Compliance

A Full Guide to RGAA Accessibility & Compliance: Navigating Web Accessibility in France

Explore France’s RGAA 4.1.2 web and digital accessibility law in this comprehensive article. From its history to covered disabilities, find out why the RGAA matters for businesses, industries and individuals. Discover practical tips and how-to’s, testing tools and accessibility improvement strategies, as we envision a more inclusive future for all.

 

Welcome to France: Liberty, Equality, & Digital Accessibility

France, a nation of legendary charm and beauty, etched with the scars of its tumultuous passage through many eras, unfolds like a storybook whispering tales of romance and revolution from every cobblestone and weathered archway. From the sun-drenched vineyards of Provence to the windswept shores of Brittany, each region reveals its own distinct character, steeped in rich and complex history, and alive with cultural gems.

 

France's past is a layered, nuanced saga, written in tales of conquest and triumph, painted in the strong strokes of ancient artists marking their hunts in the caves of Lascaux and Chauvent, hinted at in the peaceful interplay of light and shadow among water lilies and gracefully bending ballet dancers, suggested by the blend of fierce impasto and the atmospheric haze of battle in victory marches under the Arc de Triomphe, and darkly illustrated with the stark reminder of the shadowed guillotine. Its identity has been shaped by interactions with other powerful nations and with its own minorities and outliers, a dynamic that has fueled debate and societal evolution. This kaleidoscopic journey has forged a people both passionate and pragmatic, fiercely individualistic yet bound by a deep national pride.

 

France is much more than the sum of its parts, or of its past. It is a modern nation looking forward, embracing inclusivity and accessibility as cornerstones of its future. The same spirit that once fueled societal upheaval now keeps a fire lit in the heart of the French people, an allegiance to the pursuit of justice embodied by Joan of Arc and modern-day champions of equality and accessibility. This torch is carried by people from every societal stratum and circle, students and pensioners alike. France aims to dismantle barriers and bridge gaps, with a resolve to create a France where everyone thrives. Her strides in technology, education, and policy advocacy reflect a collective ambition to secure fair access for all. France is clearing a path towards a more equitable world, and the RGAA, or Référentiel général d’amélioration de l’accessibilité, France’s General Accessibility Guidelines, is one of France’s most powerful recent accessibility laws, leveraging technology to build connection and empowerment.

 

 

france landscape

Accessibility Today, in France & Globally

Accessibility has become a foundational principle of modern digital and physical environment design and maintenance. Its guiding objective is breaking down barriers to access and providing equal opportunities for everyone. Accessibility is more than a catchphrase; it is an extensive, systematic approach that seeks to build, improve and regulate settings and surroundings in both digital and physical domains so that individuals of all abilities can access and engage with spaces, services, and digital platforms effortlessly.

 

Why Web & ICT Access Matters: Doing Away With Digital Disparities

In today's digital age, web, digital and technological or electronic accessibility has become more crucial than ever. In fact, in many places it is now considered a basic right. With the internet permeating every aspect of life, websites and online services must be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. Digital accessibility as a whole requires not just websites and online applications but all aspects of information and communication technologies (ICT) to be fully usable by people with disabilities. Digital accessibility is both a unified perspective and an array of multiple global and localized policies, with their ultimate goal a reality where everyone can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with digital content. This includes people with visual impairments who rely on screen readers, people with motor disabilities who use assistive devices, and people with cognitive disabilities who may need alternative text formats or simpler navigation. Excluding these and other individuals creates a digital disparity that should not exist, limiting critical access to information, education, and essential services.

 

Recognizing this urgent need for digital equity, France has taken a pioneering role in promoting accessibility through its Référentiel Général d’amélioration de l’accessibilité (RGAA)(pdf), a set of guidelines and regulations for web, digital and ICT accessibility.

 

building bridges to digital accessibility

Indispensable Accessibility: France's RGAA 4.2.1, Law 2005-102

Emerging from a foundation laid by the United Nations’ 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) (pdf) and aligned with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the RGAA was established to create a level electronic and technological playing field for everyone. While France has a long history of human rights as well as disability rights advocacy, its newer laws mandating accessibility for people with disabilities have received some pushback and foot-dragging, leading to easements on deadlines and requirements in, for example, built environment accessibility in healthcare, an undeniably essential service. However, while exemptions do exist, it may be simpler to require compliance with the RGAA than with some of the built environment laws. That may sound counterintuitive because technology and digital assets can be sophisticated and challenging to navigate, especially as they update and change so frequently. But in fact that is also why they are more fixable, in many cases. As time passes, accessibility requirements as a standing mandate are a factor in how new technologies are built and implemented. And, as awareness of the need for digital accessibility grows, more new websites and applications are designed with accessibility in mind from their inception.

