European Parliament threatens access to TV & digital books for persons with disabilities

12 July 2016

Its Culture Committee aims at removing Audiovisual Media Services including TV programmes and e-books from the European Accessibility Act meaning that they do not need to be accessible

Tomorrow, the Culture Committee of the European Parliament will vote on their opinion on the proposed European Accessibility Act. The responsible Rapporteur of the Culture Committee on this issue, Petra Kammerevert MEP (Socialists and Democrats) and the European People's Party’s spokesperson in this Committee Sabine Verheyen MEP are proposing that audiovisual media services, such as TV programmes, and digital books (e-books) should not be covered by the proposed Accessibility Act. That means that these services will not need to be accessible for 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

EDF strongly condemns this negative development and calls on the Culture Committee to reject the amendments (number 1 to 15, 38, 42, 72) of the text on removing audiovisual media services and e-books from the Accessibility Act in tomorrow’s vote . These amendments would restrict access to audiovisual services and digital books, which are crucial gateways to culture in our societies. The Parliament should promote alignment with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the EU has ratified; access to culture is clearly protected under article 30 of the UN Convention clarifying among others that: ‘States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities in accessible formats’ .

At the same time, the European Commission has proposed to revise the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and delete from it the only article on accessibility. EDF calls for a stronger article on accessibility with clear and mandatory targets in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. This will be complemented by the detailed accessibility requirements for audiovisual media services in the Accessibility Act.

It is not a question of one or the other – both proposals are complementary in ensuring that audiovisual services and e-books are accessible for persons with disabilities. We want an ambitious, meaningful, and wide-reaching Accessibility Act to ensure that all persons with disabilities can participate in society on an equal basis with others.

Finally, EDF wants to stress that accessibility does not conflict with the protection of cultural diversity as argued by the Culture Committee; the content of a TV programme, a film or a digital book will never change because of being accessible. It will simply allow more people to access cultural activities.

BACKGROUND

The European Accessibility Act is a long-awaited law which will provide requirements to make products and services accessible for persons with disabilities in the European Union (EU). Last December, the European Commission published its proposal of the Act which is now discussed by the European Parliament. While at the European Parliament the Internal Market Committee has the main responsibility on the Act, other Committees can also give their opinions or even have exclusive competence on some parts of the proposed law. For example, as mentioned above, the Culture Committee gives its opinion specifically on the accessibility of Audiovisual Media Services.

MORE INFORMATION

European Commission’s proposal for the European Accessibility Act

EDF’s initial response on the European Commission’s proposal for the Act

EDF's statement on the proposal for the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive

EDF’s campaign on Freedom of Movement

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