The French government’s report on digital accessibility

Fernando Pinto Da Silva, on behalf of BrailleNet and the Fédération des Aveugles de France (French blind union), works to support an inclusive society through the use of accessible digital technologies.

On the occasion of France’s national disability conference held in Paris on the 11 February 2020, the government released its report « L’accessibilité numérique : levier stratégique d’amélioration des services publics numériques pour tous » (improving online public services with the help of digital accessibility). As one of the contributors of the report on behalf of the Fédération des Aveugles de France, Fernando takes us through four key measures announced by the government.

Accessibility

Incorporate digital accessibility into quality control criteria for online public services and monitor the compliance of 250 of these (the most popular) so that 80% are accessible by 2022.

From a technical point of view, this measure is ambitious as only 13% of the 250 sites are reputed to be accessible at present. However, in the eyes of the law, all online public services must be accessible from the outset. Measuring quality through accessibility is a sensible approach, but no online public service is exempt from its legal obligations.

Design

Better equip the teams behind online services to ensure that they develop and maintain accessible solutions.

With more and more solutions available on the market that promise to “fix” inaccessible online services, this is a most welcome measure. At best, these solutions provide a more comfortable user experience on the surface, but by no means do they remedy the underlying technical issues that prevent users from accessing information. Supporting the web teams responsible for developing and maintaining online public services is paramount and the only way to ensure that accessibility is integrated effectively.

Support

Hold workshops to collect feedback from users of online public services.

A series of workshops will be held in spring 2020 that will focus on specific areas of civic life. The first will discuss employment; the Fédération des Aveugles de France will host a workshop to gather feedback from people with visual impairments.

The VoxUsagers platform

Launch VoxUsagers, a platform on which users can flag access problems encountered on public service websites.

Disability organisations have been calling for such a platform for around 15 years. All that remains to be done is to make this platform fully accessible (scheduled for spring 2020), and then users will finally be in a position to report access issues.

Outstanding questions

Beyond these four measures – that few will contend – on reading the 50 measures announced in the Conseil National du Numérique’s report, a number of questions remain unanswered:

  • When will digital accessibility be added to graduate and on-the-job training curricula in the digital sector?
  • Why is digital accessibility not a condition for all public tenders?
  • Which body or agency should cases of legal infringement be referred to?
  • When will French citizens have free access to a French translation of the European standard that applies to all member states, including France?

We are more determined than ever to exercise our fundamental rights while engaging in constructive dialogue with government who, it must be recognised, finally appear to be taking charge of this issue at the highest level.

Fernando Pinto Da Silva

Press release, 11 February 2020 (in French)

Film of Fernando’s contribution during the conference (in French)