The European Accessibility Act: a big step forward but not enough

epa07336744 (FILE) - European flags fly in front of European commission headquarters, also called the Berlaymont building in Brussels, Belgium, 20 March 2018 (reissued 01 February 2019). Reports on 01 February 2019 state European Union ambassadors agreed 01 February 2019 that United Kingdom citizens should be granted a visa-free access to the EU area even in the case of a no-deal scenario after the Brexit deadline in March 2019 expires. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

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The European Disability Forum (EDF) described the European Parliament’s approval of the European Accessibility Act as a big positive step forward on a long journey but there is still the need for better and effective legislation in the area.

The European Accessibility Act is a landmark agreement. However, the EDF said that while it will ensure that many products and services are more accessible for persons with disabilities, it will still not make the EU fully accessible because it still excludes many essential areas such as transport, built environment and household appliances.

The new accessibility Directive is an important step, but the EU’s work is far from being complete as legislation is still needed that ensures equal access in all areas of life. the EDF said in a statement

In the meantime, the Directive will improve the accessibility of a set of products and services for persons with disabilities, such as:

  • computers
  • smartphones
  • tablets
  • TV sets
  • banking ATM and services
  • payment terminals
  • e-books and e-readers
  • e-commerce websites
  • mobile apps
  • ticketing machines.

    It will also ensure that national market surveillance authorities have the competence to hold private entities accountable.

The European Accessibility Act also fulfilled two important demands from the disability movement: electronic telecommunications and the 112-emergency number will become accessible to everyone throughout the EU.

The requirements of the Act will also support the public procurement rules for accessible products and services, so public authorities do not anymore use tax payers’ money in products, services and facilities that are discriminatory of persons with disabilities.

However, the EDF said the Act still does not satisfy its key demands and it is misleading to say that the Act will ensure full accessibility of buildings and means of transport, which were at the heart of the EDF campaign.

This means that millions of persons living in the EU will still face daily struggles to leave their homes. The Act does not include household appliances (such as washing machines or microwaves). This means that millions of persons with disabilities will still face daily difficulties to use these appliances and live in their own homes.
The EDF also expressed regret that microenterprises providing services are exempt from complying with the requirements of the Act. This exemption will significantly reduce the Act’s impact.

The EDF said it is shameful how Member States managed to reduce the scope of the Act. Governments now must redeem themselves and be very ambitious when incorporating the Act in national legislation.

After the approval, the EDF said that two steps remain to be made: the Council of the EU needs to give its formal approval and the Act has to be published in the EU’s Official Journal.

Member States will then have 3 years to translate the Directive into national legislation.



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