 

france participation in the 2006 un convention on rights of persons with disabilities

The initial groundwork for the RGAA was laid with the Decree of May 14, 2009, implementing article 47 of the law of February 11, 2005. This decree mandated accessibility for public websites and online services of French administrations. From 2009 to 2012, accessibility guidelines were formulated. Initially drawn from the European Standard (EN) 301 549 and the WCAG, and developed collaboratively by various entities, including the since-dissolved BrailleNet (a member of the W3C), this secondary phase set the foundation for the first official version of the RGAA.


The first version of the RGAA was published in March 2012, still based on the EN 301 549 standard, and the WCAG 2.1. It focused on website accessibility, with full compliance required from some central government websites as late as 2014. RGAA 1.0 did not include digital documents and software, or mobile applications.

 

Subsequent RGAA Updates

Are RGAA Conformance Parameters Based on WCAG Success Criteria?

 

While the WCAG are considered best practice for accessible web content, the harmonized EN 301 549 v.3.2.1 and later harmonized versions also have requirements that were not included in the WCAG, such as hardware standards. EU member states, including France, must comply with the EU’s Web Accessibility Directive (WAD) requirements, including the EN 301 549 and Mandate 376 regarding ICT products and services, which go beyond the WCAG. Within France, and specifically for government and other regulated bodies, the RGAA is a separate and legally binding accessibility expectation that must be met, with its own defined criteria. However, when entities are already in compliance with both WCAG and EN 301 549 as well as any other relevant laws around digital and ICT accessibility, and are thus in conformance with up-to-date WAD regulations, they may also be meeting RGAA requirements.

 

rgaa compliance venn diagram

Has RGAA Compliance Hit Its Hoped-For Targets, To Date?

 

Short answer: no, sadly, it has not. But the short answer never tells the whole story. The RGAA has had a significant impact, and as accessibility becomes better implemented, the long term results will indicate its true ramifications.

 

A 2014 study by BrailleNet revealed that a majority of French administration websites and online communities had still not been made accessible, violating RGAA regulations, with only 17.6% out of a sampled 600 public entities such as municipalities with even the minimal compliance of a self-assessed accessibility statement, and only one such website boasting an error-free homepage. That’s based on much older information, which should be taken into account. However, the study’s research was also done after the initial RGAA compliance due date.

 

A more recent article about digital accessibility in the context of employment in France’s most widely-read paper, Le Monde, from November 2023, quotes subject matter experts who have an extremely concerning view of the state of digital accessibility in France today:

Deplorable,” disapproves Luce Carevic, an accessibility consultant, remarking on the poor or nonexistent accessibility of digital services in administration and businesses.

Manuel Pereira, who is blind, is the head of the accessibility center at the Valentin-Haüy association promoting independence for blind and visually impaired people. He considers accessibility barriers to be obstructing employment and career opportunities for people with disabilities, to a point where they cannot participate at all.

According to M. Pereira, “...due to the lack of accessibility of digital content and services. We are excluded from entire segments of society.

What does this mean for French web and digital accessibility, overall? Although there has been progress since 2014, many French accessibility advocates agree that the state of digital access in France is still far from where it should be, and much improvement is needed, to say the least. France can still become fully digitally accessible, and it can happen before most people might expect it, but for now, the situation is disappointing. However, courage! Ne te laisse pas abattre, don’t let it get you down. As recent protests in France have shown us, the spirit of change has not yet disappeared from the character of the French people. And this is a cause worth taking up.

 

Where to begin? In accessibility, as with so many things, the place to start is wherever you are, and the time to start is now. On va y arriver ensemble, we will get there together.

 

How Do We Communicate Equitably? Web, Digital & ICT Access in the RGAA

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Accessibility in communication of any kind should not be assumed to exist, or taken for granted. Often overlooked until complaints arise, equal access to communicated information is key to getting messages across to everyone.

