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Accessibility refers to the design of the environment in such a way that it can also be used and perceived by people with disabilities without additional assistance.


In non-German language usage, the state of accessibility is referred to as easy, simple accessibility ( English accessibility , Spanish accessibility , French accessibility ). The term handicapped accessible in this context in the German-speaking area is becoming increasingly uncommon, as this term does not denote comprehensive accessibility and usability for all people. In a more modern, broader sense, the principle of accessibility aims to provide adequate access to all people whose possibilities and skills do not correspond to a certain normal. This includes physical and mental handicaps of all kinds, not only handicaps in the traditional sense, but also the effects of youth and age, educational level and knowledge, to economic and social possibilities of access to technical aids, which are more specific barrier-free design per se would make unnecessary. This broader perspective no longer primarily distinguishes between individual groups of people, rather the needs of all people should be taken into account. This understanding of accessibility is therefore also called “ design for all ” or “ universal design ”.

The addition of the cultural aspect describes the measures of the concept of interculture , with which cultural accessibility is created and thus institutions are enabled to deal with individuals in a society of diversity and multiplicity.

Principles in legal regulations and guidelines

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ) of the United Nations from 2006 regulates in more detail than the previous human rights conventions which rights the state must guarantee people with disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities only affects the equality of people with disabilities, not all people, but also knows regulations that affect the usability of objects, facilities, products, etc. for everyone. It makes it clear that accessibility is indivisible. Austria and Germany - but not Switzerland - have ratified this convention. In its concluding remarks on the state examination of Germany on May 13, 2015, the UN Committee of Experts on the Rights of People with Disabilities recommended, among other things, the introduction of targeted, effective measures to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities in all sectors and areas of life, including the private sphere to expand.


The German  Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities Act (BGG) defines barrier-free accessibility in Section 4:
"Structural and other facilities, means of transport, technical objects of daily use, information processing systems, acoustic and visual information sources and communication facilities as well as other designed areas of life , if they are generally accessible to people with disabilities can be found, accessed and used in the usual way, without any particular difficulty and in principle without outside help . The use of aids required due to disabilities is permitted. "

This more extensive understanding of accessibility can also be found in Germany, for example, in the state building regulations of the federal states. Laws that affect public transport often speak of people with disabilities and those with other mobility impairments, e.g. B. Section 3 of the Federal Highway Act , Section 8 (3) of the Passenger Transport Act , Section 19d and Section 20b of the Aviation Act .

In order to comply with the UN Convention, the German Federal Government passed a National Action Plan (NAP) in 2011, which is intended to actively promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.


In Switzerland, took effect on 1 January 2004, the Disability Discrimination Act (151.3 SR), detailed federal law of 13 December 2002 on the Elimination of Discrimination against people with disabilities, abbreviated BehiG into force. The law also applies to age-related restrictions, in that it defines a person with a disability as a person who is likely to have permanent physical, mental or psychological impairment , making it difficult or impossible to carry out everyday activities, to maintain social contacts, to move around, to and to train or to work. The law requires publicly accessible buildings and facilities, residential buildings with more than eight residential units and buildings with more than fifty workplaces to be barrier-free, provided they are built or renovated after the law comes into force. Furthermore, publicly offered services, training and further education as well as federal employment relationships must be non-discriminatory. After all, the law requires all public transport to be accessible for people with disabilities within 20 years of the law coming into force, i.e. by December 31, 2023. The most recent judicial practice shows that this is understood to mean the independent use of public transport by people with a disability, unless this is prevented by technical or topographical conditions or the implementation would be disproportionate (expensive).

Trade standards

Magnifying glass as an aid for barrier-free shopping

DIN-Fachbericht 124 (2002) Design of barrier-free products

In point 2.3, barrier-free is referred to as the “property of a product that can be used as intended by all people of all ages with different abilities, largely on an equal footing and without assistance. (Barrier-free is not only to be equated with barrier-free in the physical sense (see also DIN 33942), but also means accessible, reachable and usable. "
The technical report contains guide values, requirements and recommendations for the barrier-free design of products. The aim of the technical report is to help ensure that technical products are developed and manufactured in such a way that they can be used by as many people as possible independently and on their own responsibility.

DIN-Fachbericht 131 (2003) guidelines for standardization committees to take into account the needs of older people and people with disabilities

Identical with:
  • CEN / CENELEC Guide 6 Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities
  • ISO / IEC Guide 71 Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities
The technical report provides guidelines for addressing the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities. It also describes body functions, human abilities and the practical effects of disabilities.

ISO TR 22411 (2008) Ergonomics data for the application of ISO / IEC Guide 71 to products and services to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities

This technical report contains extensive ergonomic data and guidelines for the application of ISO / IEC Guide 71

The term is used comprehensively in the guidelines for the barrier-free equipment of buildings (living and working environments)

  • VDI 6008 Part 1: Barrier-free living spaces; General requirements and planning principles (2012-12)
  • VDI 6008 Part 2: Barrier-free living spaces; Possibilities of sanitary engineering (2012-12)
  • VDI / VDE 6008 Part 3: Barrier-free living spaces; Possibilities of electrical engineering and building automation (2014-01)

understood. The aim here is to achieve the greatest possible independence in buildings for people of all age groups with the most varied of limitations (motor, sensory, cognitive).

