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Relevance of the WCAG for your company

Information about WCAG 2.1

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and includes guidelines for content accessibility on the Internet. WCAG has shaped the standard of internet content accessibility legislation in most countries around the world.

WCAG was created by the World Wide Web Consortium, known as W3C, to address the accessibility aspect of web pages. The W3C was founded in October 1994 at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT/LCS). Founding members include several top scientists, and as of the end of 2019, the organization has over 440 members, including leaders from business, non-profit organizations, universities, and various government agencies.

Originally, W3C focused on standardizing web protocols so that websites and web tools are compatible with each other. Each W3C standard is reviewed, tested, and analyzed several times before being approved by its members.

Web accessibility was an early issue addressed by the W3C. The first version of the WCAG was published in 1999. In 2018, a revision took place, resulting in the WCAG 2.1 guideline we know today.

Principles of WCAG

The full WCAG is incredibly long and complex and includes many different points and requirements for the operator of a website. However, the basic principle of all elaborated points is based on 4 essential principles: perceptible, usable, understandable and robust.
Here are the details:



Wahrnehmbar bezieht sich auf die Art und Weise, wie Benutzer Inhalte online über ihre Seh-, Hör- und Tastsinne wahrnehmen. Das betrifft Aspekte wie Alternativtexte für Bilder, die Möglichkeit, Texte in den Bereichen Kontrast, Farbe, Textgröße und -abstand, Schriftart und ähnliche Faktoren, die die Lesbarkeit erleichtern, anpassen zu können.



Unter Bedienbarkeit versteht man die Art und Weise, wie jemand die Webseite nutzen kann. Sie ist besonders relevant für Menschen mit motorischen Behinderungen, schwachen Muskeln, verletzten Gliedmaßen, Sehstörungen usw. Eine bedienbare Webseite muss vollständig über die Tastatur, eine sichtunterstützende Navigation und andere Alternativen zu einer Maus navigierbar sein.



Verständliche Seiten sind für jeden begreiflich. Sie verzichten auf Fachbegriffe oder verschachtelte Sätze und beinhalten keine komplizierten Anweisungen.



Zu den wesentliche Faktoren einer robuste Seite gehört, dass diese einen sauberen HTML- und CSS-Code beinhaltet, der anerkannten Standards entspricht und dadurch Kompatibilität zu den Hilfsmitteln von Menschen mit Behinderungen gewährleistet.

Guidelines as a standard for laws

Accessibility laws

WCAG is not a law, but many governments have adopted the guidelines as the standard for their accessibility laws. Here is a brief overview of accessibility laws in the European Union:

In 2010, EU officials adopted WCAG 2.0 Level AA as mandatory for all official EU sites and extended this to all public sector web platforms. In 2018, WCAG 2.1 criteria were incorporated. The EU also adopted WCAG as the standard for the new European Accessibility Act (EAA), which will come into force in 2025 to complement the current rules.

Ignoring WCAG carries legal risks, as it is the backbone of accessibility legislation in most countries around the world and is considered the most reliable and effective set of accessibility standards in the world.

Who does the law affect?

According to the BGG, all federal public agencies are required to make the following areas accessible in the digital domain:

Websites (including intranets and extranets), apps and electronic administrative processes (cf. Section 12a (1) BGG).

The obligation to design barrier-free also applies to other content integrated into the websites such as PDF files, videos and graphics.

The overall scope of barrier-free design is based on the possible technical standards. For federal authorities, these result from the Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance 2.0 (BITV 2.0). The updated BITV 2.0 refers to the harmonized standards published in the Official Journal of the European Union. This is currently EN 301 549 V.2.1.2 (2018-08), which in turn refers to WCAG. The requirement to make websites accessible according to the “state of the art” means that what is technically possible must be done. State of the art is likely to be, for example, the ISO 14289-1:2012-07 standard for the accessible design of PDF files (PDF/UA standard), although this standard is not part of EN 301 549 V.2.1.2 (2018-08).

Also, an accessibility statement must be integrated into the web presence. This must state which parts or content of the website or app have not (yet) been designed to be fully accessible and why. If available, a reference to accessible content alternatives must be provided. The statement must be accessible from the homepage and every page of a website. For mobile applications, publication at the point where the application can be downloaded or on the website of the public body concerned is sufficient.

