Website Accessibility

Web Accessibility in Germany
The Definitive Guide (2021)

Danny Trichter | Last updated: December 2021 | 10 minutes
Web Accessibility in Germany <br> The Definitive Guide (2021)

So, you’ve heard about web accessibility, but what does it mean for your website?

Is it really necessary for you to make changes to the functionality of your site? 

You’re about to find out. 

In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover:

  • BGG & BITV compliance basics
  • Web accessibility fundamentals for German sites
  • How to eliminate the risk of BGG-related lawsuits
  • As well as other helpful tips you need to fully comply

By the end of this guide, you will have all the information you need to be BGG compliant. 

Let’s begin.  

Chapter 1:

BGG Compliance & Web Accessibility Fundamentals

BGG Compliance & Web Accessibility Fundamentals

It’s only until you learn more about web accessibility that you realise the opportunities it offers. Making your website accessible to all opens new avenues for growth and innovation. 

In this chapter, we take a closer look at the history of the BGG and BITV as well as the essentials of web accessibility.  

Here is what you need to know. 

Are You the Next Recipient of a BGG Demand Letter?

Web accessibility lawsuits are on the rise across Europe, including Germany.

If your website is not BGG compliant, you’re at risk of having to deal with high legal costs and a damaged brand reputation. 

But what does the Disability Equality Act (BGG) have to do with your website? 

Let’s start with the fact that close to 10% of the German population is living with some form of disability – this is according to Germany’s Federal Statistical Office. This means over 8 million people require some form of special assistance to access products and services online. 

So, what does this mean for your business? If your website is not accessible to everyone, you are opening your brand up to a large number of potential lawsuits. You are also closing your brand off to additional revenue streams.

The BGG Explained

Germany has two different laws that relate to web accessibility, the first of which is the Disability Equality Act (BGG). 

Passed in 2002, the BGG is made up of laws that protect people with disabilities against discrimination, ensuring they have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. This includes German citizens with hearing, mental, speech and physical disabilities. 

The act states that any individual with known disabilities is entitled to equal access to goods and services without barriers or difficulty. 

Organisations that fail to be BGG compliant could face financial liabilities.

The BITV Explained

Next, there is the BITV 2.0, which is the Federal Ordinance on Barrier-Free Information Technology. The BITV was created after the BGG was passed and is based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0), which is the benchmark of web accessibility.

The Ordinance guarantees unrestricted access to and usage of information and communication technology for everyone regardless of ability. 

It should also be noted that European web accessibility standards have also been incorporated into the BITV 2.0. This means that over and above the usual requirements, German websites need to publish an accessibility statement listing any areas of the site that don’t meet the required standards.

Chapter 2:

The Effects of Non-Compliance

The Effects of Non-Compliance

Now that you know more about the accessibility laws that are applicable to German websites, it’s time to look at how your business could be impacted. 

Let’s take a look at the effects of not complying with BGG and BITV regulations and how you can avoid costly and damaging lawsuits.

A More Accessible Society for All

A large percentage of websites are still not accessible to people with disabilities. To prove this, accessiBe conducted a study that included 10 million websites. After testing for accessibility compliance, it was found that close to 100% of menus failed, as did over 70% of buttons, forms and pop-ups.

Imagine wanting to interact with a site but finding that you cannot navigate to different pages or use the website in the way that you were hoping. This is the case for millions of people living in Germany. 

Making your website accessible is the right thing to do and you get to protect your brand and business over the long run. 

Web accessibility lawsuits don’t just affect big brands either, even smaller businesses are being hit with a demand letter. 

Does the BGG and BITV Apply to Your Website?

The BGG applies to the federal government as well as any federal institutions and foundations of public law. This includes any organisations owned or funded by the federal government. If your business falls into one of these categories, you are legally obligated to provide barrier-free access to your site and any mobile applications you’ve developed. 

You also need to publish a declaration on the accessibility of your online and digital platforms and report on the status of accessibility every 3 years. 

The BITV 2.0 is applicable to all public bodies and federal agencies and vendors, contractors and partners in Germany. This includes:

• Websites 

• Mobile apps

• Graphical program interfaces

• Intranets and extranet

The Consequences of Non-Compliance

In accordance with section 16 of the German Act on Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, an arbitration service has been set up to help resolve conflicts between those living with disabilities and the businesses that fail to comply with the necessary web accessibility standards. 

The first port of call is for the plaintiff to submit a complaint via the arbitration service’s website. 

The aim is to then work together to solve the accessibility issue without having to take the matter to the courts.

If the plaintiff is unhappy with the steps taken to correct the problem, it can be taken to court.

The result is high and unnecessary legal fees and damage to your brand’s reputation.

To put the potential financial ramifications into perspective, one of the first web-accessibility cases in the US resulted in a claim of over $1 million. And this is just one of many lawsuits that have occurred over the past few years globally.

What steps to take next…

It’s no secret that governments across the globe are taking web accessibility very seriously, so to save you time, money and a lot of hassle, it makes sense to comply sooner rather than later. 

Not only can you avoid the financial losses and keep your brand’s reputation in check, but you can support a movement that aims to create a more equal society for all.

