Have you ever heard of digital accessibility (a11y)? At first glance, it might seem that a11y is designed only for people with impairments. While this is true to a certain extent, there’s more to it than that. This article explores the topic in more detail.
What is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility (a11y) is about designing or making content, websites and web apps accessible, perceivable, understandable and usable for all individuals. Whatever the person’s physical or mental abilities and whether they are elderly, have a motor or speech disorder, a hearing or visual impairment, an illness or temporary disability. Whatever the hardware, software or network infrastructure used, people have a right to access all digital resources available.
For example, it is necessary to take into account the many possible setups, such as browsing with a keyboard alone (no mouse), use of a smartphone, a screen reader, a differently configured browser, and tools such as the magnifying glass or virtual keyboard, to name but a few.
The main accessibility rule to bear in mind, which also holds true for ergonomics, is that whoever the person is and whatever their gender, environment, IT equipment, impairments and related assistance technologies, they must have access to the same content as everybody else.
Ensuring accessibility on a website is essential insofar as it is a human right governed by law.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, tickets, please!”
On the 23rd of September 2018, EU Directive 2102 strengthened provisions already present in France since 2005 regarding a11y for public services. France has gone beyond the directive by expanding the application scope to organisations with a public service remit, as well as by adding a penalty applicable per year and per service.
As of the 23rd of September 2019, without exception, new websites in the French public sector must comply with levels A and AA of the RGAA standard. However, existing websites will have a grace period of one year within which to comply, i.e. by the 23rd of September 2020, in order to take into account the overhaul work required.
It should also be noted that according to a French decree issued on the 25th of March 2016, accessibility must be taken into account in technical specifications for public procurement contracts.
Choosing your destination
With an increasingly demanding regulatory environment, many public sector organisations, including organisations with a public service remit, (and perhaps soon private companies) will be seeking to become compliant.
Over the coming months, the ability to inform organisations and help them understand and meet the compliance requirement could become a crucial strategic challenge. Furthermore, many accessibility experts are already available to assist organisations with compliance.
Are you getting on board or will you watch this train leave the station?
By Nicolas Bocquet, Digital Accessibility Consultant, ISC, Bordeaux, France – SQLI Group