab key every time a page is reloaded, it's not surprising that the work and life satisfaction can drop after having to do it for the 5th time on the same day ...

Now, if you navigate to a skip link with "Tab" and select it with "Enter", the complete navigation is skipped and you save 10 to 100 keystrokes per page, for example.

More focus for your intranet

A focus frame is essential for keyboard navigation in software and thus a new feature in Linchpin. The focus frame will show you clearly where exactly in the system you are located. More specifically, it highlights the element that you are currently actively focusing on/have selected via keyboard.

In addition to orientation, this is of course important for the functionality of a system. Let's imagine that the focus frame is missing: you tab a few times within the system, press Enter, and suddenly all kinds of windows and configuration screens start popping up, leaving you with no idea what exactly is happening at first. Selecting the right element at all (let alone doing more complex things like subscribing to news sections you are interested in via macro) becomes a real struggle. In order to avoid such frustrating moments, we implemented a clearly visible focus frame that appears around each element you navigate to via keyboard.

linchpin accessibility - focus frames

Breaking down more barriers in Linchpin

Unfortunately, Linchpin is not yet completely accessible. We're not quite there yet, but we're well on our way. For this accessibility update, we're focusing on keyboard navigation in read-only mode. Of course, we are already actively working on making Linchpin more accessible! Our current goal is to make Linchpin compatible with screen readers.

Linchpin for screen readers

In Paragraph 2, Clause f), CRPD’s Article 9 also states that in order to achieve accessibility in our society, we should aim

“To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information[.]”

Some disabilities affect vision. There are also wide variations of such disabilities: some people see worse than others, and some may not see at all. Screen readers as assistive devices help all of them.
But what is a screen reader? A screen reader is a program that can present content that normally appears as text or graphics on the screen in an alternative way. In most cases, as the name suggests, screen readers read texts out loud.

Alternative texts in Linchpin

Alternative texts (also called alt texts) are texts that can be attached to graphic elements. A graphic can hardly be read aloud by a computer. Unless we tell the software what is going on in the graphic!
Alt texts therefore always fulfill a very clear task: they describe what the function of a graphic element is or what can be seen in the graphic. So, the screen reader doesn’t have to skip the graphic - rather, it knows that text that can be read out loud is available as an alternative to the graphic. In this way, we can guarantee that visually impaired people do not have to endure any loss of information when working in and with an intranet.

linchpin accessibility - alt-texts

With Linchpin Intranet Suite 5.3 and Linchpin Enterprise News 2.19 it is now possible to add alt texts for news teasers. This way you can already enjoy the Dashboard, the most important page of your intranet, as accessible as possible.

Linchpin's compatibility with screen readers is our top priority on the product roadmap. Our developers are working very hard to achieve this goal.

Keyboard navigation in edit mode

In fact, keyboard navigation in edit mode is currently still a barrier. That's because we are dependent on Confluence here, and Confluence itself is also not yet completely accessible. For example, certain elements can't be accessed with the keyboard at all yet, which also imposes technical limitations on us.
However, we are in close contact with a dedicated Atlassian expert for accessibility in Data Center. We will keep you up to date on the newest developments!

Test our newest achievements

At a11y.linchpin-intranet.com, you can follow the current development status of accessibility in Linchpin at any time. Just log in there with the access credentials kholmes/kholmes to get started yourself.

Haven’t seen Linchpin before? You can test our social intranet completely free.

If you'd rather read about the current state of accessibility in Linchpin, you can do so at seibert.biz/accessibilityinlinchpin. On this page, we always keep track publicly of what we achieved already and what’s yet to come. There you will also find a contact form that you can use to get in touch with us.
We look forward to your feedback!


Further Reading