Our analysis of the European Accessibility Act

7 June 2019

The European Accessibility Act was published today in the Offical Journal of the EU (read it in your language). Now starts the transposition period (3 years) when national governments need to "translate" the Act into national law.

To help with this, we publish today our analysis of the Act.

Read the full analysis here (Word)

The Act

The European Accessibility Act is a landmark agreement reached after decade-long campaigning by the European disability movement. The Act will set new EU-wide minimum accessibility requirements for a limited range of products and services.

The Act is a significant step in the journey of making the EU fully accessible for persons with disabilities. However, the Directive has shortcomings and fails to properly address the accessibility of transport and the built environment, in particular.

Products and Services covered

The text covers the following products and services:

Products

  • Consumer general purpose computer hardware systems and operating systems for those hardware systems (i.e. computers, tablets, laptops, and their operating systems e.g. Windows or MacOS)
  • Payment terminals
  • Self-service terminals related to the services covered by the legislation (ATMs, ticketing machines, check-in machines, and interactive self-service terminals providing information, excluding terminals installed as integrated parts of transport vehicles, aircrafts, ships or rolling stock)
  • Consumer terminal equipment with interactive computing capability, used for electronic communication services (i.e. Smartphones, tablets capable of calling)
  • Consumer terminal equipment with interactive computing capability, used for accessing audiovisual media services (i.e. smart TVs)
  • E-readers

Services

  • Electronic communication services (i.e. telephony services)
  • Services providing access to audio-visual media services (e.g. websites or apps of TV channels like BBC and video of demand platforms like Netflix)
  • The following elements of passenger transport services (except urban, suburban and regional services for which only the elements under point 5 apply):
  1. Websites
  2. Mobile apps
  3. Electronic ticketing
  4. Real-time travel information
  5. Interactive self-services terminals except those installed as integrated parts of vehicles
  • Consumer banking services
  • E-books
  • E-commerce (i.e. websites or mobile applications in which companies sell their products or services online)
  • Emergency communication with the single European emergency number 112.

Strengths and Shortcomings

The Act has a number of strengths, for example:

  • Economic operators are obliged to take immediate corrective measures if a product doesn’t meet the accessibility requirements of the Act or even withdraw it from the market.
  • If one Member State withdraws an inaccessible product from the market the others must follow suit. This is of course a strong deterrence measure against non-compliance with the Act. Market Surveillance Authorities are given a prominent role and NGOs, national authorities or other bodies can represent individuals in court under national law.
  • The European Commission can adopt additional laws (so-called “implementing acts”) complementing the accessibility requirements of the Act.
  • A great achievement of the Act is also that it obliges public authorities to respect the accessibility requirements when purchasing products or services covered by this Directive.
  • Finally, it is highly welcome that Disabled Persons’ Organisations will work with national authorities, other stakeholders, and the European Commission to advise them during the implementation of the Act. They will also be involved in future reviews of the Act.

However, there are ways in which the Act fell short of our expectations:

  • The scope of services and products it covers: health care services, education, transport, housing, and household appliances were left out of the Act.
  •  A number of exemptions are made even in case of products and services covered by the Act. For example, when the service is related to urban, suburban and regional transport or is provided by a microenterprise, it is exempt from the requirements of the Act.
  • Requirements concerning the built environment related to the services covered by the Act are left to the decision of Member States.
  • There are provisions that allows loopholes for economic operators to still place inaccessible products on the market (fundamental alteration and disproportionate burden).
  • It is also unfortunate that the robust enforcement mechanism of litigation, i.e. going to court on behalf of an individual under national law, does not apply to infringement cases made by public authorities.
  • The period of transposition by Member States is lengthy and for some of the products and services implementation is disproportionality long.

This EDF report is a first assessment of the agreed text, highlighting the major achievements and shortcomings of the Act, and providing preliminary conclusions for next steps in view of the Directive. We hope it will help EDF members to ensure a higher degree of ambition by national legislators. 

Read the full briefing

 

Email this page
Subscribe to