Most French websites are not accessible to the blind or partially sighted. However, there are legal obligations to, for example, give the entire population access to information or public services. The warning is regularly issued by the association Valentin Haüy. Recently, she pointed to the low compliance rates of websites that should be an example in the French landscape: for example, the Elysée site is only partially compliant (74%), Ameli, which has health insurance at 72% and finally, who of SNCF-Connect only 54%. Not enough to help France’s 1.7 million visually impaired, including 207,000 blind, according to the Federation of the Blind in France. Faced with this observation, companies have a role to play in the accessibility of their website. How do I get started and why is it important to do this? Answers with Manuel Pereira, Head of the Valentin Haüy Association’s Digital Accessibility Center†
What steps should a company take if it wants to make its site accessible to the visually impaired?
First, it is appropriate for the company to: know the compliance level of his site† The only solution for this is: request an audit by specialized companies† It is necessary to check beforehand whether these companies have the skills to do this and that they call on certified “accessiweb” experts. Atalan, Ideaance, Koena, Tanaguru, Temesis, AccessFirst, Access42 and Fingerprint are the few known and recognized companies in this field.
- For more information about the compliance level of websites, see this article: Disability: Most websites are not suitable for the blind and partially sighted.
Then, at the end of the audit, we can: list the blockages and act to remove them by drawing up a reasonable step-by-step plan† For example, if your site has forms and they aren’t designed properly, visually impaired people won’t be able to fill them out. So you will have to take action to make them more accessible.
The easiest and cheapest for businesses is to: take advantage of a site redesign to include in the tender or specifications the issue of accessibility, which, I remind you, is subject to legal obligations.
Finally, it is also necessary think about putting the declarative mention of accessibility on your homepage : are we partially compliant, wholly or not at all. That way, visually impaired people already know what to expect when they arrive at your site.
How do you explain that certain sites, however essential for French citizens, do not meet the standards?
Because there is no one to check them! In France we have a law that many countries envy, we have a well designed reference system except there is no one to make sure the law is applied. Most companies want to create a beautiful site. We often think that if we include the blind in this creation, the aesthetic will fall by the wayside. However, this is completely incorrect!
We are very good at creating beautiful and fun sites while being accessible. just follow some rules of good practiceit is clean codewhich does not even require much technique but rather to study courses well and think of a good hierarchy of pages† But in France, this idea of universality is not really understood. It could be a matter of culture… You can tell a company that their site is not accessible, they will tell you that it is not their priority, that it is too complicated to set up…
That’s why we ask for a real control authority and more deterrent sanctions (up to 20,000 euros, editor’s note.)† It is also necessary that accessibility is part of the courses in the training for web professions, just like all other subjects. Today, almost all people trained in web jobs have no training in accessibility. The opposite would make a huge difference!
Why is it important to make your site accessible if you are a business?
Making your site accessible also means that you as a business need to increase the number of consumers you reach. In terms of turnover, this is not negligible. For example, right now we’re working with a major US distribution group that has calculated how much money it’s losing with its websites inaccessible to people with disabilities: $1 billion a year.
The economy is therefore an important argument in the accessibility of sites for the visually impaired. Finally, we are consumers like the others with desires for culture, travel or leisure. Leaving them aside in the digital realm means depriving ourselves of a significant economic resource, at least in France, where there are 12 million people with disabilities.
Companies should therefore not hesitate to contact us. We are very receptive to help those who want to improve and to show them concretely the difficulties faced by visually impaired users. For example, during the first incarceration, we arrested Doctolib because they were all out. Since then, they have been progressively moving with us towards greater accessibility.