The UN CRPD recognizes the importance of accessibility in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Transport and digital infrastructure are fundamental for freedom of movement of persons with disabilities; for the access to the internal market and for the mobility of persons and goods. Two proposals have been released:
-A regulation establishing the Connecting Europe Facility has been proposed to improve interconnected transport, energy and digital networks.
-In order to establish a single, network that integrates land, sea and air transport networks throughout the Union, the European Commission has established the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), which main objective is to allow goods and people to circulate between Member States and assuring international connections.
For the disability movement, the accessibility of transport and digital networks is a key issue to allow 80 million European with disabilities to have the same opportunities to move, study, work, live and participate to the internal market as any other citizens in the EU.
Connecting Europe is the financial instrument that will support transport projects across Europe, by means of co-funding.
Markedly, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities puts new obligations on European Member States when adopting or revising legislation to ensure that the needs and rights of the end users are fully respected. Article 9 of the UN Convention lists the appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others to transportation among others crucial issues. The European Commission has quoted this important article in the preamble (recital 31) of the proposal. The European Disability Forum welcomes such a mention in a recital.
-the promotion of accessibility: a clear mention to persons with disabilities
Although 4 articles of this proposal promote accessibility, article 43 is the one that calls for concrete results and mention disability: "Transport infrastructure shall allow seamless mobility and accessibility for all users, in particular elderly people, persons of reduced mobility and disabled passengers."
-the scope: more roads and rails accessible by 2050
So far the scope of those useful guidelines was limited. According to this new proposal, the European Commission wants to enlarge the scope of the legislation. It means that more roads and rails will have to be accessible. The network will progressively increase and by 2050, the great majority of Europe's citizens will be part of this comprehensive network.
EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis says: “When funding meets human rights, the European Union practically becomes inclusive. The 31.7 billion euros allocated to transport will now have to be spent in compliance with the UN Convention. This means that accessibility for persons with disabilities has to be delivered in the existing patchwork of European roads, railways, airports and canals throughout Europe!”
-Regarding the financial effort forecasted by the Commission to improve the ICT infrastructure networks, there will be more bandwidth available to deliver pan-European digital services. Although the disability movement welcomes the plan, it is crucial that services delivered thanks to this infrastructure include e-accessibility requirements of persons with disabilities (e.g. e-governments services could be broadcasted in sign language for deaf people).