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August 25, 2023

Why is digital accessibility an asset for your website?

What if digital accessibility is more than circumventing everyone's limitations? What if we thought in terms of capabilities, rather than disabilities to achieve an ideal of inclusivity on the web? Physical or mental disability, whether temporary or permanent, but alsonumerical precariousness or illectronism

are much more than challenges to be met or shortcomings to be overcome. They offer an enriched vision of the user of digital tools, which leads to a better experience for all those who have screens and want to be connected. And what is good for society is good for MY society. Why? Because the audience is significantly broadened, and we are talking here about millions of people who remain to be welcomed into the virtual space. In collaboration with AFNOR, Ferpection contributed to the development of a good practice guide for e-inclusivity. This topic is close to our hearts, so this is why it is urgent to make their services accessible to all.

Digital accessibility or inclusivity, users or consumers: what are the differences ?

The small differences of terminology between digital accessibility and inclusiveness, or between user and consumer have a reason for existing: they reflect the desire to deepen the approach of universality of the digital world.

What is accessibility ?

Accessibility from a technological point of view means meeting the standards dictated by legislation that promotes equal rights and opportunities. This requires Internet, telephony and TV companies to offer alternative ways of benefiting from their services for all those who would be prevented from taking a conventional route to do so. This would be for example the setting up of voice commands on a telephone, tablet or computer for a person unable to use their hands for any reason whatsoever: motor disability, loads to be carried, distances too far from devices. There could also be audio descriptions of films on TV for a temporarily or permanently blind or visually impaired individual. In summary: accessibility mainly solves problems of inaccessibility.

The concept of inclusivity

Digital inclusivity goes beyond accessibility. Above all, it is a question of not excluding anyone. It requires all existing scenarios to be taken into account from the beginning of the project. As part of UX research, this would involve, for example, welcoming representatives of all ages, genders, backgrounds and physical conditions into a panel of beta testers. It is more a matter of designing a service so that it is within everyone's reach, rather than first shaping it for a standard user profile and then adapting it to a minority population. We then rely on all the available capacities of a user so that they can use the useful resources at their convenience. Thus, the interface of a website can offer different settings of size, contrast, colors, brightness, give sound indications or take into account voice instructions. It can be viewed in a light version or offline for areas poorly covered by random connections, or even non-existent as in the case of digital deserts. When a service is multidimensional and versatile it becomes truly inclusive, even innovative.

1 in 3 Internet users encounter difficulties using the Internet autonomously, due to the lack of interfaces adapted to their needs.

Source: Facil'iti

User, utilizer, consumer

In the same concern for further reflection, the difference between utilizer and consumer must be taken into account, which the English term “user” can do without since it brings together the two senses. This implies a more complete experience and a more global vision of the interaction between a person and features that are useful to them.

Accessibility according to French law

In 1980, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in the United States. It protects Americans against discrimination based on disability. This law has inspired many other countries, including France, which has made  accessibility a legal obligation. Legislation has evolved according to various national and international movements:

  • In 2005, the Act on Equal Rights and Opportunities, Participation and Citizenship of Persons with Disabilities, known as the Disability Act, forced public services, inter alia, to make all types of information accessible to anyone with a disability.
  • In 2006, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) required an effort to be made by member states to ensure equal access to information and communication systems and technologies.
  • In 2009, the RGAA (General Accessibility Reference System for Administrations) was created and it stipulates sanctions in the event of non-compliance with its recommendations.
  • In 2010, the EU (European Union) launched the European Disability Strategy, the strategy for the rights of people with disabilities.
  • In 2016, the Digital Republic Act required administrations to make their compliance with accessibility rules public.
  • In 2019, Decree No. 2019-768 required French private companies with more than €250 million in turnover to provide accessibility tools and adapted web content. A declaration of conformity becomes mandatory.

In the same year, the RGAA was published in its 4th version and changed its name to become the General Repository for Improving Accessibility. It therefore no longer concerns only administrations and it incorporates:

  • the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for web standardization;
  • the European ICT standard (Accessibility Requirements for ICT products and services), which lists the accessibility criteria for digital products and services.

There are also other accessibility standards that refer, such as AccessiWeb, Opquast or AFNOR's guide, and good practices for digital inclusivity, quoted at the beginning of this article and developed with the participation of Ferpection.

