Browsing the internet in France is challenging for the blind and visually impaired people, as most websites are not adapted to the special needs of this type of users, according to Agence France Press (AFP).
Considered essential tools in our daily life, the digital services provided by the public sector and private firms should be accessible for all people, including those suffering from physical, visual, and hearing impairments. However, the loose accountability made few services commit to these features.
Around 70,000 blind, and 1.5 million visually impaired people in France are supposed to have access to audio reading of texts appearing on the screen, description of images, and instructions about the boxes they need to fill. Given that visually impaired and blind people are unable to see the place indicated by the mouse cursor, they can use the keyboard’s shortcuts.
“I can’t see the entire page, so I hear its content gradually,” said Manuel Pereira, head of digital accessibility at the Valentin Haÿe Association.
But this complex process could stop any minute if the box isn’t coded adequately.
For instance, when a blind person places an order online, they could make all the required steps, but “suddenly reach an uncoded box” that could disrupt the whole process and undermine all their efforts when hearing the sentence “fill the box” without knowing “whether they should insert the name, address, or click approve,” explained Pereira.
“One box of this kind is enough to prevent us from using the whole website,” he added.
Websites should share a statement that describes their compliance level to the public accessibility standards in the bottom of their homepage. A website with a 100 percent compliance rate is “conform”, under 50 percent is “not conform”, and between 50 and 100 percent is “partly conform”. The compliance rate of the Élysée Palace, for example, is 74 percent, the Ameli health insurance website is 72 percent, while the national rail website is only 54 percent.