 

The RGAA, the Référentiel général d’amélioration de l’accessibilité, refers to both the law and the guidelines included within it, for the establishment and maintenance of accessibility for web, digital and communication technologies in France. RGAA compliance focuses on building inclusive digital and electronic spaces, establishing accessibility as a baseline. It mandates adherence to general guidelines and detailed inclusion-friendly specifics so that websites, online services, and related technology are designed and built with accessibility in mind. This goes beyond making websites readable by screen readers to a holistic approach that considers all forms of disability in conjunction with a large swathe of information and communication spaces and devices. From alternative text descriptions for images to accessible navigation and keyboard controls, the RGAA sets a comprehensive standard for inclusivity.

 

The RGAA: What Disabilities Does it Include?

 

According to France's Article L. 114 of the Social Action and Families Code, disability is legally defined as limitations or difficulties someone faces in daily life due to a significant and lasting change in their physical, sensory, mental, or cognitive abilities. This can include things like vision or hearing loss, mobility challenges, learning difficulties, mental health conditions, chronic illnesses, or other conditions. These limitations can affect someone's participation in various activities and their involvement in society.

 

The scope of the RGAA extends beyond disability categories; it considers a wide range of diverse needs that are:

vision related

Vision Related

People with visual impairment, like blindness or low vision

hearing related

Hearing Related

People who are Deaf or hard of hearing

mobility related

Mobility Related

People with motor or mobility impairments, including quadriplegia or limited dexterity

cognition related

Cognition Related

People with cognitive impairments, such as dyslexia or learning disabilities

aging related

Aging Related

Older adults with age-related impairments, like low vision or hearing

Why RGAA Accessibility Compliance Makes a Difference

Many essential and regularly used public services as well as information are offered in digital format, mainly online. When these services and content are available in an equally accessible way, everyone can use them.

 

Organizations should comply with RGAA so that people with disabilities can:

Have access to vital services and important information.

  • Emergency Services, e.g. Fire Department
  • Healthcare: Urgent & Routine
  • Education: All Levels
  • Employment & Careers

Be able to access, read, understand, fill out and sign digital documents with officially required e-signatures.

  • Government Documents
  • Legal Documents
  • Work Documents
  • Major Purchasing
  • Documents, e.g. Real Estate

Have access to digital services for everyday tasks.

  • Grocery Shopping & Other Transactions
  • Daily Routines, e.g. News Articles
  • Banking & Finance
  • Communication & Social Interaction

Be able to use computers and operating systems.

  • Basic computing devices, e.g. desktop or laptop
  • Mobile computing devices, e.g. tablet or phone

Have alternative options for content that is inaccessible in its original format, e.g., books or video.

  • Books & Other Published Texts
  • Work-Related Training Materials
  • Video or Audio-Video Media

 

If these basic data sources and essential life routines and services are blocked for people with disabilities, that is an injustice. It is a severe and significant hindrance to individuals with disabilities to be so obstructed, and it is a mark of disgrace for societies and organizations that do not improve accessibility to a point of fair inclusion for all.

 

As technology rapidly changes, and accessibility standards are updated, governments must establish and enforce laws such as the RGAA, as a mandatory push to improve accessibility. Because accessibility is a human right.

What Are Some Built-In Benefits of Improving Digital Accessibility?

Individuals with Disabilities

Society at Large

Businesses & Organizations

Better accessibility online and in electronic and digital spaces is important to increasing self-determination, independence, and overall quality of life for people with disabilities.

Elevating digital and ICT accessibility compliance and improving the accessible digital experience can contribute to making society more inclusive, combating discrimination against people with disabilities, and working towards greater equity in electronic spaces.

Upgrading accessibility can:

 

  • Increase potential profits
  • Bring up site visitor numbers
  • Expand demographics
  • Improve brand reputation

Cut Curbs & Cascading Ease of Use

Creating and improving accessibility in both physical and digital environments can be described using the “cut curb” metaphor. When a pedestrian sidewalk is designed with an angled dip in the curb, to create a smooth transition from sidewalk to street, it eliminates an obstacle for people with disabilities, who may be wheelchair users, or who may be using a walker or mobility scooter. It also helps parents pushing strollers, provides a tactile cue for people with vision impairments, and helps ease maneuvering for older adults and people with pain conditions or temporary injuries.

