Today, 13th March at midday the European Accessibility Act was finally voted in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The EAA is a landmark agreement. While it will ensure that many products and services will be more accessible for persons with disabilities, it will not make the EU fully accessible. It still excludes many essential areas such as transport, buildings and household appliances.
It is an important step, but the EU’s work is far from complete: we need legislation that ensures equal access in all areas of life.
Improvement in some areas
The Directive will improve the accessibility for persons with disabilities of a set of products and services, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions, banking services and ATMs, payment terminals, e-books e-readers, e-commerce websites and mobile apps and self-service terminals. It will also ensure that national market surveillance authorities have the competency to hold private entities accountable.
Importantly, it also fulfilled an essential demand from the movement: the 112-emergency number will be accessible to everyone throughout the EU. Which specially the Platform /EURO-CIU was pushing for, as it could literally save lives.
One of the greats achievements is the requirements of the Act will also support the public procurement of accessible products and services, so public authorities do not anymore use tax payers’ money in products, services and facilities that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
Buildings and transport – a flaw in the Act
However, the Act still does not satisfy our key demands. It is misleading to say that the Act will ensure full accessibility of transport and buildings, which were at the heart of our 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) either. This means that millions of people will still face daily struggles to use their appliances and live in their own homes.
Finally, we regret that microenterprises providing services are exempt from the requirements of the Act. Their exemption will significantly reduce the Act’s impact.
The campaign continues
The European Disability Forum thanks our members and allies for assuring the Act is becoming a reality and it has not been ignored and shelved, as it happened to other equality initiatives.
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum said “It is shameful how Member States managed to reduce the scope of the Act. Governments now need to redeem themselves and be very ambitious when incorporating the Act in national legislation.”
After today’s approval, two steps remain: 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 to national law. We will continue campaigning to ensure that the EU becomes fully accessible for persons with disabilities.