The implementation of best practice in digital accessibility is encouraged or imposed by different national and international legislation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
“To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall 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.”
Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled
The Marrakesh Treaty will allow non-profit organisations to make copies of works in accessible formats (hard copy and digital) for people with print disabilities such as visual impairments or dyslexia, and to share them across borders.
Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
Article 19 : “Without prejudice to the other provisions of the Treaties and within the limits of the powers conferred by them upon the Union, the Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation
“The provision of measures to accommodate the needs of disabled people at the workplace plays an important role in combating discrimination on grounds of disability.”
Directive 2001/29/EC of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society
Member states are entitled to grant exceptions to copyright or exclusive author rights to authorise or prevent copies of their works being made and circulated to members of the public, particularly for “uses, for the benefit of people with a disability, which are directly related to the disability and of a non-commercial nature, to the extent required by the specific disability”. This directive paves the way from a legal perspective for the production and diffusion of accessible copies of books for the print-disabled.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Article 21 : “Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.”
Directive 2002/22/EC of 7 March 2002 on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive)
Directive 2014/24/EU of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC Text with EEA relevance
Article 42 : “For all procurement which is intended for use by natural persons, whether general public or staff of the contracting authority, the technical specifications shall, except in duly justified cases, be drawn up so as to take into account accessibility criteria for persons with disabilities or design for all users.”
Directive 2016/2102/EU of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (Text with EEA relevance)
The directive covers all public sector websites and mobile applications, with some exceptions (such as live broadcasting), refers to WCAG, and requires regular monitoring of websites and mobile applications by member states who will have to produce reports and make these available to the European Commission and the general public.
A letter is addressed to all state services from the French prime minister requesting that “those responsible for public websites be particularly careful to ensure that the information is accessible to all web users, particularly those with a disability or a visual or hearing impairment”.
The Référentiel accessibilité des services Internet de l’administration (Accessibility guidelines for public internet services) is published by the Agence pour le développement de l’administration électronique (ADAE), the state agency for the development of an electronic administration. These guidelines are based on WCAG 1.0 and apply to all public sector websites.
Loi n°2005-102 pour l’égalité des droits et des chances, la participation et la citoyenneté des personnes handicapées (law on equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of people with disabilities)
Article 47 :
“Public online communication services of the state, local authorities or public sector bodies must be accessible to people with disabilities.”
“The accessibility of public online communication services covers access to all type of digital information regardless of the way by which it is accessed, the content presented or the device on which it is consulted. International web accessibility standards must be applied to public online communication services.”
Loi n° 2006-961 du 1er août 2006 relative au droit d’auteur et aux droits voisins dans la société de l’information (law on copyright and related protection in an information society)
The “DADVSI” law of 2006, amended on the 28 July 2011, is a transposition of the European Directive 2001/29 of 22 May 2001. It introduced a copyright exception to support people with disabilities and allows authorised organisations to make and distribute copies of works in accessible formats without prior authorisation from the rights holders. A decree passed on 19 December 2008 fixed the terms of the exception, which mainly concerned people with visual impairments, and the modalities for transferring and storing digital files securely between publishers and authorised adaption agencies. The PLATON secure server became operational in June 2010.
This decree stipulates that public online communication services must comply to accessibility legislation within a period of two years (from the date of publication of the decree) for state organisations and related services, and three years for local authorities and affiliated organisations. The national standard for digital accessibility in the public sector, the Référentiel Général d’Accessibilité pour les Administrations (RGAA) is published by order and fixes the level of accessibility and technical requirements for implementing this standard.
A new version of the RGAA is published by order on the 29 April 2015. This represents a significant update and is based on the AccessiWeb HTML/ARIA standard. A collection of resources are provided to support this new standard.
Loi n° 2016-925 du 7 juillet 2016 relative à la liberté de la création, à l’architecture et au patrimoine (LCAP) (law of freedom of creation, architecture and heritage)
The LCAP law and its associated decrees amend the copyright exception to support people with disabilities:
It now has a broader understanding of print disabilities, and includes learning disabilities such as dyselxia and dyspraxia;
Publishers are required to provide “structured” source files when they have them;
It is possible to share adapted files with organisations from other countries, but under conditions that are more restrictive than those stipulated in the Marrakech Treaty.
Article 106 of the loi n° 2016-1321 du 7 octobre 2016 pour une République numérique (law for a digital republic)
The law for a digital republic includes two main additions to digital accessibility legislation:
- An obligation for all companies with a certain turnover (to be stipulated in a decree which has not yet been published) to make their digital products and services accessible
- Financial penalties that will be applied to any public organisations that don’t display their level of conformity to the national accessibility standard (RGAA) for their online services.
LOI n° 2018-771 du 5 septembre 2018 pour la liberté de choisir son avenir professionnel (law on the freedom to choose one’s professional future)
This law transposes two European directives related to digital accessibility:
- Article 80 transposes directive 2016/2102/EU of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies. The associated decree has not yet been published.
- Article 81 transposes the Marrakech Treaty and makes provision for non-profit organisations to make copies of works in accessible formats (hard copy and digital) for people with print disabilities and to share them across borders.
Décret n° 2018-1200 du 20 décembre 2018 relatif à l’exception au droit d’auteur, aux droits voisins et au droit des producteurs de bases de données en faveur de personnes atteintes d’un handicap (decree on exemption from copyright, related protection and database protection in favour of people with disabilites)
This decree removes a number of restrictions that were imposed in the initial texts. It is no longer necessary for individuals and organisations to seek “prior consent before requesting, adapting and sharing accessible documents with non-profit organisations from other member states”. Organisations are still required to register on a list of state-approved adaptation organisations, even if the decree makes provision for a more simplified process.