Visitors with disabilities

Mission and projects for people with disabilities (Mission handicap)

Accessibility for people with disabilities has become a priority at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The “Mission Handicap” at the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Under the authority of the BnF’s general management, the officer in charge works in collaboration with ten counterparts in the various departments or delegations of the library. Information is collected and relayed by the different members of the staff who are in charge of finding ways to resolve difficulties encountered by visitors with disabilities and problems in building access policies.

The « Mission handicap » was created in 2003, during the European year of disability. It observes the law of February the 11th, 2005, for the equality of rights and chances, the participation and citizenship of disabled persons. This law refers to the following disabilities: motor disability, sensorial disability, mental and psychic disability, invisible or temporary disability.

This law also concerns accessibility to cultural places and services.

The BnF establishes close relations with various networks specialized in the field of disability: representative institutions, assistance services for acquiring autonomy and getting into the school system, specialized institutions, « Mission handicap » in universities, departmental homes for disabled persons.

In the framework of the « Mission handicap », the BnF has also settled an agreement with the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, to improve accessibility for disabled persons. On the initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, working parties from various cultural institutions meet on a regular basis to focus on the following issues:

  • accessibility to the developed building site
  • new technologies and disability
  • promotion of and communication about a cultural offer adapted to disabled persons.
  • How to welcome visually-impaired visitors and mentally-disabled persons?
  • Employment of disabled persons.

One of the results of groups brainstorming is the publication of the first practical guide devoted to accessibility for disabled persons. Available at:

Other documents are being produced and will be published soon by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Projects concerning accessibility for disabled persons at the Bibliothèque nationale de France

The “Handi-livres” prize

Created in 2005, the prize is organized for the fifth year in a row by the « Fonds Handicap et Société par intégrance » in collaboration with the BnF. The « Handi-livres » prize is a literary prize that rewards authors or books dealing with handicap in six categories (novel, biography, guide, alternative format book, youth literature, young adult literature).

Under the patronage of Robert Hossein, it also contributes to making handicap better known and to better integrating disabled persons in the city. It also became a real support for authors with disabilities wishing to publish a book; since the « Handi-livres » prize is now recognized as a literary prize, they might find opportunities to be published, in better conditions and on a larger scale.

For the 10th edition of the « Handi-livres » prize, the BnF mainly takes part in the selection of works. A member of the staff will represent the BnF at the award selection committee. This committee will choose five works in each category, then submitted to the vote of the jury composed of 15 personalities approached by the « Fonds Handicap et Société par intégrance ». A member of the BnF staff will participate in the jury of the prize chaired by Laure Adler (not confirmed yet). Prize-winners will be awarded in November 2015 at Centre Georges Pompidou.

Digital accessibility

The accessibility of websites is defined by a set of technical and referenced standards so as to take into account the habits of all webusers including persons with disabilities. Here are a few examples: captioning of pictures placed online, structuring of web pages to be read with a  voice software such as Jaws, respect for colour contrasts.

All these standards are included in the “Référentiel général de l’accessibilité des informations” (RGAA).

To meet these requirements, the BnF chose accessibility as one of its major concerns and priorities. So, the ‘Société Atalan’ - a consulting firm specialized in web accessibility and in raising awareness about handicap - has been assisting the BnF in the improvement of accessibility to the applications of computer systems since June 2014. For the institution, the major aim is to have the means for sustainable accessibility in practices and procedures used by developers.

Gallica Digital Library and the Catalogue général, currently reorganized, are the two first applications that benefit from this effort in favour of accessibility. This intervention aims to deliver certificates of conformity to the RGAA for these websites.

For more info

The White Paper 2016 made by the Braillenet association , that mentions the digital books available at the BnF.

In 2015, for the second year in a row, the BnF took part in the Steering Committee managing the second edition of the study entitled « Baromètre de l'accessibilité numérique », launched by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Subscription to a relay-centre of visio-interpretation and real-time speech transcription

The BnF wishes to be available to all types of users. This is why a subscription to a relay-centre proposing a visio-interpretation in sign language and real-time speech transcription via the internet has been considered. This would be the opportunity to provide information to hearing-impaired visitors and welcome them on-site in better conditions.


Following the diagnosis concerning accessibility conditions achieved on the various sites of the French National Library in 2010, many works to improve accessibility were already carried out to facilitate the access of people with disabilities. The BnF continues its efforts (particularly on the financial side) to go further in the process. The work to be achieved, the financial assessment and a precise deadline for the fulfillment of the work must appear in the agenda to be delivered by the BnF to the prefecture on September the 27th, 2015 at the latest.

Accessing temporary exhibitions

After the specific path implemented for visually-impaired visitors in the permanent exhibition, “The Globes of Louis XIV”, the BnF has initiated a series of measures aiming to provide easier access to temporary exhibitions. However, necessary conditions are not fulfilled that would allow people with disabilities to visit temporary exhibitions by themselves.

Of course, specific standards optimizing visits of motor-disabled persons are observed. Moreover, various devices have been set up to improve the visit of visually-impaired people:

  • touch screen stations
  • texts broadcasting
  • booklet in large characters and Braille lent at the exhibition entrance
  • audioguides available at the entrance
  • to prepare for the exhibition tour or find any further information, the audioguide can be downloaded via the internet website

Exhibition tours in French sign language are also proposed from time to time to hearing-impaired persons.

Staff training

The BnF training plan includes a series of measures connected to accessibility for disabled persons. Each year, training sessions are proposed to the staff to provide information about the activities of the “Mission Handicap” and about accessibility devices set up at the BnF. Fuller training sessions are organised for officers who daily assist disabled readers or visitors. Most of the time, it is a two-day training that enables to face concrete situations: wheel chair circulation, simulation of visual and hearing deficiency...

Demonstration sessions are regularly organised to explain how reading assistance devices work. These sessions are intended to the staff working in the reading rooms housing soundproof booths.

The “Mission Handicap” staff has also produced a practical guide for accompanying officers. This document provides information about the missions of the accompanying person, the services and equipments available, paths to follow with a disabled reader or visitor. It is available online.

Monday, January 29, 2018