Disadvantage in competition: lack of digital Accessibility

There is an interesting regularity: When you look for accessibility information of an internationally operating software provider or at least in the Anglo-American area, you will almost always find it. It is not always VPAT or similarly meaningful, but at least you will find a statement. In Germany, the exact opposite is true: if you search for accessibility for the product, you usually find nothing or something very general. I have noticed this with various alternative solutions for online collaboration. For data protection reasons in particular, people want to get away from US providers.

I think it speaks for itself that many German providers do not even have the issue of accessibility on their radar. And this is despite the fact that they want to sell their software primarily to government organisations, which are obliged to provide accessibility. The focus is in general on schools and the education sector.

Accessibility seems to be a feature for many of these companies, not a must. None of these companies would go online with publicly known data protection deficiencies, but accessibility - that can be built in at some point later or never.

Unfortunately, that speaks to a lack of foresight. Let's face it, for the last 20 years, accessibility has largely not been taken seriously in the public sector. The first BITV gets 20 years old in 2023. But the pressure and awareness have increased.

This means that in case of doubt, another US provider can win the race. I am absolutely no expert on data protection, but in my experience, the issue is on the radar of most international providers. Otherwise, they would not be able to enter the EU market at all. Teams and WebEx are widely used in public institutions in Germany, alternative providers from the EU have so far not played a role.

Even if I don't share 100% of the German passion for data protection, I think it's good to consider alternative solutions. I don't use Zoom because I think monopolies are so great, but because I host events myself and need to be able to control them. For my newsletter, I use a non-accessible but DSGVO-compliant provider. If there is an alternative that works just as well for me and other participants as Zoom, I would gladly use it, even if it is a little more expensive. So far, I haven't come across one.

Big Blue Button, for example, has done well, but is not so usable for a person with hearing impairment because of the bad sound quality.

Sure, there is a glaring shortage of skilled workers, especially software and web developers with accessibility skills. Then you just have to qualify people for that. It's not as if it's some esoteric witchcraft without any training materials. The topic won't be gone in five years, and people would be qualified in any other field. Only in the case of accessibility is there a fuss made about further training.

As mentioned above, I rather suspect that market research has been neglected - keyword compliance. Data protection is mandatory, accessibility is mandatory. Without these aspects, you can't sell software to the public sector. Retrofitting accessibility is like doing the same job twice - hardly manageable for an SME. So you should think about it from the very beginning.

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