Complaining about poor accessibility

In this article I would like to discuss the question of whether it is better to campaign for accessibility on one's own or whether it is best to turn to an association representing one's interests.

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The lone wolf

I know both sides: I like to complain and do so frequently, as my fellow readers know. On the other hand, complaints often end up with me, both about my website and about clients' websites.

The success of such complaints is quite different. In the case of public and public-law institutions, the response is often comparatively quick. That is, you get an answer. Whether the circumstance that triggered the complaint is remedied is another question. Since September 2020, all public providers must offer a feedback option on accessibility.

Overall, I have seen the greatest success with smartphone apps. Especially on iOS, developers seem to be willing to improve the apps. Here, I chose the route of rating the apps in the Appstore. This may be because Apple makes it particularly easy to improve the apps, but I can't judge that. The best way is to rate the app in the Appstore with one star and, of course, briefly explain the reason for the bad rating. It is often also possible and useful to report barriers via the app's integrated options.

Furthermore, complaints are particularly successful when they are made by several persons. If one person complains, the problem may lie specifically with them. If a dozen persons complain, that is much more substantial. Unfortunately, Deutsche Post did not respond to my hints about accessibility, probably individuals are simply not relevant.

Moreover, exact descriptions of the problem help. So "it doesn't work" or "it's not accessible" doesn't do me any good. "Button XY" is not labelled, so that helps me already.

The association has more authority

Overall, an association always has more authority than any number of individuals. Of course, an umbrella organisation like the blind people foundation has more influence than a local association. Nevertheless, an organisation as a whole has more persuasive power than a single person.

And yet everything has limits. With a public or public-law organisation, an association finds a hearing very quickly. A private or non-profit organisation, on the other hand, is more interested in private consumers or interested parties or donors. Since there are usually no connections or regular contacts here, it is much more difficult to find a hearing with such organisations. There is also no legal obligation for such organisations to take care of accessibility.

A negative example is the German company Vorwerk. Many blind persons have asked there about the usability of the Thermomix for blind and visually impaired persons. Vorwerk reportedly told these persons that accessibility for these groups was not important to them. Pretty stupid, because disabled persons in particular would benefit from a machine that takes some of the cooking work off their hands. Vorwerk is a premium manufacturer due to its prices.

All in all, it is also the case that many associations, especially local ones, do not have the resources to work even harder on accessibility. They often lack the knowledge to explain problems in such a way that they can be understood by those responsible on the other side. Moreover, the number of such requests alone is likely to overwhelm the associations. Already, in many places, not even what is necessary is done.

Complaints offices

Meanwhile, there are a few ways to complain about inadequate accessibility. One way is through the conciliation boards when it comes to public bodies. For example, the Federal Commissioner for Disabled Persons has an arbitration board. However, it is only active for federal institutions. I don't know of any such bodies at the state level. They may still be created. You should ask the state commissioner for the disabled.

However, these arbitration procedures seem to be pure window dressing: My complaint against the Federal Centre for Health Education to the Federal Disability Commissioner had no consequences. The PDFs are still not accessible.

When it comes to the private sector, in a few places a complaint of discrimination is possible under equality laws. For example, job application portals that are not accessible can be discriminatory against persons who are disabled and cannot apply. However, this is complicated and rarely a viable route. And you still won't get the job. If you would like the job, you should definitely contact the human resources department of the organisation directly.


With public or public-law organisations, you achieve more overall if you go through an association. These are more likely to be major problems, such as when an entire app is difficult or impossible to use. For smaller problems, such as with individual web pages or documents, contact the institution directly.

For private providers, contact the organisation directly with a precise description of the problem. Persuade as many persons as possible to participate, i.e. write to the organisation as well. There is no guarantee of success, but you should always insist on a reply and follow up if necessary. Overall, it's the masses that do it.

You should be prepared to describe the problems in detail. Otherwise you will not be helped.

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