Reforms in the WCAG 2.0 and BITV 2.0
New technical standards create new possibilities for making web sites barrier-free. With this as a background, the Barrier-free Information Technology Regulation (BITV) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are subject to current changes. Dependent upon the technical conditions and advancements, these regulations are constantly being developed to stay up-to-date with the newest technology. Therefore, on 12.11.2008, the WCAG 1.0 version that had been valid since 1999 was updated to WCAG 2.0. The BITV was also updated to its current version (BITV 2.0) which took effect on 09.22.2011. In the following, the changes are briefly described.
A comparison of the WCAG 1.0 and the WCAG 2.0 makes the advantage of the current version clear: Uncoupled from technical standards, it can be applied more diversely and comprehensively to the different types of web technologies. In contrast to the previous version, the focus of the WACG 2.0 is less on HTML and CSS standards and more on the formulation of general requirements. The conception of the WCAG 2.0 ensures that the guidelines are not only sufficient for the current technical standards, but can also be applied to future developments in the internet.
A further reform to the WCAG changed the structure of the WCAG 2.0 so that in contrast to the WCAG 1.0, the guidelines for the test points are no longer organised into Priority 1, 2 and 3, but are instead based on four design principles of barrier-free usability on the web. These are called “Perceptibility”, “Operability”, “Understandability” and “Robustness”. For each of these principles, there are additional guidelines that describe the essential goals of barrier-free design. The guidelines are not testable, but they do offer orientation and comprehensive goal provision. Each of these 12 guidelines contains testable success criteria for conformity levels A (lowest), AA or AAA (highest). The success criteria serve as the basis for determining conformity with the WCAG 2.0. All of these levels in the guidelines, work together provide support when for barrier-free design of web content and thus take into account the basic idea of the internet of allowing users, regardless of physical limitations, access to web sites.
Using the aforementioned international guidelines for web content in the WCAG 2.0, the BITV 2.0 was adopted which replaces the BITV that has been valid to date. In the BITV 2.0, a new need for action is specified and implementation deadlines were defined. Thus, newly designed federal authority sites or federal authority sites which have undergone significant changes in regards to content must comply with the requirements and guidelines in the BITV 2.0 by March 23, 2012 at the latest. Existing web sites must implement the new regulations by September 23, 2012 at the latest. Until these deadlines, the BITV guidelines are valid for the interim.
In addition, the new regulations require federal authorities to make information available to the hearing impaired and hearing disabled as well as to learning and mentally disabled persons in German Sign Language and in easily understandable language.
This includes information regarding:
- essential site content or information offered by the federal authority,
- navigation of the website as well as
- additional available information on the website (if applicable) in German Sign Language/ easily understandable language
The minimum requirements for the presentation of this type of information can be found in Appendix 2 re the BITV 2.0. Starting on March 23, 2014 at the latest all such information must be available in easily understandable language and in German Sign Language, even on existing internet sites.
Current Developments on the State Level
At the state level, there are state equality laws and state-specific IT regulations. For this reason, different regulations are valid in different states. The lack of standardisation has led to different levels of quality, in particular due to the adoption of the new BITV 2.0. Thus a new BITV had to be adopted by most states as a consequence of the reforms; however, an automatic update of the state BITV was sufficient in several states. The discrepancies found in a comparison between the state-specific guidelines and the regulations at the national level are particularly noticeable and create confusion.
Detailed information regarding the regulations in the individual German states can be found www.einfach-fuer-alle.de/artikel/bitv/bgg/.
So that your online portfolio complies with the high level of quality, we always take the current guidelines of the WCAG and the BITV into consideration when implementing our client’s projects.