On the website or in the app, the possibility must be given to provide feedback to report (in particular) existing barriers to the website operator. The latter must respond to the feedback within one month. The feedback mechanism must be integrated into the website/app in addition to the accessibility statement. For websites, the feedback mechanism – as well as the accessibility statement – should be accessible from every page of a website; for apps, integration in the navigation is sufficient.

Since the possibility to provide feedback is an interactive process, a higher level of accessibility is to be achieved for it (cf. § 3 (4)). This should correspond to level AAA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Background: The standard EN 301 549 V2.1.2 (2018-08), which is currently prescribed for accessible design, refers to the success criteria of Level AA of WCAG 2.1 for accessible design of the web, but only lists the success criteria of Level AAA in the annex for informational purposes, i.e. non-binding.

Who does the law affect beyond municipalities?

The EU Directive has drawn the circle of obligated public bodies significantly larger than the previously applicable Disability Equality Act (BGG). Under the EU Directive, all those bodies that are obliged to comply with EU rules on public procurement are also obliged to make websites and mobile applications accessible. For federal public bodies, the federal legislature has implemented this in Section 12 sentence 1 numbers 2 and 3 BGG.

Project sponsors and other funding recipients are therefore obliged to ensure digital accessibility if they fall under section 12 sentence 1 numbers 2 or 3 BGG. One of the requirements listed there is funding of more than 50 percent by the federal government (cf. Section 12, Sentence 1, Numbers 2 and 3, each letter a)). Grants – whether institutional or project-related – constitute funding by the federal government.

Accessibility for digital products and services

Information about EAA/EN301549​

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a regulation adopted by the EU in April 2019 that mandates accessibility for digital products and services.

EN 301549 is a document created by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). EN 301549 defines official web accessibility standards.

When did EAA and EN 301549 come into effect?

Web accessibility regulation was a lengthy process that began in the 2000s. Since then, EU authorities have been taking into account the needs of citizens with disabilities in their policy decisions.

The important milestones on the way to web accessibility were the following:

In 2006, there was the Riga Declaration, which set full web accessibility as a goal for the coming years.

In 2010, the European Disability Strategy was adopted to harmonize the requirements for accessibility of living spaces for disabled citizens in all EU Member States.

In 2015, the first version of EN 301549 was published by ETSI, in this document the accessibility standards for the private sector were set.

In 2016, the Web Accessibility Directive required all public services to make their websites and associated mobile applications accessible to users with disabilities.

The latest version of EN 301549 was published in 2018 based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These defined accessibility standards became law when the EAA was adopted in 2019.

The EAA gives private entities five years to comply with the accessibility requirements. Those five years end on June 28, 2025.

What are the EAA’s requirements?

The EAA does not define state-specific accessibility standards or requirements for compliance, but as usual leaves the detailed drafting up to the individual member states. However, the EAA does define usability requirements that align with WCAG 2.1. such as no web page or digital service may be limited to a single mode of interaction. For example, audio content must also be accessible via captions and written text must also be accessible via a screen reader.

Who must comply with the EAA?

The EAA is not designed as a blanket law that affects everyone. For example, products and services covered by the new law include:

Computers and operating systems
Telephone services and related equipment
Audiovisual media services, such as television broadcasting and related consumer equipment
Services related to air, bus, rail and other passenger transportation
Banking services

Although the regulation was originally aimed at public and government groups, it indirectly affects private companies as well. Companies that provide services to government entities in Europe must ensure that their accessibility standards meet the requirements of the law. The EAA further requires that all online services provided by companies be accessible to people with disabilities.

The EU directive defines transition periods and additional requirements: Accordingly, newly launched websites had to be offered barrier-free by September 2019, while existing ones must be accessible by September 2020. Mobile applications have an extended deadline until June 2021. In addition, the operator of the web offer must publish an accessibility statement and offer a feedback option for users.

Law on Equality for People with Disabilities

German legislation

For Germany, the requirements for implementing barrier-free websites are set out in the Act on the Equality of Persons with Disabilities and the Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance.

