Disability: most websites are not suitable for the blind and partially sighted

Three hours to buy a train ticket for a 2H17 journey, online grocery shopping full of pitfalls: the vast majority of websites in France are not adapted for people with disabilities, creating an obstacle course for the blind and partially sighted.

Indispensable everyday tools, public digital services and those of large private companies have the obligation to be equally accessible to all citizensincluding people with disabilities, visual, auditory, motor, dysdisorders… But in the absence of sanctions, there are few.

The blind (70,000 in France) and 1.5 million visually impaired listen to a speech synthesis that reads the text on the screen, describes the informational images and provides information about the boxes to be filled in. They can’t see where a mouse is pointing, they use keyboard shortcuts.

“I don’t have a global vision for the page, I decipher it bit by bit”explains AFP Manuel Pereira, responsible for digital accessibility at the Valentin Haÿe Association, which recently brought together the visually impaired and digital professionals for a conference in Paris.

unusable websites

This arduous journey can be interrupted at any time if a box is not coded correctly. “After placing an entire order online, we sometimes end up with a box that is not encrypted. The blind man hears ‘box to be filled’ without knowing whether it is his name, his address or confirmation that he has ‘accepted the terms’”explains Manuel Pereira. “A single point that blocks and the site is unusable for us”

Each site must publish an accessibility statement at the bottom of the page, indicating its compliance with the RGAA (General Reference for Improving Accessibility). It is judged:

  • “coinformed” with a 100% compliance level,
  • non-compliant below 50%
  • partially compliant” between these two levels.

The Élysée site is partially compliant at 74%Ameli, the health insurance site, at 72% and SNCF-Connect at 54%.

Only 11 of the 221 state flagship procedures that can be performed on the Internet and that are listed on the Observatory for the Quality of Online Procedures are “fully accessible” people with disabilities, told AFP Marine Boudeau, head of the digital services design department of the Interministerial Digital Department (Dinum).


The worst ? It’s the Captcha, this mosaic of images that asks you to select traffic lights, for example. Mandatory passage to continue, but dead end for a blind person.

“Buying TER tickets for Burgundy is a headache. The site was not handicapped accessible and I was told they didn’t sell them over the phone as there are ticket offices at the station”explains Céline Boeuf, blindly. Blind people can request assistance or an alternative purchase over the phone, but these are less and less available“Only one race track, Hoora, is handicapped accessible”says Manuel Pereira.

To be accessible, a site must be encrypted from scratch. However, digital professionals are rarely trained on this subject, they noted during the meeting this week.

“You have to test the site with no images, no mouse, no graphic style (colors, font size, etc.). miracle how does it work when i browse this site with my ears and not with my eyes”explains Romy Duhem-Verdière of the high-tech consultancy Octo Technology.

A zoom to enlarge the page, a magnifying glass for a detail: “All technical solutions exist. But since there are no severe penalties, it is not a priority.”she explains.

“Beyond the blind, there are color blind people, dyslexics, quadriplegia and more generally people who are getting older and see their vision decline. A significant part of the population”adds the expert.

“Complain! Create a Bad Buzz on the Internet!”say digital professionals to the blind and partially sighted. “It helps us to face our directions. No matter how much we talk to them about disabled users, they’ve never seen one, it’s a bit of a dahu to them.”


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