What does plain language mean in terms of website accessibility?

When it comes to the accessibility of a website, people often talk about easy-to-use language. But what exactly does this mean in terms of website accessibility?

Since September 2020, website operators of public institutions have been obligated to design their websites, apps, and other digital offerings barrier-free. In addition to technical factors, the BITV 2.0 "Barrierefreie Informations-Technik-Verordnung" (Barrier-free Information Technology Ordinance) also specifies requirements regarding the use of plain language.

Easy language is a simple, understandable form of language that is more accessible to people with learning or communication difficulties. It uses clear, short sentences, simple words and images to convey complex content.

Why does plain language exist?

Easy language was developed to enable better communication and understanding for people with learning or communication difficulties. This includes, for example, people with learning disabilities, mental impairment, illiterate people or people with a migration background. Plain language is designed to remove barriers to communication and enable better understanding for all participants, regardless of their linguistic or cognitive abilities. People, with learning or communication difficulties are for example: - People with learning disabilities - People with dementia - People with an immigrant background - People who have difficulty reading.

The goal is to enable people with impairments to independently access information from public agencies and use digital services.

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Distinction from Simple Language

Simple language and easy language are both forms of communication that aim for comprehensibility and simplicity; for both, it is important to avoid foreign words, for example. But there are subtle differences between them:

Simple language

Simple language: This uses short, simple sentences and simple words to reach a wide audience. However, it is not specifically designed for people with learning or communication difficulties.

Plain Language:

Here, special rules and criteria are applied to make it more accessible for people with learning or communication difficulties. This includes the use of simple words, short sentences and visual aids to convey complex content.

In summary, plain language is a special form of simple language that focuses on a particular target group.

What are the requirements for BITV compliant websites?

By law, all public entities must implement accessible online presence requirements. This includes all levels of government (federal, state, and local) as well as hospitals and various service providers such as municipal transportation companies.

The addition of information in plain language and sign language is now enshrined in law and is part of the BITV 2.0 requirements for BITV-compliant websites. Information on the main content of the online presence and the accessibility statement, for example, must be available in plain language, as must notes on navigation and, if available, references to other existing information in plain language on the website.

More information about the requirement according to § 4 BITV 2.0 (Barrier-free Information Technology Ordinance) for federal public bodies can be found here.

Here are some important requirements that apply to websites in terms of plain language according to BITV:

  • Clarity: Content must be simple and understandable for easy navigation and comprehension.
  • Understandable text: Text should be simple and easy to understand, with short sentences and simple words.
  • Use of images: Images and symbols can be used to explain and illustrate the content.
  • Headings: Headings should be unambiguous and clearly describe the content of each page.
  • Accessibility: content should be easily accessible to all users, including users with limitations.
  • Reviewability: Content should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it remains understandable and accessible.
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There are fixed guidelines based on the rules of the Netzwerk Leichte Sprache e.V., which guide the translation into plain language. The rules for easy language summarized:

  1. Rules for words Leichte Sprache is characterized by short, simple words that describe things accurately. This means, for example, that idioms, technical jargon, foreign words and abbreviations are not used. As a general rule, verbs should be used instead of nouns. Genitives and subjunctives should be avoided as far as possible, and sentences are formulated actively rather than passively.
  2. Rules for numbers and characters Old years and high numbers are replaced by phrases such as "very much" or "a long time ago". In addition, the set of rules gives recommendations for the spelling of times, dates, telephone numbers or time indications. Here it depends on the context which spelling is better understandable.
  3. Rules for sentences Short sentences with a simple sentence structure are used and each sentence contains only one piece of information. Interpolations and special characters in brackets are to be avoided.
  4. Rules for texts Readers should be addressed personally, as far as this makes sense in terms of content. Questions and cross-references to other texts should be avoided.
  5. Rules for layout and images It is important to maintain a good, clear structure for the texts. Subheadings, paragraphs and highlighting important information make the text easier to understand. Bullet points can be used to list items most clearly. Appropriate images are used to make the text easier to understand. These should be of good quality so that they are easily recognizable by all.


  • Words are not separated, if a sentence is too long for one line, a new line is started and the word is written out.
  • Important content is to be put first.
  • There is no sentence separation when moving to a new page. The sentence is started as a whole on the new page.
  • The same applies to paragraphs, if feasible.
  • A simple, legible, and large font is used as the typeface.
  • The line spacing is at least 1.5 cm and must be scalable to a larger size for the visitor.
  • The texts are always left-justified. No justification is used.
  • Font colors stand out clearly from the background due to the contrast.

Checking texts in plain language

To check whether a text complies with all the rules of plain language, examiners assess the comprehensibility of the text. These examiners also have learning difficulties. If the examiners encounter comprehension problems, the text does not meet all the requirements and must be revised.

You can read about all the requirements in the Leichte Sprache e.V. rules .

Can you implement plain language yourself?

The translation of texts in easy language cannot be compared with translations into a foreign language, to translate them simply like that is very complex due to the many requirements. For this reason, there are now special agencies that specialize in plain language translation. On the website of "BIK-for All" you can find a list of agencies for plain language.

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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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