What is accessible web design?

Public bodies in Germany are obliged to make their websites and digital offerings accessible without barriers in order to enable all people to participate in social life on an equal footing. The Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance (Barrierefreie-Informationstechnik-Verordnung, BITV) regulates the accessibility requirements for the digital content of public bodies in Germany.

Accessible web design aims to minimize the barriers that can make it difficult or impossible for people with different needs to use websites.

Simply put, web content can be accessed regardless of:

  • cognitive or physical limitations
  • the particular level of comprehension
  • the particular methodology
  • the device used
  • the operating system
  • the software

displayed and used by the user.

Digital accessibility is necessary to ensure that all people can benefit equally from digital technologies and content.


What do web editors have to consider according to BITV?

BITV stands for "Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung" (Accessible Information Technology Ordinance) and is the German implementation of the European "Web Accessibility Directive". The ordinance specifies the accessibility requirements that must be met by public websites and mobile applications in Germany.

Web editors are responsible for creating and managing content on websites and therefore play an important role in complying with the BITV. Once the accessible technical requirements have been created, editors ensure that a website remains accessible in the long term. Around a third of the requirements from BITV or WCAG relate to the accessible maintenance of web content.

Here are some of the things that web editors must consider according to BITV:

All images should be provided with alternative text that provides an accurate description of the image for users with visual impairments. The alternative text makes the content and function of graphics accessible to visually impaired people, as it can be read aloud by a screen reader, for example. How is this implemented?

In the editor of the content management system (CMS), there is an input field called "Alternative text" or "Alternative text". Use this field to describe the image with words. Caution: do not confuse the Alt attribute with the Title attribute. The Title attribute is used for supplementary information that is displayed when the mouse pointer is stopped over the image. These are also relevant for sighted people and do not replace the Alt attribute.

Web editors must also ensure that videos and audio content on the website are accessible and meet the requirements of the Barrier-free Information Technology Ordinance (BITV).

They should ensure that videos have subtitles and audio content is made accessible through transcriptions so that users with hearing impairments can understand the content. Subtitles should also have an appropriate contrasting color to be easily visible to all users. Audio descriptions of videos and movies are important for users with visual impairments to better understand the visual content. Audio descriptions should provide a concise description of the visual content. Care should be taken not to omit textual content that is displayed in the video itself from the description.

How is it implemented? You have the option to hire your video or audio producer for suitable alternatives, involve a professional service provider or create your own alternative.

People who cannot perceive a visual structure of a website, for example because they have a visual impairment, rely on screen readers to navigate the web.

Since they cannot visually grasp headings, paragraphs, tables, or lists, the web page must alternatively be structured in a semantically correct manner using appropriate HTML tags.

If the content is tagged correctly, screen reader users can interpret this structure.

How is this implemented? Text content should be clearly structured using HTML elements. However, web editors usually do not need to type HTML because the editor of the content management system (CMS) has buttons that automatically store the HTLM syntax. Text elements such as headings can be marked and tagged with the appropriate buttons. However, if your editor does not support a particular function, you can enter the corresponding HTML tags yourself in the HTML view of the editor.

The following text contents are distinguished and must be structured by HTML tags:

  • Headings Syntax: <h1>...</h1>
  • Paragraphs Syntax: <p>...</p>
  • Lists Syntax: <ul>...</ul> or Syntax: <ol>...</ol>
  • Quotes Syntax: <blockquote>...</blockquote>
  • Foreign language text Syntax: <span lang="en">...</span>
  • Tables Syntax Heading: <th>...</th> Syntax cell:<td>...</td>
  • ...

Documents provided on the website, such as PDFs or other file types, should be designed to be accessible so that they can be read by users with different abilities. This means, for example, that the documents should contain a suitable reading order and alternative text for images.

How is this implemented?

Basically, you should make sure that documents offered are barrier-free. This is often not the case with PDF documents in particular, because they are not structured in such a way that they can be easily read by screen readers and other assistive technologies for people with impairments. To ensure that PDF documents are accessible according to PDF/UA conformance, they should be created in such a way that they can be interpreted by assistive technologies. This includes, among other things, describing images and graphics that are relevant to the content (with the exception of decorative graphics) and marking headings accordingly.

After the PDF has been created, the document must then be postponed.

You can check your PDF documents for accessibility using the free PDF Accessibility Checker tool, for example. This allows you to quickly determine whether the PDF document contains barriers. For deeper analysis, however, you need more know-how or support from experts.

The color contrast between text and background should be chosen so that the text is easy to read and can be easily recognized by people with visual impairments. In some cases, colors are used to convey information, for example through different colored curves in a graphic. This information is not accessible to blind or color-impaired users.

Furthermore, good contrasts are not only helpful for visually impaired people, but everyone benefits from being able to quickly and easily grasp information through sufficient contrasts.

How is this implemented?

On the one hand, make sure that information is not only conveyed through colors and, on the other hand, that there is sufficient contrast between foreground and background everywhere. You can check the quality of contrasts using the free tool Colour Contrast Analyser. The contrast ratio between foreground and background should be above 4.5:1.

According to the requirements of BITV, web editors must use easily understandable texts for the web presence that are accessible to all users, including people with learning difficulties or cognitive impairments.

How is this implemented?

Key requirements include:

  • Short and clear sentences
  • Consequential structure of the text in terms of content
  • Use of simple and familiar words
  • Avoidance of abbreviations and foreign words
  • Structuring of the text by paragraphs, headings and lists
  • Support of the text by pictures and graphics.

Overall, the implementation of easy-to-understand language is about preparing information in such a way that it is understandable to all users, regardless of their level of education or linguistic competence.

By following these principles and techniques, one can ensure that web content is accessible and usable by all users.

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What are the consequences if public bodies have not implemented accessible web design?

If public bodies do not have an accessible website, they may face various consequences. First, affected users can file complaints with the responsible supervisory authority. The latter is then obliged to investigate the allegation of lack of accessibility and, if necessary, initiate measures.

On the other hand, public bodies can also be legally prosecuted in the event of a lack of accessibility. For example, people with impairments who are disadvantaged due to a lack of accessibility can claim damages or file lawsuits.

In addition, public bodies can also be subject to sanctions. For example, in the case of repeated violations of the BITV, they can be imposed fines or periodic penalty payments. In serious cases, there may also be criminal consequences.


First and foremost, compliance with BITV requirements prevents potential sanctions for website operators. In addition, digital accessibility results in public websites and mobile applications being accessible to all users and a user experience for all users.

Web editors should therefore ensure that they understand the requirements of the regulation and take them into account when creating and managing content.

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How we can support your company around the topic BITV and accessible websites:

  • We offer comprehensive advice on the requirements and guidelines of the BITV and perform an accessibility analysis of your existing website to identify potential weaknesses.
  • We are happy to support you in redesigning or adapting your website to meet the requirements of BITV. This includes the design of a user-friendly and accessible user interface as well as the implementation of accessible techniques and functions. In addition, we can support you in creating accessible content.
  • In training courses and workshops, we can raise awareness of accessibility and impart knowledge about the implementation of accessible websites according to BITV. This can help ensure that your organization complies with accessible standards in the long term.
  • If desired, we can also help you obtain an official accessibility certificate for your website. This can officially validate your efforts to create an accessible online presence.

Do you have any other questions?

Oliver Parrizas will be happy to answer any questions you may have on the subject. +49-800-911-91-91

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