Similarly, digital accessibility regulation compliance benefits, such as with the RGAA, extend beyond accessibility. Accessible websites perform better in search engines, attract a wider audience, and project a positive brand image. They also make everyone’s user experience exponentially better and more pleasant to use. Prioritizing digital and web accessibility is a strategic choice. It unlocks the full potential of your electronic spaces and assets, so everyone involved can make the most of what you offer, including your own organization.

 

 

Example scenario: a museum is launching a new website.

 

visitors with disabilities explore museum with accessibility options

By implementing features such as image descriptions, keyboard navigation, and audio guides, their exhibits are now more accessible for people with visual impairments to enjoy. They’re also much more available to people who would otherwise not be able to view the museum’s exhibits, such as people living in remote locations, older adults who might find it difficult to physically visit the museum, language learners who can now take advantage of the audio guide in their own language or at their own pace, and visitors with cognitive disabilities who find these options helpful and useful. And, the museum itself now has a wider audience engagement, a positive image as a welcoming institution, and it’s not just higher in search engine rankings, it’s spiking on social media. Accessibility efforts cause a helpful domino effect of cascading net gains for everyone, online and off.

 

Note on museums: While the Louvre has some robust in-person accessibility options in place, for example, their website’s digital compliance is quite poor.

 

RGAA Required Accessibility Levels & Compliance Rates

Grown in French soil but propagated from the WCAG and other WCAG-referencing sources such as the EN 301 549, the RGAA does have the WCAG levels embedded in it by default, although those are not its only criteria.

 

These are the A, AA, and AAA levels, progressive levels of web accessibility that build on each other. The A level is the most basic. WCAG AA is considered the level to aim for in most required compliance around the world; the WCAG 2.1 Level AA is the currently required compliance level for RGAA obligated bodies.

 

WCAG Level AAA is the ideal and sometimes impossible dream level, with stacked compliance conditions that can contradict one another. Thus, it is an admirable goal, but not required by legal standards.

 

While WCAG offers a global framework, RGAA specifically addresses local French regulations and cultural nuances. Organizations can choose the appropriate level based on their size, resources, and target audience.

 

Digital Content Required to Be Accessible  

 

Per the French government’s listed accessible digital design legal requirements, the following must adhere to RGAA guidelines: all websites, both intranet and external, all mobile applications, all software, and all digital “street furniture” devices, such as ticket kiosks in a train station or airport. This is not a full list of required content and devices; it is limited to the RGAA requirements alone.

 

However:

 

  1. French accessibility standards are based on the harmonized EN 301 549 as well as the WCAG.
  2. France, as a member state of the EU, is also obligated to comply with all EU accessibility standards.
 

This rather circular structure of standards dependence nevertheless makes it clear that all accessibility standards and guidelines included for Europe do apply and are considered part of compliance requirements in France.

Compliance Deadlines

All RGAA deadlines have passed; public sector sites were required to be accessible from September 2020, and mobile applications, software and digital interfaces like ticket kiosks were required to be accessible by June 2021.

 

With that being said, organizations that are not yet in compliance should do their best to upgrade and implement accessibility at every level, as an urgent priority.

 

Organizational Compliance Actions Per Site or Service  

Compliance Items Per Entity or Organization

European Accessibility Standards

 

European accessibility standard EN 301 549, developed by the CEN, CENELEC and ETSI groups, includes guidelines for ICT products and services that are updated often; this category covers a wider array than the RGAA specifically mentions, but because the EN 301 549 is part of the RGAA, this is the correct reference point for ICT inclusion, as well as the correct checklist for other accessibility requirements for non-ICT communication, and product-related services.

 

All new versions of the EN 301 549 supersede previous releases.

 

In v2.1.2, the EN 301 549 officially included and directly referenced the nongovernmental W3’s WCAG, then at v2.1.

 

EN 301 549 v3.2.1, the most recent European standards version, is updated as far as the WCAG 2.1 release. The WCAG is now up to version 2.2, released October 2023.

 

WCAG 2.2 updated standards are not yet accessibility requirements in the EU or France, but it is advisable to work towards their new accessibility success criteria as early on as possible.

 

Reference documents and sources used to establish the RGAA are available as links listed in French, with most of the documents written in English.

