You might have heard of the European Accessibility Act (EAA) as someone interested in accessibility in any kind of digital products. For me as a German iOS developer the Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz (or BFSG in short) is the specific national law to businesses offering websites, apps or any digital services need to conform (Spoiler: Not all have to).
Most probably I do not have to directly deal with any legal texts (as long as I do not found any affected business myself). However, I think it’s still interesting to get an idea of what is most important for conforming to BFSG as soon as there are discussions within your app’s or digital service product team.
If you never heard of EAA before, here is another post by me about it https://mic.st/blog/european-accessibility-act-in-short/
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer by any means. With this article I just sum up some sources I found valuable for researching the question of how one might conform to BFSG in digital services, e.g. mobile apps. None of the following is any law advise. Ask your lawyer for that not me 🙂
One side note: BFSG is not only about websites, apps or digital services but that is the scope of this post.
Since the EAA was enacted in 2019 some years went by. As mentioned before the German transposition into BFSG is already there now (since July 2021). BFSG mentions an executive order that was created roughtly one year later (June 2022). So the following three documents are the most important I would say inside of a German context.
- The EU directive (see #EAA)
- The BFSG (see #BFSG)
- The executive order by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that followed BFSG (see #BFSGExecutiveOrder)
Guidelines for applying BFSG
The German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs published “Leitlinien für die Anwendung des Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetzes” (“Guidelines for the application of the Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz”) that are way more easy to read compared to any law text. However, it references to the executive order as well so I will still point to some of its § as well.
These guidelines are a more easy to read summary (at least if you understand German).It also has some practical examples of how BFSG might affect websites, apps or services and how businesses might have to act (see #BSFGGuidelines).
Who has to conform when?
Obviously not just any company has to conform to BSFG. The BSFG lists affected products and services (see §2, 2 and 3 in #BFSG). That means, any product or service listed there placed on the market after 28th of June 2025 must conform to it.
Keep in mind: It does not harm spending time on making your product or service (e.g. a website, app, device, whatever) accessible. Even if BFSG does not explicitly mention it.
BFSG does not list my apps, websites or services, so all good?
It’s easy to think of this list mentioned above as some easy checklist. However, it’s not that simple or let’s say the list of affected businesses is bigger than you might think first. Inside of §2, 3 in #BFSG, one very important term is “Dienstleistungen im elektronischen Geschäftsverkehr” (roughly translates to “services in e-commerce”). For example this means as soon as your business has some web or app based shop or booking system, the whole app or website falls under #BFSG. You can also see examples for exactly that in #BFSGGuidelines.
There are exceptions though. If your business is a “small business” your service (whatever it is) does not have to be accessible. According to BFSG, small businesses are ones with less than 10 employees and a sales volume below 2 million euros. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t harm if your service still is accessible. Also this is only true for “services” if your small business offers a product mentioned in BFSG, you still have to conform.
There is another backdoor for not having to conform to BFSG. Businesses are allowed to not confirm if they can document somehow that making their service or product accessible “[leads to a fundamental change in the essential characteristics of the product or service]” (translated from German, see §16, 1 in #BFSG). The business itself does this evaluation and documentation and has to archive it for five years.
What means “accessible” according to BFSG?
There is always the technical question what actually means accessible when you read through any of the laws. As far as I know neither the EAA nor BFSG mentions a specific guideline, e.g. something like “if your website conforms to WCAG level 2 it’s all good”.
However, the “Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit” or “Federal Agency for Accessibility” (own translation) mentions an executive order associated with BFSG which would offer concrete requirements. See #BFSGExecutiveOrder to view or download the mentioned document.
As I we are most interested in digital products, §6 of that executive order is probably one of the important things to look at. This section mentions “Requirements for design of user interface and functionality of products”. In addition to that there are “additional requirements” for some sectors, e.g. banking, public transport or e-commerce.
Obviously, none of the law texts mentions how exactly your websites, apps or services have to look like. Eventually, courts decisions will make that clearer, similar to what happened after DSGVO or GDPR came into force.
What happens if I don’t care?
BFSG mention fines of up to 100,000 € if you violate it intentionally or negligently. It reads as if this counts for the whole product of service you brought into market not for each violation itself.
However, the BFSG mentions a “Marktüberwachungsbehörde” (Market surveillance authority, own translation) which manages reported violations. Most probably businesses are getting deadlines by this authority first before it’s left to any court to decide.
Conclusion or Final thoughts
The executive order (see #BFSGExecutiveOrder) seems way less concrete than WCAG for example. First, it is really short, kind of blurry and misses parts. E.g. it does not really tackle cognitive disabilities or only very roughly (e.g. it mentions “understandable but e.g. not if it’s about navigation, language or terminology). Mostly, it seems to focus on sensory disabilities as far as I understand it.
However, what I think is interesting, for the banking sector the executive order explicitly mentions that these services need to be understandable with a language level of B2 (see §17, 2 in #BFSGExecutiveOrder).
One thing I do not like is the exception BFSG mentions in §16, 1. I am not a lawyer but this might make it possible for large businesses offering complicated services to at least delay accessibility efforts for quite some time.
If you want to ask some official authority for any advise on how BFSG might affect your business’ websites, apps or digital services: Go to https://www.bundesfachstelle-barrierefreiheit.de which is the “federal agency for accessibility”.
One very last recommendation: Start now learning about accessibility and do research if your specific product or service might need to conform to BFSG. 28th, June of 2025 is not too far away.