Explanation by the German Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted (DBSV) About Gender-sensitive and Barrier-free Language


The German Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted e.V. (DBSV) has commented on the issue of using gender-sensitive language in German. Provided that alternative formulations (such as "Team" instead of "Mitarbeiter") and using both forms ("Mitarbeiterinnern und Mitarbeiter") are not possible, using the asterisks is the short form that is the most barrier-free for blind and visually impaired people and that additionally meets the interest of the queer community, namely a break in the reading flow, even for screen readers. Therefore, this form of writing is recommended by DBSV.


Blind and visually impaired people have texts read aloud by screen readers. To avoid interrupting the flow of reading, it is best to use both forms and gender-neutral synonyms. Punctuation marks and special characters are sometimes also read by screen readers, so that the reading flow is interrupted. Even if special characters such as asterisks are specifically suppressed in the programs, this can lead to important information being lost, for example in the case of forms. Screen readers replace a suppressed special character with a glottis stroke. This is a kind of short pause in the reading flow that we get, for example in the expression "uh-oh", where we separate the "uh" from the "oh" with a glottis stroke.

The colon is not recommended for gendering. It may not be read out by screen readers by default, since it is considered a punctuation mark and not a special character. Nevertheless, many blind and visually impaired people have it read aloud deliberately because it has important functions.

In order to make texts barrier-free for visually impaired and blind people, the options that have the least impact on the reading flow are therefore using both gender forms and synonymous terms that do not exclude any gender. If a short form is to be used, DBSV recommends the gender asterisk, as this is also the option largely preferred by the queer community.

For more information and background on the statement, visit the corresponding DBSV page.

More information on how to design media in a diversity-conscious way can also be found on an information page by HAW Hamburg.