 

The European Accessibility Act (EAA)

 

As an associate member of the European Union, EAA accessibility compliance is required in France. While this is not part of the RGAA, it is parallel to it, and it also requires compliance with the WCAG. The European Accessibility Act is considered to amend and add to other accessibility requirements in the EU and for EU member and associate member states; it neither contradicts nor supersedes other laws and guidelines. By June 28, 2025, companies in France with 10 or more employees must abide by EAA regulations and any new products and services included. Small businesses, referred to as microenterprises, with fewer than 10 people on staff, are exempted but encouraged to voluntarily implement accessibility improvements.

 

RGAA Obligated Organizations: Who Needs to Comply?

 

RGAA compliance requirements apply to businesses and organizations in a wide range of positions and relationships, and the importance of their compliance as well as the possible consequences of noncompliance can vary depending on the nature of their public service offerings, their size, their included staff, and their target audience.

 

The main scope of RGAA-obligated entities includes state & national government services, local authorities and any public establishments that depend on them, organizations carrying out public service missions, and large companies whose turnover exceeds a set threshold of 250 million euros.

 

Prioritizing accessibility through RGAA compliance holds particular weight for sectors like government, healthcare, education, and e-commerce. In public services, where information access is vital, inclusivity takes on an even greater significance. As such, while RGAA conformance should be a broader societal aim, these sectors bear a heightened responsibility to champion accessible digital experiences.

 

RGAA Compliance Sphere (Priority)

Public Administrations

Ministries, government agencies, local authorities, and all public institutions providing essential services, such as healthcare, education, social security, and justice. Establishing accessibility for these entities is crucial for garantir la liberté d'accès et d'utilisation des services publics en ligne (guarantee freedom of access and use of online public services).

Public Interest Organizations

Bodies entrusted with a public service mission, including national libraries, museums, universities, social housing organizations, and public transportation services. Accessibility compliance is vital for these entities to fulfill their mission of serving all citizens equally.

Large Private Companies

Companies with more than 250 employees or €50 million in annual turnover providing online services to the publicsuch as e-commerce platforms, banks, and utilities fall under RGAA regulations. Their size and reach make their accessibility efforts impactful for a large audience.

 

The following are not legally obligated but may be ethically bound to comply with RGAA and other accessibility:

 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): Businesses with 20 to 249 employees or €10 million to €50 million in annual turnover offering online services are strongly encouraged to comply with the RGAA.

 

Associations and foundations: These entities play a crucial role in society and often provide essential online services. Though some may not be fully legally obligated, complying with the RGAA demonstrates their commitment to inclusivity and equal access for everyone.

 

The RGAA regulations and the EN 301 549, WAD and WCAG guidelines are recommended implementation protocols for organizations of all sizes, in both public and private sectors, when it is possible and within their means. 

 

Negative Consequences of RGAA Noncompliance

Obligated organizations operating within French borders are bound by the legal requirements of the RGAA. Failure to comply can lead to fines, administrative sanctions, and potential lawsuits from individuals experiencing barriers.

Although there have not yet been many high-profile lawsuits directly based on RGAA violations in France, digital accessibility has played a role in some legal proceedings, including a case where blind employees raised a general complaint about free software that was not accessible. In that case, the courts agreed that the public rights defender had a fair complaint, but the relevant minister simply did not follow up on pushing for the required changes to be implemented. There are still many public and private sector organizations subject to the RGAA that are currently ignoring their legal obligations. This will not end well for these organizations.

 

RGAA Violation Complaints

When interacting with certain RGAA obligated organizations in France, visitors and users of websites, online and offline applications, digital documents or other regulated environments and interfaces who find their experiences to be blocked, inaccessible, or otherwise different and more difficult than they are for other users, are encouraged to contact their regional Rights Defender, or Défenseur des droits. Complainants are invited to review options for their cause of complaint before submitting their application.

 

Obligated organizations here refer to government agencies or public service providers, which may include for example tax departments, the Caisse d’Allocation Familiale, or Family Allowance Fund (CAF), town halls, prefectures, courts of law at any level, schools and universities, consulates, employment and job centers, the French National Railway Company (SNCF), any energy company such as the electric company, Électricité de France (EDF) or the natural gas company, GRDF, Gaz Réseau Distribution France, the French Primary Health Insurance Fund, CPAM, or Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie, and similar bodies.

