Web Accessibility Policy Making:
An International Perspective
This document is an excerpt from the G3ict White Paper “Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective,” (Revised Edition 2012) researched and edited by Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet & Society, India, in collaboration with accessibility and disability policy experts from around the world. The paper seeks to identify some of the initiatives and best practices which have been adopted by 14 countries and the European Union as a first step towards policy formulation for countries.
Germany has many regulations covering accessibility for the disabled and is one of the most advanced nations in this regard. Having signed and ratified both the UNCRPD and the Optional Protocol, its regulations cover accessibility of both web and other electronic infrastructure. It also has provisions for regular review of its legislation.
Germany has generic disability legislation in the form of an Equal Opportunities Act for Disabled Persons and covers web and electronic accessibility through regulation in the form of a federal ordinance.
This Act, which came into force in 2002, is an expansive antidiscrimination law that also specifically addresses internet accessibility. At its core is the creation of barrier-free environments in the broadest sense of the word. The Act renders discrimination against persons with disabilities illegal, aiming to ensure equal participation of persons with disabilities in the life of German society and to enable them to lead self-determined lives, whilst duly taking account of their special needs.
This is the key regulation for web accessibility in Germany. It mandates that all federal government web pages and websites that are publicly accessible must conform to its Priority Standards, based on the WCAG 1.0 Guidelines, though the states' level of referencing the WCAG in their own versions of the BITV is non-uniform. However, the BITV makes it mandatory only to conduct negotiations, not necessarily to come to a result. Finally, under the BITV, registered organizations for handicapped people have the right to take legal actions against any federal administration not compliant with the federal BITV.20 BITV was revised in 2010, and the updated version, which conforms to WCAG 2.0 guidelines, is yet to be adopted.
2. Compliance with WCAG:
The BITV has two priorities and 14 standards, all of which are based on the WCAG 1.0 Guidelines.
Section 1 deals with the material scope of the Ordinance. The section applies to websites and web pages that are publicly accessible and graphic user interfaces created on the basis of information technology (IT) by the authorities of the federal administration and that are publicly accessible. Thus, the regulation is applicable to authorities, health insurance and other bodies, foundations and public institutions. Internet appearances and publicly accessible graphic program surfaces shall all be accessible. The Ordinance applies to the private sector in a more limited way-mandating negotiations between private companies and registered organizations. The Act is similarly applicable to public authorities, although it charges them with expansive obligations.
4. Protocol for evaluating and monitoring:
Section 5 of the BITV ordinance deals with the evaluation of its effectiveness. It provides for regular review, taking into consideration technological development and gives a timeline of not more than three years for evaluation. The Act on Equal Opportunities for Disabled Persons provides for the appointment of a Commissioner for the Interests of Persons with Disabilities by the federal government and defines his/ her responsibilities and powers.5. Links:
Federal Ordinance on Barrier-Free Information Technology - (Ordinance on the Creation of Barrier-Free Information Technology in Accordance with the Act on Equal Opportunities for Disabled Persons [Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung - BITV])
http://goo.gl/MzSdB / http://goo.gl/r2t95
Overview of accessibility in ICT procurement (Germany)
Impressions from a German Web 2.0 accessibility conference