Internet, obstacle course for the blind

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Paris (AFP) – Three hours to buy a train ticket for a 2H17 journey, online grocery shopping full of pitfalls: the vast majority of websites in France are not adapted for the disabled, creating an obstacle course for the blind and partially sighted.

Indispensable everyday tools, public digital services and those of large private companies have a duty to be accessible on an equal basis to all citizens, including people with disabilities, visual, auditory, motor, dysdisorders…. But in the absence of sanctions, there are few.

The blind – 70,000 in France and 1.5 million visually impaired – listen to a speech synthesis that reads the text on the screen, describes the informational images and provides information about the boxes to be filled in. They can’t see where a mouse is pointing, they use keyboard shortcuts.

“I don’t have a global vision for the page, I decipher it bit by bit,” explains AFP Manuel Pereira, responsible for digital accessibility at the Valentin Haÿe Association, which recently brought together visually impaired people and professionals from the digital world. for a conference in Paris.

This arduous course can be interrupted at any time if a box is not coded correctly. “After placing an entire order on the internet, sometimes we are left with a box that is not coded. The blind person should +fill in the box+ without knowing whether it is his name, his address or confirmation that he + the conditions +” , explains Manuel Pereira, “A single point that blocks and the site is unusable for us”.

Each site must publish an accessibility statement at the bottom of the page, indicating its compliance with the RGAA (General Reference for Improving Accessibility).

It is considered “compliant” with a compliance level of 100%, non-compliant below 50%, “partially compliant” between these two levels. The Elysée site is at 74%, Ameli, the health insurance site, at 72% and SNCF-Connect at 54%.

Each site must publish an accessibility statement at the bottom of the page indicating its RGAA compliance MARION BERARD AFP/Archive

Only 11 of the 221 flagship procedures that can be performed on the Internet and listed on the Observatory of the Quality of Online Procedures are “fully accessible” to the disabled, says AFP Marine Boudeau, head of the design department of digital services at the interdepartmental service for digital (Dinum).

“Make +bad buzz+!”

The worst? It’s the +Captcha+, this mosaic of images that asks to select traffic lights, for example. Mandatory passage to continue, but dead end for a blind person.

“Buying TER tickets for Burgundy is a headache. The site was not accessible for the disabled and I was told that they were not sold by phone because there are counters at the station,” explains Céline Boeuf blindly. Blind people can request telephone assistance or an alternative purchase, but these are becoming less and less available.

Only 11 of the state's 221 flagship procedures that can be performed on the Internet are:
Only 11 of the 221 flagship procedures that can be performed on the internet are “fully accessible” for the disabled Lionel BONAVENTURE AFP/Archive

“Only one race track, Hoora, is handicapped accessible,” says Manuel Pereira.

To be accessible, a site must be encrypted from scratch. However, digital professionals are rarely trained on this subject, they noted during the meeting this week.

“You have to test the site without images, without mouse, without graphic style (colors, font size, etc.). Curious how it works if I look at this site with my ears and not with my eyes,” explains Romy Duhem-Verdière, van the high-tech consultancy Octo Technology.

A zoom to enlarge the page, a magnifying glass for a detail: “All technical solutions exist. But since there are no heavy sanctions, it is not a priority,” she explains.

“Beyond the blind, these are colorblind, dyslexic, quadriplegia and more generally those who age and see their vision decline. A significant part of the population,” adds Ms Duhem-Verdière.

“Complain! Create + bad buzz + on the Internet!”, digital professionals say to the blind and partially sighted. “It helps us with our directions. We can talk to them about disabled users, they’ve never seen them, it’s kind of a + dahu + for them.”

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