Accessibility is not only about mobility and evolution in the “phisical” environment. The digital space can also be discriminating. In order to be consistent with our desire for an inclusive society, we have chosen to offer a website adapted to the different types of disabilities.
Building an inclusive society also means thinking about all the tools of everyday life that are accessible. However, today, in the digital age, surfing the Internet can be a real headache for some people. Interview with Julie Moynat, web accessibility consultant at Océane Consulting (France).
What does “digital accessibility” mean?
“Digital accessibility is the possibility of access to and use of digital resources for people with disabilities. It is very large because it concerns televisions, mobile phones, computers, software, etc.
In order for people with disabilities to have access to digital resources, they will often use so-called assistive technologies (screen reader, Braille range, etc.). They are technical assistance tools that interpret what is on the screen and reproduce it in different forms (voice, Braille, etc.). There are a number of rules to follow in order for websites to be compatible with these assistive technologies, just as they must be compatible with different web browsers.”
What aspects do you pay particular attention to in order to make a site accessible?
“To make a site accessible, in France, we rely on the RGAA standard which has been developed by experts in web accessibility based on the international standard WCAG (“Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”). It allows, among other things, to pay particular attention to the following elements:
- Perception: images and videos that convey information must have alternatives – textual alternatives for images, subtitles and textual transcription for videos – so that blind and deaf people can access the information; the text must have a colour that is sufficiently contrasted with its background colour so that people with visual impairments can read it well
- Usability: the website’s functionalities must be able to work both with the mouse and the keyboard so that people who cannot use a mouse can navigate; moving content must be able to be stopped so that people with a cognitive or mental disability can read the content
- Understanding: forms must provide sufficient assistance to users so that they can be filled in, avoiding input errors as much as possible and allowing them to be easily corrected if they occur; textual content must be readable and understandable by explaining abbreviations or jargon
- Robustness: compliance with HTML standards (the language used to structure a web page) is necessary to produce robust code that works with all the tools used to navigate the web
This list is far from exhaustive, it is based on the four main principles of accessibility.”
Are there tools that can be used by anyone to ensure the accessibility of a site?
“There are indeed many tools, in different forms, to help verify the accessibility of a site. Automated testing tools are often the most popular because it is easier when it is automatic. There is in particular the Tanaguru tool based on the RGAA (available in paid version or as an open-source to install yourself on a server). By entering the address of a site, it provides test results with the elements in error. Of course, like all automatic test tools, it cannot test everything. But having everything right in this tool already allows you to be on the right track.
Some tools are more specific. For example:
- You can check the hierarchy of titles with the HeadingsMap browser extension (Firefox and Chrome).
- You can check the text color contrasts against the background with the software for Windows and Mac “Colour Contrast Analyser“.
- As for compliance with HTML standards, it is easy to check that a web page does not contain any errors with the “Nu HTML Checker” code validator.
We will always advise, if possible, to be accompanied by a web accessibility expert because, in particular, some tests require checking the relevance of elements. Without being trained, it is often very delicate to be able to judge it.”
Are there still many sites that are not accessible today?
“It is not possible to estimate the proportion of accessible sites compared to non-accessible sites. This data does not exist. Moreover, first and foremost, we must agree on what we mean by “accessible site”. Generally, we will rather speak of compliance according to a standard; for example, a site that complies with the legal level of accessibility in France will comply according to the RGAA at the AA level.
At present, unfortunately, there are relatively few websites, in relation to the overall volume, that comply with the RGAA at the legal AA level in France for example. There are still many public service sites that pose real accessibility problems despite the obligation since french law n°2005-102 for equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship for people with disabilities.
The main problem is that, out of ignorance, a large proportion of people generally think only of their personal situation as a person who sees well and uses a mouse. Yet there are many ways to use a computer and surf the web.”