 

Deflating Your Reputation, Bruising Your Brand Image

According to the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), 12 million people in France have some type of disability, amounting to 24% of the active population, and 18% of the total population, with that number growing as the population ages. And in the younger generation, they’re increasingly digitized: according to INSEE, in 2018, 82% of French people aged 15 or older had used the internet within the three months prior to their survey, and that’s already more than 5 years ago. The number of people online in France is growing, and proportionally, so is the amount of people who require RGAA-compliant digital accessibility. That’s a large swathe of online citizens, and a lot of economic and voting power. Currently, the French Federation for the Blind, the Fédération des Aveugles de France, is focusing on lobbying for greater digital inclusion and enforcement, and raising awareness. It is also worth noting that French accessibility advocates in the know have mentioned blacklists and boycotts of businesses and organizations that refuse to join the digital accessibility revolution.

 

Locked Out of Essential Engagement & Data

 

On the human level, when people with disabilities do not have access to online and digital spaces, they are simply locked out of opportunities, engagement, and critical services and information that should be available to them. Legal repercussions are a significant factor, but the true cost of non-compliance goes far beyond monetary or reputational penalties. Take a moment and picture a student with dyslexia struggling to navigate an inaccessible university website, a visually impaired job seeker unable to access online application forms, or an elderly person excluded from essential online services due to poor navigation elements. These are not hypothetical scenarios; they represent the real, lived experiences of millions of people with disabilities who face these daily barriers.

 

Initial Steps to Compliance: Resources and Support

Making websites and physical spaces accessible is both practical and possible, and should not be seen as an overwhelming task. The French government offers numerous resources and support initiatives to help organizations navigate the RGAA landscape. Online guides, training programs, and accessibility audits are readily available in French and English as well as other languages, helping businesses take the first concrete steps towards inclusivity.

 

By prioritizing RGAA compliance, organizations fulfill their legal obligations and embrace a fundamental human right – the right to equal access and participation in the digital and physical world. It's a journey, not a destination, but one that leads to a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

 

Test the Waters: Check Your RGAA Compliance

Embracing accessibility is a continuous journey, and knowing where you stand is crucial. Checking your website or business for RGAA compliance is easier than you might think. Several tools can help you navigate this process. Some accessibility testing tools may be free or low-cost, and easily available online. Using these tools alongside the RGAA guidelines and resources will give you a clear picture of your compliance level and guide your next steps.

 

Testing Toolbox for WCAG & RGAA Compliance

 

While such tools are usually geared towards finding and flagging violations in WCAG accessibility criteria, these are also helpful for getting started on understanding the accessibility levels, or lack thereof, on your digital content.

 

There are a variety of types of accessibility testing and monitoring tools available:

 

We recommend that testing include several types of tools, or tools with multiple testing options. We also suggest that organizations hire both accessibility experts to test for compliance, and testers who have disabilities themselves, to perform practical, on-the-ground accessibility checks. These two groups may overlap.

Accessibility consulting is a broader category, and this service can be extremely helpful in planning and implementing accessibility improvement across multiple teams and products. If you do choose to hire an accessibility consultant, check their references and certifications thoroughly.

 

Expanding Possibilities Beyond Deep Code: Plugins & Overlays

 

Plugins and overlays are accessibility options that can also be used to add further options to boost accessibility, to act as an interim accessibility booster, and to cruise through large sites without needing a dedicated team of developers.

 

Plugins become integrated components of a website's codebase, expanding its functionality. Installation varies depending on the website platform and plugin type. They may offer a range of features such as form accessibility improvement, image and media descriptions, alternative navigation solutions, and content organization tools. They can be set to work in conjunction with existing website features. However, they may require more technical expertise for installation, operation, and maintenance. And, there may be conflicts with site elements, or with other plugins.

 

Accessibility overlays have been harshly criticized, and in some cases rightly so, because not all overlays work the same way, and some, to be frank, don’t work at all. But when they do work, they have a clear place in accessibility improvement, especially in the short-term, and as a provider of top-layer solutions. Overlays generally introduce a JavaScript layer above the existing code, making modifications that appear to the end user without altering underlying structure; this can be an important option for sites with extensive and complicated coding, or those with a large quantity of unique page types. Installation is usually very simple, done by adding a code snippet to the website’s header or footer. Overlays can offer instant adjustments without changing any of a site’s underlying code, with options like contrast adjustments, color filters to assist people with color blindness, reading guides, text magnification, and alternative keyboard layouts. Users can customize their experience to fit their individual requirements. Overlays are very quick to implement, and some of them are free or very inexpensive, which is also a good entry point for smaller businesses and organizations, or for larger businesses who are starting their accessibility process and want to see a quick boost. They may have compatibility issues with certain browsers or assistive technology, so it’s best to check for that immediately. Overlays may not address all accessibility issues, and they should not replace proper coding and design practices, but should be used in conjunction with other testing and remediation tools and processes.

