Accessibility Act: The Council of the EU adopts its position

7 December 2017
Activists campaigning for accessibility

The Council of the EU adopted its long-awaited position on the Accessibility Act in today’s meeting of the Social Affairs Ministers – finally the negotiations can start

The Council agreed in its meeting of 7 December on a position ('General Approach') on the European Accessibility Act, a proposal for legislation aiming to make several products and services in Europe accessible to all people. Now the negotiations among the three EU institutions, European Commission, European Parliament and Council, to agree on a final text can start. EDF would like to thank the European Commission and the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU for pushing for this agreement. We hope that the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency will keep the Accessibility Act high in the political agenda of the EU.

However, the text agreed by the Council is far from 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 our position, as well as the position of the European Parliament and the industry who also support the inclusion of this provision in the Act.

Furthermore, the Council position also limits the application of the Act to microenterprises, as does the position of the European Parliament. EDF regrets this exclusion because microenterprises supply vital services and products for persons with disabilities and this blanket exemption will have negative effects on the competitiveness of those enterprises and the EU Internal Market as a whole.

Accessibility of the built environment, which EDF successfully campaigned for and managed to convince the European Parliament to include it in it position, has also been excluded in the Council position.

However, EDF welcomes that now the trialogues, i.e. the negotiations between the three EU institutions (Council, Parliament, and Commission) can finally start. We are hoping that they will reach an agreement on the Accessibility Act within the next year in order to avoid a deadlock situation.

It is also important to keep in mind that the text can still change significantly and that the Council position does not constitute the views of all institutions – previous examples such as the Web Accessibility Directive have shown that many positive changes can still be achieved during the trialogues. EDF and its members will, thus, continue campaigning 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, including those with disabilities, older people and others.

EDF calls on the three EU institutions to reach an agreement on a common text which moves closer towards the expectations of 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

In the following days, EDF will publish an in-depth analysis of the Council position.

Follow all updates also on social media using the hashtag: #AccessibilityAct

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