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Why is the German Accessibility Strengthening Act so important?

Author: Marvin Kolb

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Aug 2023

The German Accessibility Strengthening Act (Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz, BfsG) is a done deal and the deadlines for compliance are fast approaching. Time to face the question “Why is the BfsG so important?”. In the process, we’ll also clarify why it was passed in the first place and who exactly benefits from it and how. We have identified 5 reasons and will explain them in detail.

Our reasons why the act is so important at a glance:

  • Reason 1: Increasing demand for accessible products can be met, enabling many people to live more independently
  • Reason 2: The act transposes the European Accessibility Act into German law.
  • Reason 3: The right to participation is strengthened
  • Reason 4: Uniform standards for manufacturers will be established and there will be some advantages associated with this.
  • Reason 5: We all benefit from accessibility (sooner or later)!

 

Reason 1: Increasing demand for accessible products can be met, enabling many people to live more independently

This is one of the main reasons why more and more is happening at the legal level as well. The European legal act on accessibility is the European Accessibility Act. You can also learn more about its objectives in our “Reason 2” in this article.

Here’s what the European Accessibility Act has to say about the growing need for accessible products:

„ The demand for accessible products and services is high and the number of persons with disabilities is projected to increase significantly. An environment where products and services are more accessible allows for a more inclusive society and facilitates independent living for persons with disabilities. In this context, it should be borne in mind that the prevalence of disability in the Union is higher among women than among men. “ (Source: European Accessibility Act; Article (2))

So it’s not just that the need increases, but also that if the need is met, this means a more independent and greatly facilitated life for very many people! The German Accessibility Strengthening Act is intended to play a large part in ensuring this in the future.

 

Reason 2: The act transposes the European Accessibility Act into German law.

On this point, we would like to address why the law exists in the first place.

The answer comes from Europe. With the European Accessibility Act (EAA), the EU passed a directive that obligates the states to incorporate all kinds of accessibility issues into national law.

The goal of the European Accessibility Act (or European Directive 2019/882) is to harmonize accessibility requirements for products, services and websites in Europe and thus ” eliminating and preventing barriers to the free movement of certain accessible products and services arising from divergent accessibility requirements in the Member States “. (Source: EAA; Article (1))

In order to achieve this standardization, the EAA forms the superstructure for the transfer of the content into national law. In Germany, this transfer into national law took place with the introduction of the German Accessibility Strengthening Act (Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz) in July 2021. Currently, there are still deadlines for the transition. These end on July 28, 2025 (for self-service terminals in 2040).  As of this date, all products and services listed therein must be brought to market barrier-free. You can find out exactly when these end in our article “German Accessibility Strengthening Act – These are the deadlines“.

 

Reason 3: The right to participation is strengthened

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs explains another reason why the BfsG is so important: “As far as products and services are concerned, the Accessibility Strengthening Act promotes the equal and non-discriminatory participation of people with disabilities, limitations and older people.” (Source: Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales; translation done by us, since there is no English version of this website)

Strengthening the right to participation is even mentioned as one of the main objectives in the text of the law: “The purpose of this law is to ensure the accessibility of products and services in the interest of consumers and users in accordance with the following provisions. This will strengthen for people with disabilities their right to participate in life in society […].” (Source: Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz, Article (1); translation into English done by us)

 

Reason 4: Uniform standards for manufacturers will be established and there will be some advantages associated with this.

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs argues: “Up to now, all those who produce, sell or offer services in the European Union not only have to observe very different requirements for accessibility, in some cases the requirements even contradict each other. Clear and uniform standards should therefore strengthen the internal market and contribute to greater availability of accessible products and services, including those that are reasonably priced. This should also increase the competitiveness of German products. Micro-enterprises are exempt from the regulations with regard to services offered. However, they will receive consulting services to enable them to also implement the accessibility requirements as far as possible.” (Source: Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, translation done by us, since there is no English version of this website)

Advantages for manufacturers are thus:

  • Clear and uniform requirement for accessibility.
  • The competitiveness of German products could increase
  • The internal market is strengthened by greater availability of accessible products

 

Reason 5: We all benefit from accessibility (sooner or later)!

All of us? Yes! Why, becomes apparent when we look at for whom participation in public life should be improved.

Again, we look at the European Accessibility Act. In addition to people with disabilities, it mentions several other groups of people who benefit from accessibility:     

“Other persons who experience functional limitations, such as elderly persons, pregnant women or persons travelling with luggage, would also benefit from this Directive. The concept of ‘persons with functional limitations’, as referred to in this Directive, includes persons who have any physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, age related impairments, or other human body performance related causes, permanent or temporary, which, in interaction with various barriers, result in their reduced access to products and services, leading to a situation that requires those products and services to be adapted to their particular needs.” (Source: EAA; Article (4))

So named as other people with functional limitations are:

  • Elderly people
  • pregnant women
  • Travelers with luggage

Thereby, one more point later on how exactly to define “people with functional limitations according to the guideline:

“For the purposes of this Directive, the term “people with functional limitations” includes people who have permanent or temporary physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, age-related impairments, or other impairments related to the performance of the human body, which, in interaction with various barriers, result in those people having reduced access to products and services and cause those products and services to need to be adapted to their particular needs” (Source: Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz, Article (4), translation into English done by us)

 

Conclusion

We all benefit from accessibility. On the way to a more inclusive society that enables the participation of all, the German Accessibility Strengthening Act is another important step. In addition, the increasing demand for barrier-free products will be better met in the future thanks to the act. The requirements in Europe will be standardized and the internal market strengthened.

If you would like to find out more about the German Accessibility Strenghtening Act (Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz), we recommend our article “What is the German Accessibility Strengthening Act?“.

Want to find out where you currently stand and what you need to do to comply with the BfsG with your services- and products? You can find our gap analysis and all other services related to accessibility here.

You are also welcome to contact us directly via our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

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