Let’s guide you through how you can achieve this. 

Chapter 3:

How to Make Your Website Accessible & BGG Compliant

How to Make Your Website Accessible & BGG Compliant

Ready to avoid unnecessary BGG and BITV lawsuits and protect your business?

In this chapter, we will take you through the steps you need to take to be fully BGG compliant. 

It’s actually easier than you think. 

Why WCAG Matters

Becoming compliant all starts with being aware of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It’s the standards that every web accessibility act is based on. When anyone first opens this document though, it’s clear to see why web accessibility standards are avoided – there’s a lot of information to sift through. 

The good news is we have simplified things for you so that you can comply and enjoy greater peace of mind.

The website elements to focus on

Making your website accessible starts with focusing on a few key elements on your site, including:

Media. Any images on your site should have alternative text and any videos and audio clips should have subtitles or transcripts. This ensures anyone can access a description of the media on your site should they not be able to see or hear it. 

Links. Generic links cannot provide someone with a visual disability with context, which is why your site needs to have descriptive links instead. 

Colour. Since colour is also used to convey meaning on a website, alternative text is required here. A sufficient colour contrast ratio is also necessary for visitors with low vision. 

Formatting. How easily could someone skin the content on your site? Are your fonts accessible? If not, this has to change. And for visitors who zoom in to read text, it’s important that your site does not lose any functionality. 

Structure. Accessible sites incorporate semantic markup to make content and other data easier to read, this includes elements such as headers and tables. It’s also essential for someone to be able to navigate your website using just a keyboard.

In the end, your website needs to be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust for visitors with visual, auditory, cognitive and motor impairments.

An accessible website doesn’t just stop at adequate technology functions either. It’s still important to consider who your visitors are and what difficulties they could face when interacting with your site. Age, education, language and cultural differences should also be considered as you make changes to your site. 

Meeting compliance requirements

To be BGG and BITV compliant, there are two things you need to do: 

1. Meet WCAG accessibility standards

2. Publish an accessibility statement

The next steps

Let’s start by looking at the standard web accessibility guidelines. 

Meeting WCAG accessibility requirements

To meet the necessary WCAG standards and be fully BGG complaint, there are two steps you need to take:

1. Add a website accessibility interface to your site.

This interface ensures that visitors can easily adjust the design and layout of your site in a way that meets their needs. These interfaces cater to visitors with:

Visual impairments. Website visitors will be able to adjust the size and colour of text. 

Cognitive disabilities. Anyone with debilities such as autism or dyslexia will be able to better understand the content on your site.

ADHD. Create a less distracting experience for those with neurodevelopment disorders.

2. Apply assistive technologies.

These technologies were also created to provide users with disabilities with an easier way to navigate and engage with online platforms and apps. There are two main types of assistive technologies:

Screen readers. Designed for visually impaired users, screen readers make it possible for anyone to consume content and media more easily. Screen readers work hand in hand with elements such as alternative text.  

Navigation tools. This technology is for visitors who don’t have full motor function. The result is faster navigation and the ability to use specific keyboard keys and shortcuts to perform certain actions. This way, a visitor doesn’t require a mouse to use your site.  

Publishing an accessibility statement

As mentioned earlier, to comply with European laws that were incorporated into the BITV, every German site owner also needs to publish an accessibility statement. 

The statement outlines a site owner’s commitment to providing an accessible experience for everyone and the guidelines and standards that were followed to make this possible. And if there are any accessibility exceptions, these should be covered too. Lastly, anyone must know who they can contact should they encounter accessibility problems not outlined in the exceptions. 

Be sure to place this document in an accessible place on your site.

The Number 1 Web Accessibility Provider in Germany

By now, you’re probably wondering where to start, but what you should also know is that there is no need to make all these changes to your site manually. What’s more, manual implementation of these guidelines is both costly and time-consuming. 

So, what’s the solution?

The answer is semi-automated accessibility tools. 

Try AudioEye First

AudioEye is the first tool we recommend to anyone. Not only is it affordable, but the advanced technology behind it truly simplifies the web accessibility process. What sets AudioEye apart is the fact that it combines AI algorithms with IAAP-certified experts to make EQA compliance that much easier.  

These patented algorithms automatically alter most of your site’s code. Any changes that can’t be done automatically are applied by experienced industry experts. 

If you want an easy way to become BGG compliant and reduce the risk of encountering BGG lawsuits, this is the tool you should try first. 

If you prefer to consider more than one solution for your projects, accessiBe and essential accessibility are also worthwhile options.

 

Discover Where Your Website Stands

Get a Free Website Scan

Before you go ahead with these changes, you may want confirmation on exactly where your website stands in terms of web accessibility. 

We can provide you with a free site audit

 

The report outlines any web accessibility issues that are present and tells you how to fix them. This way, you can tackle compliance before these become bigger concerns. 

Chapter 4:

Summary

Summary

This guide should have left you with all the information you need to protect your brand, boost your revenue stream and join a movement that helps create a more accessible society for all. 

Web accessibility issues don’t need to be overwhelming – that’s what tools like AudioEye are for, so take advantage. 

There has never been a better time to become BGG and BITV compliant.

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