Experience Report of a Blind ABAP Developer

By Alexander Kuban , SAP AG, SAP Accessibility – February 18, 2002

I joined SAP in November 1997 doing an internship in the R/2 Service department. My task was to run an ABAP development project dealing with ABAP programming --based on release 3.1I-which would allow for the creation of an automatic version of SAP Hotnews in plain HTML format to be send out to customers.

To be able to access the ABAP Development Workbench, I am using a screenreader which interprets the graphical user interface. For the output, the screenreader contains a speech module that announces the currently focused screen element. Using specific screenreader features, I am able to access every item the window contains--as long as it is included in the tab chain.

As a hardware extension of my computer I have a refreshable braille display, which shows the screen content in Braille. This special display is integrated with the screen reader via a special driver that picks up commands from the screen reader to build up the output.

In the beginning it was a little complicated to get started using SAP applications, because their general design differs from products from Microsoft or Microfocus. I was familiar with these other products because of my training as a programmer.

Because of the difference between SAP products, and the other products I was already used to, my assistive technologies needed to be customized especially for them. However, in most cases, I can do this customization independently with the help of my screen reader. There are times when I need the help of my screen reader vendor to make more complicated adjustments.

With the release of the 4.6 system, the design became more visual. Since the original design was easier for people with visual impairments to use, I recommended that some of the new changes be reversed in future releases. If you need to return to the look of the original design, and you have upgraded to the 4.6 or 6.10 versions of the system, you can change it back using one of the following 2 methods:

  • Use the SAP Configuration icon on the Desktop.
  • Go to the Windows System Settings area of the Windows Control Panel.

When my internship was finished in 1998, I joined the Basis Technology Development group. There I helped work on release version 4.5.

Over the last few years development tools for Windows platforms became more and more visual and so the ABAP Workbench changed its appearance as well. These changes had a strong impact on the user interface for all users of the ABAP development environment which was now designed for a more visual and intuitive use with the mouse as the central device for navigation.

I was able to do my work using the SAPGUIs for Windows by using the menu items. This applied to systems 4.0B, 4.5B, 4.6A, 4.6B, 4.6C, 4.6D and 6.10. To increase functionality, I also used function keys and hot keys.

In addition the ABAP Workbench itself is customizable in some parts to meet the users needs. A user can decide which kind of editor should be launched when he or she works with the ABAP development environment. Depending on the user's preferences the central entry called the Object Navigator or single transactions can be used to do the work.


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