Greens engage in the discussion on the Accessibility Act

Brussels,
3 June 2016

On 1 June, the Political Group of the Greens of the European Parliament organised a hearing on the European Accessibility Act, inviting representative organisations of persons with disabilities to present their views on the legislative proposal of the European Commission.

Hosted by Members of the European Parliament, Igor Šoltes (Shadow Rapporteur on the file for the Greens) and Indrek Tarand (vice-president of the Disability Intergroup) the meeting focused on how the European Commission’s proposal could be improved in order to make a real and meaningful difference in the lives of 80 million persons with disabilities and older people in Europe.

In its initial response to the proposal , EDF has expressed its view on this emphasizing the necessity of widening the scope of the Act in order to also cover not only the accessibility of goods and services but also the accessibility of the built environment related to these goods and services. For example, making an ATM accessible is useful, but if the built environment around it (the bank) is not accessible, people won’t be able to reach the ATM and use it. Another concern of EDF and its members is that the proposal leaves much space for exceptions, if a company argues that it is too complicated or too expensive for them to make their product or service accessible. As EDF Secretary, Rodolfo Cattani, explained during the meeting: “the concept of exceptions has to be treated with caution as companies may use this to avoid making their products or services accessible”.

Several civil society organisations and EDF members attended the meeting expressing their views on the Act:

  • Dan Pescod from the Royal National Institute of Blind People stressed the importance of accessible audiovisual media: “It is essential to keep the accessibility requirements for media both in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and in the European Accessibility Act to ensure that those services are accessible to persons with disabilities”.
  • Wolfgang Angermann from the European Blind Union explained why the Accessibility Act is important for blind and visually impaired persons and what kind of accessibility problems a blind person encounters in their daily life: “Speech output is already available as a technology but unless it is required by law, manufacturers won’t use it as they are worried about potential costs”.
  • Frank Sioen from the European Network on Independent Living added that “We should look at the example of the United States where the accessibility requirements under their legislation on accessibility (‘Americans with Disabilities Act’) are much stricter and as a result, everything including the built environment is much more accessible.”
  • Sabrina Ferraina from European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) pointed out that “the Accessibility Act is a key instrument to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities so a strong human rights perspective is needed in the proposal and not just a focus on economic benefits”.

In the same vein, Member of the European Parliament Helga Stevens emphasised that the Accessibility Act has to be an instrument that has a real impact on peoples’ lives and not just a piece of paper.

Jan Van der Velden of the Dutch Presidency of the European Council presented the progress made on the discussions in the Council so far. A progress report on the Accessibility Act will be presented by the Council on 16 June.

Member of the European Parliament, Indrek Tarand, expressed the commitment of Greens to closely follow the process of the legislative proposal of the Act until it is –hopefully- adopted.

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