European Accessibility Act: EDF presented its position at the Parliament

23 February 2016
Speakers participating at the Panel

Today EDF presented at the European Parliament its initial response to the European Commission’s proposal for the European Accessibility Act. Together with the European Blind Union (EBU), the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired (SRF), members of the European Parliament and representatives from the European Commission and the Dutch Presidency to the EU, we discussed the key issues of the proposal and the possible points for improvement.


Last December, the European Commission finally published its proposal for the European Accessibility Act. The Act had been at the core of the freedom of movement campaign of the disability movement for over three years. The publication of the Act consisted also one of the UN’s recommendations to the EU on how to better work on the rights of persons with disabilities.

EDF welcomed this long awaited piece of legislation, and at the same time identified important areas where the proposal can be strengthened and made more effective. After a broad consultation with its members all over Europe, EDF published its initial response to the proposal highlighting ways in which the proposal can be improved in order to bring a real, positive change in the lives of persons with disabilities. For example, the widening of the scope of the Act is necessary; it should also cover the accessibility of the built environment related to the accessible goods and services covered by the Act.

Today’s meeting at the European Parliament was a good opportunity for EDF to present this position and the areas that can be improved in the proposal for the Act and to call on the European Parliament to make relevant changes in the text. That can happen in the coming period as the proposal will be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.

The European Parliament’s resolution adopted last May called on the European Commission to present “an ambitious proposal for a European Accessibility Act, with the full involvement of persons with disabilities throughout the legislative cycle and stresses the need for this proposal to include a full range of policy areas, with regards to the accessibility of goods and services for all European Citizens, fostering the independent living and full inclusion of people with disabilities, and ensuring ongoing, effective and independent monitoring and enforcement mechanism”.

EDF Executive Committee member, Pat Clarke, underlined that EDF is looking forward to working with the European Parliament and the Council to make this a reality. “The publication of the proposal for a European Accessibility Act has a great potential to improve the lives of millions of persons with disabilities in Europe – let’s take this opportunity and make sure this potential is fulfilled.”

EBU President, Wolfgang Angermann, underlined the importance of accessibility for blind people and people with visual impairments and that makes the Act an essential goal worth fighting for.

Ann Jönsson from the Swedish Organisation of the Visually Impaired talked about the lack of accessibility as a barrier to fulfil everyday tasks that are common for everyone else: “Persons with disabilities face many barriers when we want to do “normal” things like buying a train ticket or using a washing machine. We experience inaccessibility of products and services in our daily lives. Everybody should take part in society on an equal basis with others.”

MEP Soraya Post mentioned that there is a political will to work on the European Accessibility Act counting on the active participation of civil society organisations.

Jonathan Stabenow from the cabinet of Commissioner Thyssen, expressed the European Commission’s intention to work to prevent and remove barriers in the internal market both for consumers and for businesses.

MEP Helga Stevens explained that it is important that the Act also brings about changes for products, services and built environment at local level, because this is what persons with disabilities use every day and what has most impact on their lives.

MEP Igor Soltes emphasised that the scope of the Accessibility Act should be widened; it should not limit businesses but at the same time it has to give persons with disabilities the same opportunities as everybody else and reduce inequalities in society.

MEP Roberta Metsola said that the EU cannot leave anyone behind and that the Act is a step towards the right direction, but there is still room for improvement.

Geert Jan Buisman from the Dutch presidency to the EU explained that the Council and the Member States are still analysing the proposal of the Act, with a focus on its relationship with existing and proposed legislation. He stated that the goal of the Dutch Presidency is to reach a common approach on the Act so that the Council can then proceed further.

EDF will continue following the discussion for the proposal of the Act at the European Parliament and the Council and advocate for an ambitious and strong legislation.


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