This post is the third in a seven-part series that provides updates on the current status of accessibility in the European Union and across individual countries in the Union. We welcome any comments, thoughts and corrections on the posts with the goal of helping of ensure the best information possible to our partners and customers.

Preceding posts in this series are as follows:

France passed Law N° 2005-102 on February 11, 2005, with a focus of granting equal rights, opportunities, participation and citizenship to individuals with disabilities. The law relates to both physical and ICT accessibility and covers a variety of accessibility considerations. The portions of the law relating to ICT accessibility are articles 47 and 78, which broadly require that public services that are provided by federal, state and local agencies be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The original focus of the legislation was to have all public sector websites be accessible within three years of the passage of the legislation. Since then, subsequent updates to the legislation have pushed back the exact application date. The current governing decree regarding the law is Decree No. 2009-546, which was published on May 16, 2009. That decree gave public sector organizations two to three years to conform to the requirements depending on the nature of the site, in effect pushing back the latest date of compliance to May 2012 for most public web sites.

The certification standard for public web sites in France is the Référentiel Général d’Accessibilité pour les Administrations (RGAA), which defines the set of requirements and evaluation process for determining if a web site is accessible. The RGAA utilizes the WCAG 2.0 guidelines as a basis and defines a few additional requirements for accessibility. The most notable item in the RGAA is the inclusion of unit tests that define how to determine compliance with each requirement. This is meant to ensure that the conformance with the standard as a whole can be tested through the execution of a series of unit tests on a site.

Outside of the official RGAA requirements for public sector web sites, BrailleNet – a French disability advocacy – provides the AccessiWeb certification standards that lead to a certification label that can be placed on a web site. Similar to RGAA, the AccessiWeb label provides a certification on the level of accessibility of a web site. The AccessiWeb standards are based on the WCAG requirements but are restructured into a different form around a variety of recommendations. Conformance to the AccessiWeb standards is not required by law but is widely recognized within France as a certification mark that demonstrates a high degree of compliance.