It all started in 1993 with Gilles Rochon. At that time, he worked in an establishment dedicated to helping people with disabilities in their work life so he perfectly knew their everyday life. While talking with a blind person, he realized how difficult it was to cross the street when you’re non-sighted… In France, we had vibrating posts, pedestrian signals with constant noise, signal phasing that lacked clarity, it was all but adapted to the needs of users.So Gilles began imagining a reliable and efficient system to help blind and visually impaired people cross the street, with complete autonomy.He conceived remote-controlled accessible pedestrian signals and created EO Guidage. The city of Villeurbanne, near Lyon, welcomed our first APS.Gilles’s invention was revolutionary: it put audio as an actual signage device to guide blind and visually impaired people and give them information.Plus the remote control that activates accessible pedestrian signals on demand was also groundbreaking. Because Gilles already had in mind to use it to activate other systems, like audio beacons. For users with visual impairments, having just one remote control to actuate several audio systems is quite convenient.Gilles didn’t stop there because remote-controlled APS had to be deployed across France.And to guarantee this system kept working and ensure all the visually impaired have access to it, wherever they were in France, it had to be standardized.
In 2004, French norm S32-002 for APS was born thanks to the work and tenacity of Gilles, his wife Valérie, the 20 other members of EO Guidage and the numerous stakeholders implicated in public roads accessibility. Here we were, accessible pedestrian signals throughout the country followed the same norms, the same use and the same operation.
But it was just the beginning… In 2005, the disability rights act, the equivalent of the Americans with disabilities act, came to life.It’s the first French legal text to actually define what disabilities are. And most of all, it puts accessibility at the heart of our society: buildings, public spaces and public transportation have to be accessible.The disability rights act is a turning point in our story, the heart of our industry.With accessible pedestrian signals, we covered a part of the mobility chain of people with vision disabilities. But we wanted to make sure the mobility chain was seamless and accessible, and not just for the visually impaired. And neither for public roads only. Because a world with barriers, a world where some people couldn’t leave their home, where nothing was done to make them welcome, didn’t make any sense.So we developed new solutions. And us too, we kept growing.
In 2009, Rémi and Martin, 2 of Gilles and Valérie’s sons, took charge of the company with Sylvain as well. They came with their touch, their expertise and brought a new breath of fresh air to EO Guidage. Public and private buildings, public transportation… They only had one question in mind: how can they improve the mobility of people with disabilities in these places?
This led them to create our department of accessibility equipment installed in public venues in 2010 (guide paths, stair nosings, risers…).These devices are simple but they make a difference for users with disabilities. With Rémi, Martin and Sylvain, we opened new doors
Gilles and Valérie left the company in 2012. They gave our 3 associates quite a legacy and all their trust to continue this adventure.The 3 of them picked up the torch with determination and shared a common vision: accessibility needs to be deployed absolutely everywhere and for everybody.Together, they rolled up their sleeves to make inclusion a reality and not an utopia, to bring down once and for all the obstacles met by people with disabilities on their routes.
2014 marked the beginning of Evelity, our app to guide users with disabilities indoors. Digital represents a powerful ally in their mobility.It’s also a key year for public venues in France: they have to be accessible and in compliance with the disability rights act according to their accessibility schedule, a process set up by the government. But we’re here to assist them, reassure them, and meet the needs of people with disabilities.
In 2015, everything changed for us: EO Guidage became Okeenea.We reinvented ourselves to mark this change in our core business: we diversified our accessibility solutions and for all types of disabilities. We gathered very different jobs to actually cover all accessibility fields.EO Guidage enabled Okeenea to fly the nest and fully carry out inclusion. We’ve been building accessibility with a capital A in France and all across the world because it knows no borders. Becoming Okeenea is shaping universal accessibility. It means always crossing the needs and uses, reinventing the range of possibilities to create solutions that adapt to everybody. It means conceiving a ramp and also thinking about blind and visually impaired people.
In 2018, we developed our services for public and private venues and covered all types of trade bodies. The goal was to deploy accessibility in buildings and make our clients benefit from our expertise. We were present at all levels.
The year 2020 represented a new step for our 3 associates. Rémi left the company to pursue another dream. But Martin and Sylvain remain more than never determined to build inclusion, brick by brick.
Today, we regroup more than 50 passionate experts who have dived into the accessibility adventure.We improve the autonomy of the 1.3 billion people who have disabilities in the world. Our solutions are present in France but also in 15 different countries.For us, accessibility is a true commitment. We live it, breathe it, forge it so that it offers its very best. That’s what encourages us to move forward, create bridges, and conceive an inclusive world without barriers.We guarantee a peace of mind for our clients, a quality service for users and better comfort for everybody.