More than ever, digital accessibility is at the top of the list of challenges digital platforms need to address. Many efforts have been made to prioritise access to information, as well as the customer experience (UX and UI), which plays an important role in our digital tools navigation. The question is — how do we address accessibility? What about digital accessibility, and more specifically, how is it implemented?
We know digital accessibility poses many challenges, so to get answers we asked Access42, a French cooperative specialising in digital accessibility. The experts at Access42 were integral in helping the Rainbow by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise product teams develop a user-friendly interface.
In this interview, we spoke with Marie GUILLAUMET, UX/UI Designer, expert in digital accessibility and Communication and Editorial Manager at Access42, Gaëla LAHNINE, Sales and Marketing Manager at Access42, and Julien HERRERO, Product Manager and Lead Product Design, Rainbow, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
Could you explain, Marie, how you would define digital accessibility?
“Digital accessibility consists of making websites, applications (especially mobile applications), software, digital street furniture, and all video and audio content, compatible with assistive tools such as screen readers. This allows people with disabilities to access information and online services independently. It is important to note that digital accessibility benefits not only people who are blind or visually challenged, but also people with hearing, motor, mental or cognitive impairments. There are many types of disabilities that can benefit from digital products and services accessibility.
Implementing digital accessibility means taking into account accessibility standards that impact the code, design and creation of editorial content, as well as how digital projects are designed and managed. On the design side, some graphics, however attractive they may be, may not allow a person with a disability to access the information they need, or to understand the content. This requires the creation of accessible alternatives at the beginning of the project, not at the end. In general, when designing with accessibility in mind, there is also a lot of focus on assessing the relevance of certain elements, particularly textual elements.”
And, Is the site code important in digital accessibility?
“Yes, this is an essential part of our work at Access42. We analyse the way our clients’ websites and applications have been developed, including their overall structure. Well-structured interfaces allow people with disabilities to navigate and find the right information. It is the code that makes a website, application or software, compatible with assistive technologies. However, producing an accessible interface starts well before the development. It must be addressed in the specifications, functional specifications and graphic mock-ups.”
Could you share with us where we stand in terms of accessibility in 2023, Julien?
“Today, there is a growing awareness and sensitivity to issues of inclusion and equity. In the world of technology, we are constantly confronted with the importance of accessibility, which has always been essential for people with disabilities. The good news is that in recent years legal obligations for digital accessibility have been put in place for French private companies.
With the recent global healthcare crisis, the explosion of remote working meant that a large part of the population was left behind technologically. Many people were unable to use online collaboration and communications tools because of disabilities. As creators of digital platforms, we became aware of this critical need for accessibility.
With this general awareness, large companies are now organising events on the topic, many webinars and Twitch-shows are trying to address the issue of accessibility, resulting in an increase in the number of new specialist jobs.“
And who do you think is looking for improved accessibility?
“Mainly public services, for example government institutions. There is a strong demand from the public sector, particularly in France and Germany. Public institutions provide support to all citizens, regardless of their disability and are ahead of the game in terms of accessibility and are even advising companies on how to move in this direction.”
While we’re at the topic, how can we expect Rainbow to respond to this?
“Accessibility is an ongoing topic in our Rainbow platform development. It is a long-term project that requires significant investment and rigour to meet the acceptability criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Référentiel Général d’Amélioration de l’Accessibilité (RGAA), respectively.
We have developed a two-year roadmap for improving accessibility. We are working with Access42, a recognised partner in France and internationally, to support us in developing Rainbow accessibility.”
Can you tell us more about the services that Access42 offers, Marie?
“As a consulting firm, Access42 offers a full range of services to help clients comply with digital accessibility regulatory requirements, including those imposed by the RGAA and the European standard EN 301 549.
Among the services we offer, Access42 performs accessibility audits of websites and applications, identifying potential barriers to accessibility and proposing solutions to remove them. We also offer training in digital accessibility to raise awareness of accessibility issues and provide professionals with the necessary skills to implement sustainable and effective solutions.”
And How does Access42 contribute to digital accessibility standards?
“Access42 wrote version 3 of the RGAA on behalf of the French government. In 2022, we coordinated the official French translation of WCAG 2.1, the international standard on which the RGAA is based.
As a recognised expert in the field of digital accessibility, Access42 is a partner of choice for companies that want to make their products and services accessible, and compliant with digital accessibility standards, particularly in France and the European Union.”
Could you describe how Access42 is contributing to making Rainbow more accessible, Gaëla?
- “Access42 is providing support in the improvement of Rainbow’s digital services accessibility. The first step is to make Rainbow staff aware of the importance of accessibility. To do this, Access42 has already trained 80 people from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, mostly those who are confronted with accessibility requirements such as product, R&D, design, marketing, QA and support.
- The second step consists of carrying out digital accessibility audits on the various media used by Rainbow, including web, desktop, Android and iOS applications. These audits allow us to identify non-conformities in terms of accessibility and to make recommendations to remedy them. Access42 provides an audit grid based on the criteria of the reference framework used (RGAA, RAAM). The recommendations are then prioritised to facilitate the implementation of the necessary changes.
- The third step consists of personalised accessibility support to guide Rainbow developers in the implementation of necessary corrections. Access42 addresses the Rainbow team’s questions and provides advice to ensure effective compliance.
- Finally, the fourth step is a control audit to validate the accessibility fixes implemented, update the audit grid, compliance status, and draft the compliance statement(s).”
The Rainbow team and Access42 collaboration offers significant benefits to ALE digital collaboration platform users. Rainbow will be able to offer digital services that are accessible to all, and in compliance with current regulatory requirements.
Product Marketing Manager
Eva has been working in the marketing world for 3 years now. After working as a Community Manager, she started working at Alcatel Lucent Enterprise as a Growth Marketing Manager. Today, she’s the Product Marketing Manager of Rainbow and responsible for the creation and distribution of content to ensure the adoption of the platform.