Areas of application

Barrier-free buildings, outdoor and traffic facilities

Recommended use for prams on an escalator (now removed) in Wiesbaden
Berlin, January 1990: Wheelchair users demonstrate in front of a cinema. Under the slogan “Against structural and intellectual barriers - for accessible people and buildings”, they demanded with their 20-minute blockade of the cinema entrance that disabled people should no longer be excluded from cultural life.
Swing for wheelchair users in Sliema (Malta)

Not only barrier-free building includes auxiliary solutions to people with disabilities, for example, older people with reduced mobility, vision or balance problems, or rollators include Angewiesenein the freely accessible use of structurally designed environment, but also for example those with small children (prams) or persons the language and customs of a region are not known. A special form is "age-appropriate building (senior-friendly building)", particularly in the interior design, which focuses on numerous detailed solutions that generally focus on safety and comfort for older people.

The demographic development since the 1990s has also played an increasing role in the importance of barrier-free environmental design. In Europe, for example, the number of people over 80 is likely to almost triple by the year 2050.

The drafts of the DIN 18030 standard of 11/2002 and 01/2006 already contained some ideas about how barrier-free buildings should be designed, which, however, was not pursued further due to a large number of objections. In the standards of the DIN 18040 group of standards developed instead, primary protection goals and, in some cases, specific recommendations for achieving accessibility are named.

DIN 18040-1 Barrier-free Building - Part 1: Buildings accessible to the public (replaced DIN 18024-2 since 10/2010), DIN 18040-2 Barrier-free Building - Planning Basics Part 2: Apartments and DIN offer orientation for the design of barrier- free construction 18040-3 Barrier-free construction - Part 3: Public traffic and open space (replaced DIN 18024-1) as well as the accompanying standards DIN 32984 floor indicators, guide strips etc. and DIN 32975 design information in public spaces . Based on past experience, targets are no longer formulated, but rather measures. This is to prevent individual requirements of DIN from being met but the overall result not being usable in practice. Some of the standards have been introduced in the federal states as technical building regulations and the relevant sections must therefore be taken into account under building law.

Accessibility in the household

Conventional kitchens.png
Scheme of a conventional kitchen
Advantages of the kitchen.png variant
Scheme of a barrier-free kitchen

Essential aspects of accessibility in a household are:

  • Accessibility and accessibility (e.g. access to the house or apartment, sufficiently dimensioned movement areas within the living area, easily accessible control elements such as light switches, door and window handles),
  • Usability (e.g. staying in sanitary rooms and kitchens without an assistant)
  • Quality of life (e.g. balconies or windows with lower light for visual relationships)
  • Security (in everyday life and in the event of an evacuation)

Adequate accessibility within the apartment ensures that the resident can live independently and, if possible, without outside help (e.g. homecare). This independence increases the resident's personal satisfaction and helps to reduce social costs. In contrast to the research area of ​​occupational safety, it is to be criticized that the life and safety in the household of people with physical disabilities have been researched very little.

Barrier-free communication and information

Scannable model of the cities of Cloppenburg and Krapendorf around 1650, with information in Braille

The Communication Aid Ordinance (KHV) regulates the right to barrier-free participation in administrative procedures by providing a sign language interpreter or other suitable communication aids.

Accessible work on and with the computer

In order to enable people to work without barriers in the digital world, various aspects have to be considered: On the one hand, software and the now indispensable Internet must be designed to be barrier-free. On the other hand, some people with disabilities must first be able to operate a computer through assistive technologies . These can be, for example, eye control and oral mouse for physical disabilities, or screen readers and Braille display for blind people. Further examples are technologies from the area of assisted communication , which in some cases make communication possible in the first place.

Various organizations have been dealing with the topic for several years, for example the W3C consortium, the de facto standardization organization for the Internet, has been running the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) since 1999 , in which guidelines are drawn up, including in particular Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

For the area of ​​barrier-free PDF documents, the PDF Association is promoting the further development of the ISO standard ISO 14289-1: 2014: PDF / UA (Universal Accessibility; English for "Universal Access").

The topic is also becoming increasingly relevant in politics, for example the EU directive on barrier-free access to websites and mobile applications of public bodies ( Web Accessibility Directive , (EU) 2016/2102) came into force in 2016, which the W3C WCAG makes mandatory for government websites. Implementation in Germany is, for example, the barrier-free information technology regulation 2.0 of 2011, in Austria the framework of the Digital Austria initiative and its legislation.

Non-governmental initiatives in Germany include foundations to communicate without barriers! and digital opportunities as well as the BIK project - barrier-free information and communication .

Accessible application software for mobile devices

With the increasing spread of smartphones , mobile apps are also available for such devices , which, for example, make it easier or even enable people with hearing or visual impairments to better participate in social life. For accessibility in the cinema, z. For example, the apps Greta & Starks by the Berlin developer Greta & Starks Apps UG  - Greta (app) “whispers audio description ” and Starks (app) “plays subtitles ” from selected films .

