HealthTech Knowledge Guide | Barrier-free software

Kurt Neubauer

Kurt Neubauer

The term “barrier-free” is familiar to many, particularly when referring to buildings, public spaces, workplaces, or means of transport, and it indicates that these areas are accessible to everyone without assistance from others. As digitalization progresses, however, this term is also being used with increasing frequency in the IT world.

But just what does barrier-free software actually mean? And why is it so important? What guidelines and laws are in place, and what does an accessible system look like from a practical point of view? Read on to learn the answers to these questions.

1. What is barrier-free software?

In terms of software operation, accessibility means that users can operate and use the program to its full extent that people with disabilities will not experience any disadvantages, substandard functionality, or other barriers when using the product

2. Why is barrier-free software important?

Accessible software that is integrated seamlessly into the company’s operations ensures equal opportunities for all (potential) employees.

Accessible, barrier-free programs enable all individuals to have access to a job. They are characterized by the fact that their structure, formatting, and coding do not exclude anyone and can be used equally by people with and without disabilities. As such, they are becoming a pivotal tool for implementing our fundamental rights. Article 3 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany states that “no one […] shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability.”

With that in mind, accessibility represents the challenge of making it possible for everyone to work in the most optimal way possible. This ultimately also serves to the benefit of the company itself. Bringing equality to the work environment fosters the potential of each individual while also encouraging collaboration among the entire staff.

3. Explaining the legal framework: When is software deemed barrier-free or accessible?

The simple answer is that software is considered to be barrier-free if every person can use it without restriction.

But that still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. As a result, there are international guidelines as well as national laws that make the entire matter more concrete.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The WCAG is a set of international guidelines for barrier-free web content. They state that “…web content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.”

The Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Act (BGG: Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz)

The German Act on Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities has been in force since 2002. Since 2016, the regulations are no longer limited to software and websites, but also extend to apps.

The Act on Strengthening Accessibility (BFSG: Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz)

This Act transposes the EU’s European Accessibility Act (EAA) into German law.

IAccording to the directive, all products and services must be barrier-free by 2025. This includes both the hardware and the operating software.

4. A barrier-free software for publishers and associations contains

The web-based application Xpublisher is used to create, manage, and publish magazines, journals, books, technical documentation, and other publications in a number of different output formats and channels. All work steps feature both a high level of automation as well as barrier-free operability.

The user interface

Layout and Design

The user interface and the features are designed to be logical, hierarchical, and easy to follow and the program components are easy to read and have high-contrast colours.


The system can be operated either using a keyboard alone or with an on-screen keyboard, maximum screen magnification, zoom in on the content seamlessly for better viewing.

Screen reader

A screen reader allows blind users or users with severely impaired vision to read the content using a Braille output device.

Graphic design

Graphical elements and images have descriptive text that screen readers can read. The well known alt tags for images on websites are one example of this.


Very few web applications in Europe that meets the stringent requirements for barrier-free web content according Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 2.1 – AA.

5. Barrier-free software: From theory to practice

The law gives publishers, associations, and businesses until June 28, 2025 to convert to barrier-free systems in order to foster equality for people with disabilities and their inclusion in society and the workplace.

But why wait when the relevant programs are already available today?

Here the full article by Xpublisher:

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