Read all the news

How is Germany preparing for EAA? Interview with Börsenverein and dzb lesen


This month, Börsenverein’s Accessibility Task Force published a series of guides for professionals in the sector, including the German translation of Fondazione LIA’s whitepaper E-books for all (E-Books ohne Barrieren), updated and expanded with specific insights into the German market.

Germany. The Börsenverein guides on accessibility 

How is Germany preparing for the European Accessibility Act? We interviewed Karin Schmidt-Friderichs (President of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels) and Thomas Kahlisch (Directof of dzb lesen, German Central Library for the Blind) to tell us. Two different perspectives collaborating towards the same goal.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs
(President of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels)

Portrait of Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

Over the past year, Börsenverein’s Accessibility Task Force has worked to find the best way to support German publishers and professionals on the path towards compliance with the requirements of the European Accessibility Act. The first result of this work is the publication of guidelines and the LIA manual as well as a series of specific webinars on the topic. What are the next steps regarding these, and which activities are you planning for the future?

It has been a very intense journey for the members of the task force that brings together many dedicated experts from Germany, Austria and Switzerland – and an online experience, only. The exercise has been very challenging, but also very productive, and we are happy and grateful to be able to present these materials to our members, but also to all interested actors in the German speaking book sector.

The task force will continue its work at least until 2025, and there are of course many projects in the pipeline that will be developed over the next years, always trying to cater to the developing needs of the sector.

Training courses for the sector are one priority we want to focus on, together with mediacampus, Börsenverein’s training and vocational education institution. The aim is to permanently establish a dedicated programme on accessibility within mediacampus’ education portfolio.

One big challenge we want to tackle is a possible certification and labelling process, a task that you already handle so well in Italy. For us it is important to take a European approach, so that we at least try to have comparable accessibility benchmarks and recommendations for the sector. The exchange with Fondazione LIA and FEP is very helpful for us in that respect.

There are many more ideas and projects that the task force is discussing with its partners, and personally, I am looking forward very much to the next steps on this journey.

The European Accessibility Act requires the entire book supply chain to be prepared for accessibility by 2025. Which do you think will be the biggest challenges for the German market? And how do you think you will deal with those? How are you planning to involve other actors in the value chain?

I feel that the main challenges will be identified in the coming years and months – on the basis of the feedback we already receive from our members.

For now, we are trying our best to raise awareness among all actors – from bookshops to wholesalers to publishing houses. Everybody needs to understand the issue, know the requirements and try to identify the specific tasks for their businesses.

Our biggest challenge remains the text itself, since the EAA leaves so many important questions unanswered. The German implementation law tries to improve clarity here and there, but the Directive does not leave much room for this. This is a pity! The European book sector is so active and willing to deliver a smooth transition. Like in Italy, our association has a close co-operation with The German Centre for Accessible Reading, dzb lesen, and with other institutions representing the needs of visually impaired persons. This is wonderful, and has proven very productive. But even though we have joined forces, some questions around the applicable rules are not easy to answer and we need more certainty.

Thomas Kahlisch
(Director of dzb lesen)

Photo of Thomas Kahlisch

Why preparing for the European Accessibility Act, how important is the collaboration between publishing and organizations representing people with disabilities? How would you describe the situation in terms of dialogue and collaboration in Germany?

We already started working together with the publishing organizations in 2020 in a working group of the Börsenverein, called Taskforce Accessibility. The first result of this fruitful collaboration and interaction are the guidelines for publishers, how to produce accessible e-books (PDF and EPUB) and to create an accessible website including webshops.

One of the key steps to achieving full compliance with the new legislation by 2025 is to raise awareness in the publishing industry. What are the most complicated aspects to promote? And how can the discussion around accessibility be further stimulated?

One good way is to connect and network by joining the DAISY Consortium’s European Inclusive Publishing Forum. It is an open platform to exchange the experiences of the industry around Europe. Publishing organizations from all countries can become a member and use this network as a knowledge base. That can help, to raise the awareness for the publishers (and members of the value chain) and provide opportunities for more collaboration. Networking and sharing common experiences is also the key here.

Do you plan to raise awareness on the availability of commercially accessible publications and, if so, how?

Yes, we plan to create a platform for all accessible media in Germany and we will open this for publishers. We are currently still considering concepts for the realisation.