Barrier-free advertising

The aim of advertising, especially in multisensual media, is to emotionalize people through images and messages so that they have a positive attitude towards a product and ultimately buy it, see buying behavior . However, only a small part of the information reaches blind or deaf people, so that they misunderstand the advertising message or under certain circumstances no emotions are aroused at all. For this reason one has started to think about the implementation of accessible advertising. There is now no question that the barrier-free supply of information is no longer just an advantage for people with disabilities.

Limits to accessibility


Since there are the most diverse disabilities, accessibility is only an ideal that reality can only approximate. In particular, nature itself repeatedly creates barriers that are difficult to overcome even for non-disabled people. It is impossible to compensate for all handicaps caused by performance restrictions through technical measures, and it would also contradict other ideals (e.g. that of closeness to nature: making all hiking trails accessible to handicapped people could also be assessed as a disfigurement of nature).

The use of barrier-free offers is sometimes made more difficult by a lack of information about both barrier-free and disabled facilities. For example, existing barriers in entrance areas and within buildings are often not noted by standardized travel catalogs.

Air traffic barriers

IndiGo is one of the few airlines that offers a ramp for barrier-free entry into the aircraft as standard.

A person with restricted mobility (PEM) does not have the opportunity to use a toilet on European continental flights, as airlines do not provide an on-board wheelchair or a barrier-free toilet cabin. The new Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2006 on the rights of disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility , which came into force on July 26, 2008, does not contain any clause on barrier-free sanitary areas in aircraft.

With the help of an online petition “Public Aviation Law - Accessibility in Air Traffic”, attention was drawn to this grievance at the end of 2008 and a renewed political discourse was initiated. Bundestag and European Parliament politicians have also taken on the matter. For example, MEP Angelika Beer called on airlines to "enable barrier-free travel with the rapid implementation of the EU regulation".

The petition on air traffic accessibility has not yet been concluded. Lufthansa was the first to respond . On request, Lufthansa spokesman Jan Bärwalde assures that on-board wheelchairs are now also carried on so-called short and medium-haul flights if you reserve in advance. However, this oral statement has not yet been recorded in writing.

Although the expansion of barrier-free infrastructure is not yet very widespread in India, the Indian airline IndiGo is a pioneer in wheelchair-friendly air transport with the regular use of ramps for entry.

Target agreement as a way to more accessibility

The target agreement tool gives disabled people's associations in Germany the opportunity to enter into negotiations with municipalities, public institutions and companies in order to conclude agreements on establishing accessibility. This ensures that designed areas of life can be made accessible to everyone.

With the target agreement between the Rureifel District Craftsmen's Association, the Federal Working Group on Self-Help for People with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses and their relatives e. V. and the social association VdK Nordrhein-Westfalen e. V., for example, the first target agreement was concluded with a corporation under public law in Germany on compliance with accessibility on the Internet, and only the second ever for the area of ​​accessible information technology. A target agreement runs according to a certain predetermined procedure and is notarized by a written agreement after target agreement negotiations.

The content of the target agreement mentioned in the source may (and should) of course be used as a model for associations and institutions providing assistance to the disabled in Germany.

Web links

Commons : Accessibility  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Accessibility  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Federal Office for Accessibility ,
  2. ^ Committee for the Rights of People with Disabilities: Concluding remarks on Germany's first national report. United Nations, May 13, 2015, accessed July 3, 2020 .
  3. Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs: Focus on the national action plan
  4. ^ BehiG in the systematic collection of laws
  5. ^ Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Family and Health Rhineland-Palatinate: Barrier-free Rhineland-Palatinate: DIN 18030 - second draft, presentation and discussion ( Memento of May 6, 2006 in the Internet Archive ), February 13, 2006 (PDF; 560 kB)
  6. Information and content DIN 18040-1
  7. Accessibility. W3C - World Wide Web Consortium (
  8. Web Accessibility Directive.
  9. Communication of the Foundation without barriers!
  10. Digital Opportunities Foundation
  11. BIK project series - barrier-free information and communication
  12. Apps for the visually impaired and the blind: Lotsen für das Insichtbare , , June 22, 2016, accessed on June 22, 2016
  13. Home page for the separate websites of the two apps: Greta & Starks Apps UG: Greta and Starks  - audio description and subtitles. In: Retrieved September 14, 2017 .
  14. Carsten Dethlefs: Free choice for everyone - people with disabilities as a new target group , tredition, ISBN 978-3-7439-0024-0 , accessed on March 3, 2017
  15. FAZ Plus Online: Blind (view subject to charge) , accessed on March 17, 2017
  16. No on-board wheelchair at Lufthansa ,, May 30, 2008
  17. ^ Online petition Public Aviation Law - Accessibility in Air Traffic , November 6, 2008 - December 19, 2008
  18. right to the toilet , 25 November, 2008
  19. He fights for accessibility above the clouds , Kieler Nachrichten, November 29, 2008
  20. Information for passengers with reduced mobility ,
  21. info page from
  22. Sample of a target agreement ( memento from July 20, 2012 in the web archive ),