Authorities of the federal administration are required by the Act on the Equality of Persons with Disabilities (BGG) to make their websites barrier-free. With the amendment of the BGG in 2016, regulations for an accessible intranet were added. In July 2018, it was adapted with a view to EU Directive 2102. The following important changes came into force:

Scope of application extended to federal public bodies (Section 12 BGG)

Deletion of the vague “step-by-step” implementation – the requirements now apply directly
Regulation on accessibility of electronically supported administrative processes from 2021 onwards
Exemption regulation for the case of disproportionate burden
Obligation to prepare an accessibility statement with feedback mechanism
Establishment of a federal monitoring body for accessibility of information technology in the form of a separate, independent department of the German Pension Insurance Knappschaft-Bahn-See (§ 13 BGG)
Enforcement proceedings will be located at an arbitration body, since 2016 this has been the Federal Government Commissioner for the Interests of Persons with Disabilities

The requirements that apply are defined in the Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance (BITV). BITV 2.0 is based on the requirements of EN 301 549, which refers to WCAG.

State laws on accessible information technology according to EU Directive 2102

For public bodies of federal states and municipalities, web accessibility is regulated by state laws and state-specific ordinances:

  • Baden-Württemberg: Landes-Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz – L-BGG und L-BGG-Durchführungsverordnung, Überwachungsstelle für mediale Barrierefreiheit Baden-Württemberg bei der Deutschen Rentenversicherung Baden-Württemberg
  • Bayern: Bayerisches Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz – BayBGG und Bayerische Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung – BayBITV, Überwachungsstelle beim Landesamt für Digitalisierung, Breitband und Vermessung
  • Berlin: Barrierefreie-IKT-Gesetz Berlin – BIKTG Bln, Überwachungsstelle bei der Senatsverwaltung für Inneres und Sport
  • Brandenburg: Brandenburgisches Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz – BbgBGG, Brandenburgische Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung – BbgBITV, Überwachungsstelle beim Landesamt für Soziales und Versorgung
  • Bremen: Bremisches Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz – BremBGG, Überwachungsstelle ist die Zentralstelle für barrierefreie Informationstechnik
  • Hamburg: Hamburgisches Gesetz zur Gleichstellung behinderter Menschen – HmbGGbM, Hamburgische Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung – HmbBITVO, Überwachungsstelle beim Amt für IT und Digitalisierung (ITD) der Senatskanzlei
  • Hessen: Hessisches Behinderten-Gleichstellungsgesetz – HessBGG, Hessische Verordnung über barrierefreie Informationstechnik – BITV HE 2019, Überwachungsstelle für barrierefreie IT beim Regierungspräsidium Gießen
  • Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Landesbehindertengleichstellungsgesetz – LBGG M-V, Barrierefreie Websites-Verordnung Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – BWebVO M-V, Überwachungsstelle Ministerium für Soziales, Integration und Gleichstellung
  • Niedersachsen: Niedersächsisches Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz -NBGG, Überwachungsstelle im Ministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit und Gleichstellung
  • Nordrhein-Westfalen: Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz Nordrhein-Westfalen – BGG NRW und Barrierefreie-Informationstechnik-Verordnung Nordrhein-Westfalen – BITVNRW, Überwachungsstelle beim Ministerium für Arbeit, Gesundheit und Soziales des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen
  • Rheinland-Pfalz: Landesgesetz zur Gleichstellung behinderter Menschen – LGGBehM, Barrierefreie-Informationstechnik-Verordnung Rheinland-Pfalz – BITV RP
  • Saarland: Saarländisches Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz – SBGG, Saarländische Behindertengleichstellungsverordnung – SBGVO
  • Sachsen: Sächsisches Inklusionsgesetz und Barrierefreie-Websites-Gesetz, Überwachungsstelle beim Deutschen Zentrum für barrierefreies Lesen (dzb lesen)
  • Sachsen-Anhalt: Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz Sachsen-Anhalt – BGG LSA, Landesfachstelle für Barrierefreiheit bei der Unfallkasse Sachsen-Anhalt
  • Schleswig-Holstein: Gesetz zur Gleichstellung von Menschen mit Behinderung in Schleswig-Holstein (Landesbehindertengleichstellungsgesetz – LBGG), Landesverordnung über den barrierefreien Zugang zu Websites und mobilen Anwendungen öffentlicher Stellen – BFWebV SH
  • Thüringen: Thüringer Gesetz über den barrierefreien Zugang zu den Websites und mobilen Anwendungen öffentlicher Stellen – ThürBarrWebG, Zentrale Überwachungsstelle digitale Barrierefreiheit beim Thüringer Finanzministerium

DIGIaccess fulfills the requirements