The European Parliament votes for an impactful AccessibleEU centre

The European Parliament votes for an impactful AccessibleEU centre

The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament voted on a report outlining the Parliament’s position concerning the AccessibleEU centre, one of the flagship initiatives of the European Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030. The report was led by the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Katrin Langensiepen, and it was adopted by 43 MEPs in favour, and 1 abstention.

The AccessibleEU centre to be created in 2022 aims at supporting the implementation of EU accessibility legislation by facilitating access to relevant knowledge and resources. Through this report, the Parliament further details down what the MEPs expect the Commission and Member States to set up in order to have an impact on the lives of 100 million persons with disabilities.

The report was widely consulted with accessibility experts and representative organisations of persons with disabilities like EDF. The adopted text calls the European Commission to ensure through the AccessibleEU centre the necessary cooperation among public administrations, economic operators, accessibility professionals and persons with disabilities and their representative organisations.

The Parliament deems it necessary to allocate “adequate funding both in terms of financial and human resources”, and to “establish a secretariat and a forum to steer and lead the work of the Centre”, as well as “specialised sub-groups of experts for certain areas” such as the built environment, public procurement, digital technologies, media and culture, transportation, emerging technologies, and assistive technologies, among others. The Parliament also suggests the centre adopts an annual work programme.

Moreover, the Parliament also calls Member States “to establish national accessibility hubs, which could comprise of contact points and mirror groups of experts to work hand in hand with the [AccessibleEU] centre on implementing, monitoring and enforcing accessibility legislation”.

As for the functions that the Parliament would like the AccessibleEU centre to undertake, the MEPs propose:

  • Provide guidance and training, and to inspire policy developments and innovation at national and EU level, including through the identification and sharing of best practices across sectors.
  • Provide advice, including guidelines, to relevant EU institutions and bodies and its Member States on their internal accessibility policies.
  • Identify and help overcoming gaps and inconsistencies in current legislation, providing policy recommendations for updating and developing accessibility laws.
  • Conduct research and studies.
  • Support Member States to develop accessibility education programmes to increase the number of accessibility professionals, and provide training to EU and national public officials and to interested people, including persons with disabilities.
  • Play a role in the standard-setting system when accessibility standards are being developed, and provide expertise and assistance to the Commission in accessibility-related standardisation and drafting of technical specification in support of accessibility policies.

Lastly, the report concludes by requesting the Commission to evaluate the effectiveness and the added value of the AccessibleEU centre after five years, and “based on this assessment, the Commission should take appropriate steps to update and improve the Centre, including an evaluation of the possible establishment of an [EU regulatory] agency if the objectives listed in its mandate are not accomplished”.

EDF warmly welcomes the support of the European Parliament in demanding a transformative knowledge centre for accessibility, as well as the possibility of upgrading this centre to become an EU agency with regulatory powers and responsibilities. This Parliament report will be voted in plenary after the summer.