EDF reaction to the decision of France to further postpone the implementation of the national law on accessibility

Brussels,
3 March 2014

The European Disability Forum (EDF) is concerned about the decision of the French government to further postpone for another 3 to 9 years the implementation of its law for the accessibility of services and public spaces. The French law of 11 February 2005 was foreseeing that all public spaces, houses and transport would become accessible before 1 January 2015 but this deadline will not be met.

The authorities have thus postponed the implementation of the law and worked out a timetable according to which certain places shall be accessible after another 3, 6, or 9 years depending on the sector, to give public and private sector more time.

“We would like to remind that with the ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, France engaged to take all measures to put in practice the rights which are contained in the Convention”, underlines EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis. This concerns also the implementation of article 9 of the Convention on accessibility, which defines concrete obligations for the accessibility of transport, physical environment, services, public spaces, as well as the accessibility of information and communication and the removal of the barriers to this. EDF has published its comments to the draft general comment of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will be soon finalised. “We are concerned by the fact that France hasn’t yet submitted its report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was due by February 2013”, says Yannis Vardakastananis.

Postponing deadlines has a significant impact on public services. EDF reminds also that France is subject to European obligations mentioned in directives on public procurement. Two new regulations have just been adopted and impose strict obligations about accessibility, when it comes to specifications of work, the services and supplies not only for public use but also for use by employees.

We disagree with the fact that the French government further delays the accessibility of rail transport for another 9 years based on the European regulation. The European legislation establishes minimal standards and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to modify an existing law or its implementing provisions in a more restrictive way.

The EU supports financially projects within the trans-European (TEN-T) networks and regional funds which include standards for non-discrimination and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

EDF calls on the French government to set severe penalties for any public or private actor who does not respect the law of 2005 and does not hand in a plan by the end of 2014 explaining which concrete accessibility measures they will take. A monitoring mechanism should be also created to collect fines that could contribute to a fund that supports accessibility measures in areas which are not covered by the law. Finally, information on existing financial support instruments should be made available to the actors involved.

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