 

Automated Accessibility vs. D.I.Y.

While some tools are fully or nearly fully automated (low touch or no touch), we recommend using tools that do require some human input. Website or web app admins, designers, developers, and other tech professionals should have their finger on the pulse of their own content in all ways. And, in the case of accessibility, it really does require at least a bit of human thought and input to create the best accessibility for users. With that in mind, accessibility testing experts are a great option if that’s in budget for your organization. Sometimes these testing experts will test using existing tools such as those we’ve described above. Or, they may choose to assess accessibility via a manual audit.

 

Regardless of the testing tools and experts you employ, the end result must be an effort to implement actions based on the results of the tests. In most cases, this will fall on your organization’s teams. Exceptionally, some companies may offer an option for their experts to actually go in and fix accessibility issues within your site or application, hands-on. However, this full-service accessibility fixing option may not be available, both for cost considerations and because some organizations, especially those that are government-based, may not allow it for security reasons.

 

7 Simple Steps to Radically Improve Web Accessibility

Making your website accessible doesn't require an instant overhaul. Here are some quick wins to get you started:

 

Reaching for a Brighter Future: A Shared Responsibility

The RGAA isn't a rulebook, it's a rocket ship, blasting past limitations and propelling digital France into boundless possibilities. When websites, apps and technology remove roadblocks, amplify all voices, and welcome everyone, regardless of ability, we move beyond compliance to true connection.

 

This is a collaborative mission, fueled by the combined efforts of individuals, organizations, and the government. We're all equipped with our unique skills and passions, and we should all have a chance to use them and engage in the electronic and cyber spheres for work, learning, socializing, and play. And we all have our bit to do to make that happen. Developers coding inclusively, designers putting accessibility first, organizations embedding accessible practices, and individuals spreading awareness and advocating for change, it all makes a difference. Every accessible website, app and ticket kiosk, every small act of digital decency drives us further, forward and upward.

 

The future isn't built on lines of code, it's built on the invisible and very powerful network of empathy. Let's rewrite the narrative of exclusion and replace it with one of boundless possibility. In France, and around the world, the digital revolution is just beginning, and accessibility is not just its end goal: accessibility is its catalyzing energy. Allez, vous allez y arriver! Let’s get going, you’ll get there! Nos amis de la France numérique, our friends in digital France, let's amplify accessibility and lay the groundwork for a better and more inclusive future, together.

 

FAQs

Absolutely! Updating for accessibility is an ongoing journey, not a destination. The RGAA framework offers different levels of compliance, so you can start small and gradually improve. Online testing tools can help you identify areas for improvement, one accessible step at a time.

Yes, some older items and older document formats, as well as heritage and archival content may not be required to be brought into compliance, if and only if they are not necessary to the performance of important tasks for that organization. Live-streamed audio and video content are also exempt. Maps and mapping services are not themselves required to be accessible as long as an accessible digital alternative is provided.

On a case by case basis, appeals of “disproportionate burden” may be considered, depending on the organization’s size, nature, and resources, which includes budgets and cost estimates such as labor. However, lack of priority, time, or knowledge are not acceptable as legal or legitimate circumstances for exemption.

Investing in accessibility doesn't have to break the bank. Many tools and resources are available for free, and the benefits of reaching a wider audience can often outweigh the initial costs. Plus, remember, avoiding accessibility barriers can save you from potential legal fees or reputational damage down the line.

Look around! The French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) website tested at 100% RGAA compliance levels. However, their testing date is listed as December 17, 2021. Remember to look for compliance percentages as well as the date on the accessibility statement. The Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (DILA) website is at 100% RGAA compliance as of January 2023. The L’Oréal beauty product company’s 2022 annual financial report website has been in AAA compliance (!) and its accessibility statement is current as of March 2023. Now that’s beautiful.

The RGAA is more than just a set of rules; it's a way to be a part of creating a world where everyone feels welcome to participate. By building accessibility, we break down barriers, unlock opportunities, and get closer to the reality of a more just and inclusive society for all. And, if doing the right thing is not enough motivation, remember: a truly accessible world benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities.

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