Digital Accessibility in Germany: Understanding the BITV and Other Accessibility Laws

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Digital Accessibility in Germany: Understanding the BITV and Other Accessibility Laws

Posted May 08, 2024


Posted May 08, 2024

Accessibility icon in a shield in front of an outline of Germany with the words 'Berlin Barrier-Free Information Technology' next to it.
Accessibility icon in a shield in front of an outline of Germany with the words 'Berlin Barrier-Free Information Technology' next to it.

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Germany enforces numerous digital accessibility laws, including the BITV, BGG, BFSG, and more. Learn which applies to your digital content and how to comply with accessibility regulations.

Digital accessibility has become an increasingly important topic around the world, with accessibility laws in the books across the UK, including a comprehensive European Accessibility Act (EAA). Specifically, Germany has had national disability legislation in place for the last several years in the form of the Disability Equality Act BGG. As technology has evolved over the years, Germany’s efforts to prevent discrimination and provide equal access to digital content has increased.

What is The Disability Equality Act BGG?

This Disability Equality Act BGG (or the Equal Opportunity Act) was enacted on April 27, 2002, through the Gesetz zur Cleichstellung von Menschen mit Behinderungen. The act ensures individuals with physical, mental, hearing, speech, or other types of disabilities have equal access to goods and services in both physical and digital spaces. 

The act applies to organizations or businesses owned or governed by the federal government, controlled by the Confederation, or subordinate to the federal government. Organizations under these categories must provide an accessible web experience or alternate digital information access methods. 

Organizations that fail to provide an accessible digital experience may face legal or financial consequences or reputational damage.

What is the BITV?

The Berlin Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance (BITV) (or the Barrierefreie-Informationstechnik-Verordnung in German) was enacted in 2002 by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The BITV applies directly to digital platforms and content, including websites, mobile applications, and more. The act ensures individuals with disabilities can easily access, understand, and operate digital devices or content.

The first version, BITV 1.0, is based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). On May 21, 2019, Article 1 of the Ordinance updated the BITV guidelines to more closely align with the revised accessibility standards in WCAG 2.0.

BITV 2.0 follows the accessibility standards included in WCAG 2.0, stating that digital content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust (POUR). German accessibility laws also require organizations to include an accessibility statement or declaration in a machine-readable format on their homepage and subsequent website pages. 

According to the BITV, all public-sector bodies, organizations owned or governed by the federal government, and all partnerships that involve at least one government body must provide accessible digital content. This includes:

  • Hardware: This includes computers, servers, mobile devices, and more.
  • Software: Operating systems, application software, and other software types that businesses utilize must be accessible.
  • Services: This includes IT-related services such as web hosting, internet service providers (ISPs), and cloud computing.

While private organizations are not legally required to comply with BITV guidelines, they are encouraged to do so to ensure equal access for users with disabilities.

What is the BFSG?

Another noteworthy German accessibility law is the Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz or the BFSG. The BFSG translates as the Accessibility Strengthening Act and enforces the BITV and BGG. The BFSG aims to ensure all German organizations meet accessibility standards before June 2025. Organizations that fail to comply with BITV and BGG standards by this date will face fines and penalties of up to €100,000.

Stylized web browser with magnifying glass over the accessibility icon.

What are the Requirements for BITV and BGG?

As mentioned above, the BITV requires organizations to follow the accessibility standards included in WCAG 2.0. Currently, WCAG includes more than 50 success criteria that detail how to make digital content accessible for disabled persons. Some of these requirements include:

  • Captions for videos: WCAG SC 1.2.2 requires captions for all prerecorded audio. This enables users with hearing impairments to interact with videos or those with a situational disability (e.g., being in a quiet room without headphones) to interact with auditory content.
  • Accessible colors: Text, images of text, and images should have a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. Larger text should have a minimum contrast ratio of 3:1. This ensures those with visual impairments or colorblind can read text or distinguish between elements.
  • Keyboard accessibility: Your website should be completely navigable via keyboard commands or shortcuts. Additionally, your site should not have keyboard traps that prevent users from moving a focus element away from an interactive element.
  • Compatible with assistive technologies: Many individuals rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers to navigate the web, so your site must be compatible with these devices.
  • Alt text: All images should include alt text, which is a short description of the image. This ensures users with visual impairments don’t miss important information on the page.
  • Labels: Web elements such as headings or buttons should include descriptive labels that describe the topic or purpose for users. 

These are just some of the success criteria included in WCAG 2.0. For a more detailed list, check out our WCAG 2.0 checklist.

Benefits of Complying with German Accessibility Laws

Along with being a legal requirement, there are numerous benefits to complying with German accessibility laws.

First, compliance enables you to avoid legal action that can result in hefty fines, damage to reputation, loss of customers, and more. Complying with the BITV and BGG and conforming with WCAG standards decreases the likelihood of accessibility issues that can result in lawsuits.

Second, an accessible website shows your commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, which enhances your brand reputation. This can extend the reach of your audience, enabling you to win more customers and increase revenue.

Finally — and most importantly — accessibility provides a better experience for all users. Enhancing usability can lead to higher customer satisfaction and engagement, which results in additional benefits (i.e., more revenue opportunities, higher brand reputation, etc.).

Meeting German Accessibility Requirements: Your Next Steps

As the focus on digital accessibility increases, the need to comply with German accessibility laws goes far beyond avoiding legal consequences. While meeting these standards enables you to avoid legal action, accessible, inclusive digital content showcases your commitment to inclusivity. This ultimately results in a wider audience reach, a better user experience, and a more inclusive digital landscape.

At AudioEye, we can help you meet BITV, BGG, and other German accessibility standards with our Automated Accessibility Platform. Leveraging both automation and the knowledge of accessibility experts, we help you find and fix more accessibility issues than any other provider. 

To get started, use our Website Accessibility Scanner. The scanner looks for common accessibility issues on your current site, giving you a deeper understanding of how accessible your site is and where improvements are needed.

Get started by entering your site’s URL below.

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