Transport is one of the shared competences of the European Union, which means it has the right to legislate and therefore also one of the policy areas in which it has a strong impact. This is one of the reasons why we, EDF, dedicate a big part of our advocacy work to transport accessibility, which of course also includes tourism and mobility more general.
In the 25 years of our existence, we have achieved several big successes on EU policy level, of which we are still experiencing the benefits today:
- In 2006, the EU adopted Regulation 1107/2007 on the rights of air passengers with disabilities, granting amongst others the right to travel and the right to assistance at airports – and the first piece of EU legislation explicitly dedicated to persons with disabilities.
- It was followed in 2007, 2010, and 2011 by further Passengers’ Rights Regulations on Rail, Maritime and Bus & Coach travel which also included specific provisions for persons with disabilities including the right to travel and non-discrimination, assistance, and accessibility of information.
- Another big success was the adoption of the revised Regulation 1300/2014 on Technical Specifications on the Interoperability of the Union’s Railway System for Persons with Disabilities (TSI-PRM) which made it compulsory to make new and refurbished trains, as well as new and renovated railway stations accessible (with certain exceptions).
- Further laws and policies which we have fought for and which have improved the lives of persons with disabilities are of course also the Accessibility Act (Regulation 291/2019) which has provisions on transport services and for example ticketing machines, the Trans-European Networks Regulation (TEN-T) in 2013 which includes an article on accessibility for transport infrastructure and related funding, and numerous strategies such as the Sustainable Mobility Strategy, the Urban Mobility Stratgy, the Transport White Paper, and many more.
But we are of course still a long way from a fully accessible transport system that can be used independently and spontaneously by everyone. The Accessibility Act did not achieve the improvements we hoped for: full accessibility of transport vehicles and infrastructure in all transport modes is still not a reality and many obstacles to free movement persist.
The implementation of existing rules is also a problem, as well as gaps in existing legislation – just to name an example: even under the Air Passengers’ Rights Regulation for persons with disabilities, you can still be denied boarding for “safety reasons” if the airline deems you unfit to follow instructions in case of emergency or evacuation, or if the door of the hold of the airplane is simply too small for your mobility equipment to be loaded.
The use of other legislative and technical “tools” such as standardisation or public procurement rules also have to be used more consistently and they need to be more inclusive of persons with disabilities. Public procurement is a key lever to implement accessibility and non-discrimination policies in the transport sector, for example when a municipality has to buy new buses or renovate a train station. However, they often lack the expertise and technical knowledge to apply the EU rules properly which leads to unsatisfactory results for persons with disabilities. Standardisation should be a way to develop technical guidance to help manufacturers to follow the EU rules and explain in detail how to make for example a train vehicle accessible, but the procedure on how those standards are developed are not inclusive at all and Disabled Persons’ Organisations have a hard time making their voices heard in the development process.
To remedy some of those shortcomings that we have been drawing attention to for years, the European Commission has reacted on some of them with proposed actions under the recent Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Guidance on accessible public procurement is expected this year, and the Commission has also recently opened a call for evidence to provide information on how the Passengers’ Rights Regulations are still allowing for discrimination of persons with disabilities in practice.
We will of course stay active and keep pushing for better accessibility and non-discrimination in all transport modes. Accessibility is not a luxury and a matter of cost, it is It is a matter of making participation and inclusion in society, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a reality: it is a human right.
Marie Denninghaus, Senior Policy Coordinator
Find out EDF’s work on transport