2025 Acces­si­bi­li­ty Act

New requi­re­ments for pro­ducts and services

On 20 May 2021, Germany’s Federal Par­lia­ment adop­ted a bill for an Acces­si­bi­li­ty Act (only in Ger­man). This Act ser­ves to imple­ment the 2019 EU Direc­ti­ve on acces­si­bi­li­ty requi­re­ments for pro­ducts and ser­vices (PDF) into Ger­man law. The pur­po­se of the Act is to streng­t­hen the rights of per­sons with disa­bi­li­ties to take part in com­mu­nal life and account for the har­mo­niz­a­ti­on of the inter­nal mar­ket (§ 1(1) of the Acces­si­bi­li­ty Act).

Whom and what does the Acces­si­bi­li­ty Act app­ly to?

The Act app­lies to select pro­ducts and ser­vices which are pla­ced on the mar­ket after 28 June 2025. The­se pro­ducts par­ti­cu­lar­ly inclu­de ope­ra­ting sys­tems, pay­ment and self-service ter­mi­nals, smart pho­nes, tablets and e‑book rea­ders (§ 1(2)). The ser­vices cove­r­ed by the Act par­ti­cu­lar­ly inclu­de telecom­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices (e.g. mes­sen­ger ser­vices), con­su­mer ban­king ser­vices and all online sales, via the defi­ni­ti­on of e‑commerce ser­vices. Micro-enterprises are exclu­ded from the scope of the Act (§ 3(3)).

From this point for­ward, pro­ducts and ser­vices will have to be acces­si­ble, which is the case if they can be found, acces­sed and used by per­sons with disa­bi­li­ties in the gene­ral­ly typi­cal man­ner without par­ti­cu­lar dif­fi­cul­ty and gene­ral­ly without out­side help (§ 1(3)), wher­eby this defi­ni­ti­on was taken from § 4 of the Act on Equal Oppor­tu­nities for Per­sons with Disa­bi­li­ties (only in Ger­man). As indi­ca­ted by the legis­la­ti­ve intent (PDF only in Ger­man), the princip­le which must be obser­ved is that access to infor­ma­ti­on must be pro­vi­ded via two of the fol­lowing three sen­ses: hea­ring, sight and touch. The­se defi­ni­ti­ons will be fle­shed out by the Federal Minis­try of Labor and Social Affairs, which will issue an ordi­nan­ce defi­ning the pre­cise requi­re­ments. The Minis­try, for its part, will be requi­red to adhe­re to the spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­ons pur­suant to Annex I (PDF) of the Direc­ti­ve. The Com­mis­si­on may sup­ple­ment this Annex by issuing fur­ther spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­ons wit­hin the frame­work of dele­ga­ted Acts. A draft Ordi­nan­ce (PDF only in Ger­man) has alrea­dy been publis­hed, based pri­ma­ri­ly on the sta­te of the art.

Requi­re­ments, moni­to­ring and penalties

Various requi­re­ments will app­ly to manu­fac­tu­rers, in line with the New Legis­la­ti­ve Frame­work (NLF): pla­cing pro­ducts on the mar­ket will requi­re tech­ni­cal docu­men­ta­ti­on, a con­for­mi­ty assess­ment pro­ce­du­re, a decla­ra­ti­on of con­for­mi­ty and a CE mar­king. The same app­lies for importers. Manu­fac­tu­rers may appoint an aut­ho­ri­zed repre­sen­ta­ti­ve to meet their requi­re­ments. Ser­vice pro­vi­ders will be requi­red to ensu­re acces­si­bi­li­ty. Excep­ti­ons will app­ly for dis­pro­por­tio­na­te bur­dens, and com­pli­an­ce with the requi­re­ments may not result in a fun­da­men­tal alte­ra­ti­on in the basic natu­re of the pro­duct or ser­vice. Con­su­mers may noti­fy the mar­ket sur­veil­lan­ce aut­ho­ri­ties, trig­ge­ring an inspec­tion pro­ce­du­re. The­re is also a right to file repre­sen­ta­ti­ve actions in terms of § 15 of the Act on Equal Oppor­tu­nities for Per­sons with Disa­bi­li­ties (only in Ger­man). Vio­la­ti­ons may also be pena­li­zed as admi­nis­tra­ti­ve offen­ses. Accord­in­gly, acces­si­bi­li­ty will be an inter­nal com­po­nent of pro­duct com­pli­an­ce as of 2025. Com­pa­nies should the­re­fo­re take time­ly action to assess their pro­ducts accord­in­gly and to crea­te the necessa­ry con­di­ti­ons for pro­duct con­for­mi­ty as of 2025, and in their sup­ply chain as well

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