Why don't we talk about UX for Good ? In the video below, Thibault Geenen, CEO and Mathieu Lombard explains the value of combining UX performance research with ecology, inclusiveness and ethics.*

*Please note that the video is in French and has English subtitles. Follow our LinkedIn page for the updates on the upcoming UX For Good webinar in English.

The Benefits of Digital Accessibility

Making the virtual world accessible to all citizens is the promise of a more just and, above all, more evolved future. According to Article L. 114 of the CASF (Code of Social Action and Families), disability is defined as: "any limitation of activity or restriction of participation in social life suffered in their environment by a person due to a substantial, lasting or definitive impairment of one or more physical, sensory, mental, cognitive or psychological functions, a polyhandicap or a disabling health disorder." But at a time of massive dematerialization of organizations that digitize their activities, we can consider that participation in society is also lacking for other types of cases:

  • those concerned by illectronism, people who do not master the skills necessary for the use and creation of digital resources;
  • those in a precarious situation, either because they are located in white areas, regions poorly covered by networks, or because they do not have the financial means to get a connection.

The numbers represented by these populations are colossal. If we imagine that all these profiles of individuals do not yet have access to certain online services, the simple fact of developing solutions to help them overcome this lack would massively increase the number of users. In France, there are approximately:

  • 12 million people with disabilities (source: OCIRP);
  • 650,000 individuals with ASD or autism spectrum disorder (source: Inserm);
  • 6-8% of the population affected by DYS disorders (source: OECD);
  • 6% of 15-24 year olds and 65% of 65+ year olds who are deaf (source: Inserm);
  • 17% of the population do not have access to or do not know how to use digital tools (source: INSEE);
  • 21.5% of 16-65 year olds with a reading level equal to or lower than that of a 12 year old (source: OECD).

In addition to the altruistic approach, adopting an inclusive policy promotes a significant growth in the audience of a website for two reasons: more organic traffic through its accessibility and, in fact, an improvement in natural search engine referencing. Likewise, manifesting concerns that are more humanistic and sustainable than commercial, maintains a good brand image, as well as generating a virtuous CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) impact. The bottom line is that the economic benefits are inevitably positive, not to mention that inclusivity paves the way for innovation. In fact, everything that is created to make life easier for some leads to better comfort that benefits all.

What does "digitally accessible"  mean?

According to the WCAG, to make an online service more accessible, it must meet the 4 principles of the acronym FOR:

  • Perceptible: by the senses, mainly sight, hearing and touch. Care should be taken not to develop content that could lead to an epileptic seizure.
  • Operable: in other words, usable. Interactive and orientation elements are successfully functional. The user has sufficient time to read and use the content.
  • Understandable: the interface aims to facilitate navigation, making learning intuitive and minimizing the risk of input error.
  • Rugged: sturdy. The concept is made to work with the appropriate technologies, and it is compatible with current and future uses.

To go further, digital inclusivity must ensure that everyone can participate in society by having the means to make full use of digital tools, regardless of their situation and the area of their lives that requires it. These means relate to connection, equipment, technology, finance, training, etc.

A product or service is therefore inclusive as long as it is designed, produced, but also maintained, taking into account the needs of accessibility, comfort of use and inclusivity of all those who wish to use it. To learn more, read our focus on mobile app ergonomics here.

Digital accessibility is the gateway to an even more noble ambition: inclusiveness for all. While the Government's efforts to eradicate exclusion are commendable, above all, they bring about the application of principles of respect and appreciation of differences without prejudice. From this more universal vision comes the opportunity to go further and enrich the work of designers in the digital sector to provide better quality online experiences. As the cognitive psychologist Don Norman put it: “it is no longer a question of making functional, understandable and usable products, we must also create products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and entertainment, and indeed, beauty to people's lives.”

Want to know how to include these millions of people into using your online service? We offer concrete solutions to improve your interfaces in order to make them usable by all, to bring about successful digital and omni-channel projects! 

Tell us about your project by filling out the form here and we will get back to you straight away!

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Mathieu Lombard

Mathieu Lombard

Mathieu is Head of UX at Ferpection. He is in charge of user research and UX expertise, and supports our clients with his analysis and recommendations. Convinced by co-creation, Mathieu has trained over the years in various facilitation techniques and UX methods such as cognitive bias.

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