On the 7 December the Council agreed its position (general approach) on the European Accessibility Act (EAA), a proposal for legislation aiming to set common accessibility requirements for several products and services in Europe. On the basis of this mandate, the presidency is ready to start negotiations with the European Parliament in 2018.
The President of the Council, Kaia Iva, Estonian Minister of Social Protection, welcomed the agreement: “Everybody in Europe should be able to lead their life to the full, and have an equal opportunity to realise their potential. Today’s commitment will make it possible for people with disabilities, as well as elderly people and those with temporary health problems, to access products and services more easily. With all the smart technological solutions available today, our societies can be much more inclusive and ensure a better quality of life for all”.
On the 2 December 2015 the European Commission proposed a European Accessibility Act, which will set common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services that will help people with disabilities at the EU level to participate fully in society. In September 2017 the Parliament adopted its final position on the Act before starting negotiations with the Council.
The EAA, together with the European Pillar of Social Rights proclaimed in November 2017, will also assist Member States in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which itself includes an obligation to increase the accessibility of products and services. The adoption of the Accessibility act will lead to a harmonised implementation of accessibility requirements on certain products and services across the EU and will prevent the fragmentation of the single market and the additional costs that would arise as a result.
However, according to the European Disability Forum (EDF), the text agreed by the Council is far from meeting the disability movement’s demands and leaves out several very important elements that we have fought for during the decision-making procedure in the European Parliament. It excludes, for example, an important provision that would make it obligatory for public authorities to use the accessibility requirements of the Act when buying products or services (public procurement) or when EU money is being spent (EU Structural Funds).
This goes against the position advocated for by Autism-Europe and other Disabled Person Organisations (DPOs) such as EDF, as well as the position of the European Parliament and the industry who also support the inclusion of this provision in the Act.
Autism-Europe will continue campaigning alongside EDF for the adoption of a stronger and more ambitious text of the Accessibility Act that will make a real difference in the lives of all people with disabilities in Europe, older people and others. We call on the three EU institutions to reach an agreement on a common text which moves closer towards the expectations of the 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe.
You can also follow all updates on the Accessibility Act on social media using the hashtag: #AccessibilityAct