The EU’s State of the Union must be accessible

The EU’s State of the Union must be accessible

Such an important debate should not exclude millions of citizens.

We are calling on EU institutions to guarantee that accessibility measures are in place during “The State of the European Union” address on 14 September, so all persons with disabilities can follow the discussions on an equal footing with other EU citizens.

The President of the European Commission will deliver this annual address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The “State of the European Union” will present the EU’s priorities for next year. The European Commission touts it as “A very important moment for the future of our Union!

What about persons with disabilities?

Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, and persons with intellectual disabilities will not be able to follow the debate due to its lack of accessibility.

The annual address started in 2010 remains largely inaccessible despite calls by Members of the European Parliament – including its Disability Intergroup. It is contrary to current practice in many addresses – such as by the French President, the US “State of the Union Address”, and in many other EU countries.

Such a landmark event should be available to all of us, regardless of disabilities. It is why we sent a letter in August enquiring about accessibility measures. We are very concerned about the lack of reply to this letter, sent to the Presidents of the European Commission (which will deliver the address) and to the President of the European Parliament (which will host the address).

In the letter, we asked for:

  • Real-time interpretation in international sign language;
  • Human-generated live captioning;
  • An “Easy to Read” summary of the speech.

We also recognised the usefulness of the text version of the speech that is provided every year.

In the letter, Yannis Vardakastanis – EDF President – said: “The State of the European Union is a crucial address to ensure that European citizens are informed about the priorities and plans of the European Union.” He continued: “We ask you to ensure the accessibility of the debates.”

We call on the EU Institutions to fulfil their obligations regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ensure this landmark address is accessible to all.

Read the letter. 

Photo credits: Daina LE LARDIC/ Copyright: © European Union 2021 – Source: EP