French Law 2005-102, RGAA and Web Accessibility

This article provides information about accessibility laws and regulations, but is not legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues or problems.

About the French Web Accessibility Law 2005-102

Law 2005-102, passed in 2005, seeks to ensure equal access and opportunities for all people and prohibits unfair treatment and discrimination, including against individuals with disabilities. The legislation also outlines several rights for individuals with disabilities, such as ensuring widespread availability to all areas of social life and the right to participate fully in society. It covers public organizations, non-profits, and private businesses.

Article 47 of Law 2005-102 specifically addresses web accessibility. Websites, mobile applications, and other online services owned and created by and for both public and private entities in France are required to comply with the accessibility requirements outlined in the law.

The law in France also includes technical requirements for accessibility, called RGAA (Référentiel Général d’Accessibilité pour les Administrations). While this web accessibility law covers both public and private organizations, RGAA requirements primarily apply to public-sector organizations in France, although its principles can be used by private businesses as well.

French Law and EAA

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is an European Union (EU) directive that member states must implement into their national legislation and applies to both public and private organizations operating within the EU. When the EAA goes into full effect in 2025, all businesses that employ 10 or more employees and an annual turnover of 2 million euros or more will need to comply with the EAA technical standards. It’s expected that this will be closely aligned with the EN 301 549 standard for accessibility, which public organizations in EU countries must follow today.

What Technology Does RGAA Cover?

RGAA’s technical requirements apply to a range of digital assets including:

  • Websites: This includes both the front-end user interface and the underlying code.
  • Web Applications: The technical requirements for web-based applications include online forms, e-commerce platforms, and interactive web tools.
  • Mobile Applications: The mobile applications requirements apply to native apps developed for iOS and Android devices.
  • Online Documents: This can include PDFs, Word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Specifically, it provides guidelines for ensuring these documents are compatible with assistive technologies.
  • Multimedia Content: This includes videos and audio files, such as guidelines for providing alternative text, captions, transcripts, and other accessible features.
  • Online Services: An organization’s online services include online payment systems, booking platforms, and service request forms.
  • Intranet and Extranet Platforms: RGAA requirements for public administration platforms ensure that they are accessible to employees and authorized users with disabilities.

What Are the Technical Digital Accessibility Requirements?

RGAA guidelines and criteria provide key technical requirements. The law in France has evolved with different versions over time; RGAA 4.1.2 is the latest version. This includes:

  • Compatibility: Websites and applications should be compatible with various assistive technologies used by individuals with disabilities.
  • Keyboard Accessibility: Users should be able to navigate and interact with websites using only a keyboard, without relying on mouse or touch input.
  • Alternative Text: Images, diagrams, and other visual elements should have alternative text descriptions to provide information to users who cannot see them.
  • Color Contrast: Sufficient color contrast should be maintained between text and background to ensure readability for individuals with visual impairments.
  • Audio and Video Accessibility: Multimedia content should provide captions, transcripts, or audio descriptions to make them accessible to individuals with hearing or visual impairments.
  • Forms and Inputs: Forms and input fields should be easy to operate and understand when used by individuals with various disabilities.
  • Page Structure and Headings: Websites should use clear and well-structured headings to facilitate easy navigation and understanding of web content.
  • Focus Management: Users should be able to perceive and navigate through interactive elements using keyboard focus indicators.
  • Skip Navigation: Websites should provide a mechanism to skip repetitive navigation elements and allow users to jump directly to the main content.
  • Language and Semantics: Markup should be used appropriately to define the language of the content and convey its semantic structure.

RGAA and WCAG: Differences and Similarities

RGAA includes technical requirements, guidelines and tests specific to French laws and culture. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are technical standards on web accessibility created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). RGAA is heavily based on WCAG and incorporates its principles and criteria. Both also aim to ensure the accessibility of digital content, however, there are some key differences.

  • Scope: RGAA is specifically designed for the French government and public-sector organizations. It is a requirement for these organizations under law. WCAG is a global standard applicable to all websites and digital content, but is not itself a law. However, many laws and regulations around the world use WCAG guidelines as their standard or the basis of their standard. For example, RGAA typically follows WCAG standards. Currently, RGAA 4 is aligned with WCAG 2.1.
  • Specificity: RGAA provides additional criteria and tests that are specific to the laws in France and its cultural context. For example, RGAA stipulates digital assets must comply with French language requirements.
  • Monitoring and Verification: RGAA has specific verification methods and tests for enforcing accessibility in the French government sector, including a toolset for evaluating compliance. WCAG does not provide specific tools or verification methods but offers general guidelines for achieving accessibility.

The RGAA Evaluation Tools

You will need a selection of testing tools to evaluate compliance with accessibility requirements. This includes scanning tools designed to evaluate web content against various accessibility guidelines, including RGAA, by scanning and analyzing web pages and identifying possible accessibility issues. RGAA-compliant tools also include visual evaluations that identify issues and provide feedback by injecting visual icons onto the web browser view directly pointing to areas for accessibility improvement. TPGi’s Colour Contrast Analyser is another RGAA-compliant tool that can optimize text and visual content for people with color-blindness or low vision impairments.

Companies are not limited to RGAA-compliant tools and should be more focused on tools that have the capabilities to fully test your site or product’s accessibility. Beyond these tools, your company can launch its web accessibility strategy with an EAA standards checklist. This is aligned with WCAG standards and provides a solid baseline for EAA and RGAA technical requirements.

Your company can also test JAWS screen reader compatibility with TPGi’s JAWS Inspect tool or evaluate the user flow and experience with our user testing tool JAWS Connect. This tool puts your website in the hands of screen reader users, giving you fast and actionable insights on the compatibility of your site.

TPGi understands the complexities of European accessibility laws and can provide your company with expertise, accessibility testing tools, and services to support you through the evaluation process. Contact TPGi today to learn more about how we can help your organization’s digital products conform to Law 2005-102 and the European Accessibility Act.

Categories: Accessibility Strategy, Legal, World of Accessibility
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