In this episode, we talk with lecturer and translator Marlene Dax about Easy Language in science communication.
Easy Language Podcast Episode 5:
Easy language in France with Karine Bardary (Com'access)
In our fifth podcast episode of “Easy Language” we talked to Karine Bardary, co-founder from Com’access, about the state of easy-to-understand language in France. Com’access is a small Paris-based company specializing in web, document, and information accessibility since 2015. Karine and her team have been working closely with the French government to translate their documents into easy-to-read format, known as FALC in French.
Specialized in accessibility
Com’access focuses exclusively on accessibility and targets people with visual disabilities, physical disabilities, and other accessibility issues. Their services include auditing websites for compliance with accessibility guidelines. In France, there is a guideline that requires public websites to be accessible to everyone. However, only 10% of public websites currently meet this requirement.
Karine’s personal background and journey
Karine’s professional journey began with a background in chemistry and IT project management. However, her perspective changed when her husband, who is blind, encouraged her to start her own company focused on accessibility. This led her to venture into web accessibility initially, eventually branching out into easy-to-read language in collaboration with her associate.
Com'access and the CCUV project
Karine and Com’access joined the project after receiving an invitation from Ursula Semlitsch, project coordinator of the CCUV project. The opportunity to collaborate with partners from Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and Austria intrigued them as it allowed for the sharing of best practices and experiences. Being part of a European project provides a sense of legitimacy and the chance to contribute to the development of easy-to-read language at a broader level.
Easy Language in France
In France, easy-to-understand language is called “facile à lire et à comprendre” (FALC) and has been around since 1999. Initially introduced as an Inclusion Europe project, it was implemented in France by organizations like Unapei and Nous aussi. However, the dissemination of easy-to-read guidelines was primarily controlled by these influential organizations, creating limited opportunities for private companies to contribute. Com’access was among the first private companies to focus on easy-to-read language in France, gradually increasing its recognition and impact.
The State of Accessibility in France
Similar to other countries, France faces the challenge of making public information accessible to all. Com’access worked with the Seine-Saint-Denis department, where people often struggle with French language skills and financial difficulties. They noticed that the department’s letters were often misunderstood, resulting in missed financial assistance. Simplifying the information and using easy-to-understand language had positive results, as people better understood and claimed their entitlements.
Private companies and easy-to-read language
While some private companies in France recognize the importance of providing accessible information, progress in adopting easy-to-read language has been slow. Companies like insurance and telecommunications have taken steps to simplify information, but there is still a long way to go.
Insights from the CCUV project
The project has been running for several months and Karine especially appreciates the intercultural exchange and cooperation within the project team. Karine especially highlights the opportunity to communicate in English.
Com'acess as a pioneer of plain language in France
Karine Bardary and Com’access play an important role in promoting accessibility and easy-to-understand language in France. Their commitment to closing communication gaps and making information universally understandable contributes to a more inclusive society. By continuing to work with international partners, they hope to further legitimize and promote the adoption of easy-to-read language not only within their company, but throughout Europe.