Background and Legal Basis
Background Information on the BALLON Project
"No one may be disadvantaged because of his/her handicap." (Art. 3 para. 3 p. 2 GG)
The BALLON project wants to follow exactly this guiding principle, as accessible teaching and learning is indispensable for an inclusive society.
In the state of Bremen, 31% of students reported studying with a health impairment in 2016, of which 16% of students have a health impairment that makes studying challenging. Among these, the degree of study impairment is in the severe range for 46% of students and in the very severe range for 14% (Middendorf et al., 2017). Study-impeding impairments can present themselves in a wide variety of ways: among students in Germany in 2016, mental illness was the most common, followed in order by chronic somatic illness, other long-term illnesses, movement impairments, partial performance disorders, hearing/speech impairments, and visual impairments (Poskowsky et al., 2018). Accordingly, the range of possible impairments is very wide.
Currently, the number of students at the University of Bremen is a good 19,000. Among them, more than 2100 students study with an impairment, of which about 1000 students are physically impaired and about 1100 students are psychologically impaired.
It is clear that the issue of accessibility is not merely an isolated one. In order to enable the reduction of barriers, it is necessary to address the issue and to adapt teaching accordingly. In addition, accessible teaching benefits all students. The BALLON team will be available at any time to answer any questions or suggestions you may have. For more information on the topic of accessibility, please feel free to contact us.
Middendorff, E. et al (2017): Die wirtschaftliche und soziale Lage der Studierenden in Deutschland 2016. 21. Sozialerhebung des Deutschen Studentenwerks. Berlin: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), URL.
Poskowsky, J. et al. (2018): Beeinträchtigt studieren – best2. Datenerhebung zur Situation Studierender mit Behinderung und chronischer Krankheit 2016/17. Berlin: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), URL.
Legal Basis of Accessibility for the University of Bremen
The University of Bremen is legally obligated to promote and strengthen accessibility. There is also a particular obligation for the university to design its own digital presence in an accessible manner.
Specifically, the Bremen Equal Opportunities for Disabled Persons Act (BremBGG) regulates the goals and responsibility for equal opportunities for disabled persons for the holders of public authority, including for state-unrelated corporations such as the University of Bremen. The goal is to eliminate and prevent discrimination against people with disabilities, § 1 para.. 1 p. 1 BremBGG. According to. § 13 para. 1 BremBGG, public bodies must design their digital presences and content to be barrier-free. This includes the website, apps, the program interface, and also the content on the internet and intranet. The design must be perceptible, usable, understandable, and robust. The federal Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance (BITV) is decisive, § 13 para. 2 p. 2 BremBGG.
The BITV (valid version: BITV 2.0) is based on the international web standards "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG, valid version: WCAG 2.1)". These guidelines formulate standards for barrier-free web design. The BITV is based on the minimum requirements for accessibility, although the guidelines also contain possibilities for improvement that go beyond these. The requirements also set out in § 13 para. 1 p. 2 BremBGG and in § 3 para. 1 BITV 2.0 (perceptibility, usability, comprehensibility and, robustness) are also mentioned here as the basis of accessibility. In addition, guidelines are included as targets with corresponding success criteria for testability. Conformity is specified in three levels from A to AAA. This is supplemented by the specification of techniques that are sufficient for the success criteria as well as by recommendations of techniques that go beyond this. The federal monitoring body established at the "Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit" (Federal Agency for Accessibility) regularly publishes all information required for the implementation of BITV, § 3 para. 5 BITV 2.0. In particular, up-to-date information is provided on the standards, which detail the accessibility requirements. Also included are the conformance tables, which provide an overview of the most important accessibility requirements. In addition, recommendations of the Committee for Accessible Information Technology according to § 5 BITV 2.0 as well as further explanations are included.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) stipulates the promotion and guarantee of human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities on an equal basis, Art. 1 UN CRPD. This also includes communication in the digital sphere, Art. 2 UN CRPD. As an international treaty, this United Nations Convention has no direct legal effect, but it has been ratified (parliamentary approval and declaration of confirmation by the head of state), so that the Convention is binding as federal law.
The EU Directive 2016/2012 serves to harmonize the legal and administrative regulations of the member states with regard to accessibility requirements and the improved accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public bodies.
Isolated requirements are also mentioned in other laws, such as the Bremen Higher Education Act (BremHG) in § 31 para. 1 p. 1 BremHG. Thus, the completion of studies and examinations should be made possible under equivalent conditions as for students without disabilities. To meet these requirements, the reduction of digital barriers in particular has become more relevant during the semesters conducted digitally due to the pandemic.
The relevance of implementing a digital area at the University of Bremen that is as barrier-free as possible has become clear due to the abundance and demands of the legal foundations. This has resulted in the following concrete obligations for accessible design:
- Barrier-free digital presence and content, § 13 para. 1 p. 1 BremBGG, i.E. § 3 para. 1 BITV 2.0
- Can be found, accessed, and used without particular difficulty and generally without assistance, § 5 para. 1 BremBGG.
- Prohibition of discrimination and elimination of disadvantages, § 7 para. 1 BremBGG (Discrimination exists if people with and without disabilities are treated differently without a compelling reason and thus people with disabilities are directly or indirectly impaired in their full, effective, and equal participation in life in society. Denial of reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities is also discrimination).
- The possibility of communication in German sign language is to be promoted, § 9 para. 3 BremBGG.
- On the homepage of the website of a public body, information on the essential contents, notes on navigation, an explanation of the central contents of the declaration of accessibility, references to further information available on this website shall be made available in German sign language and in simple language, § 4 BITV 2.0.
- Implementation of the four principles (see WCAG 2.1 for details):
Perceivable – Information and components of the user interface must be presented to users in such a way that they can perceive them.
For example, text alternative for all non-text content, subtitles, audio description, text size.
Operable – user interface components and navigation must be operable.
For example, operable via a keyboard, with section heading.
Understandable – Information and operation of the user interface must be understandable.
For example, language, abbreviations, unusual words.
Robust – content must be robust enough to be reliably interpreted by a wide range of users, including assistive technologies.
For example, syntax analysis.