The State of the Union must be accessible to all citizens

The State of the Union must be accessible to all citizens

The European Parliament Disability Intergroup deeply regrets that today’s State of the European Union address was not accessible to persons who are deaf and hard of hearing, and calls the Parliament services to develop a plan to provide sign language interpretation and live subtitling for its public debates.

More and better accessibility in national sign languages and, when applicable, in International Sign in the EU must be ensured in order to guarantee the full and equal inclusion of and accessibility for deaf persons. Likewise, current technology and techniques for live subtitling would also facilitate that persons who are hard of hearing can follow important debates, such as the State of the European Union.

We applaud initiatives of the European Commission to make its information more accessible, such as interpreting in International Sign the Commission’s weekly college read outs. We invite the European Parliament and all EU institutions to build on this initiative and ensure the accessibility of deaf and hard of hearing persons in the EU.

The Disability Intergroup reminds that the EU, and therefore the European Parliament too, is legally committed to providing accessible information and communication under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) articles 9 on accessibility, 21 on freedom of expression and access to information, and 29 on participation in political and public life.

The EU Parliament should follow the example set by the United States President Biden address to the Congress, which provided, for the first time, interpretation in American sign language so no deaf citizen was neglected. Similarly, many national governments and parliaments also provide this essential service to ensure the accessibility of their information to citizens.

Being a global leader in many regards, the EU must also respect and fulfil its legal obligations under the UN CRPD and lead by example when communicating to its citizens, as well as to make a reality the motto of the European Union “United in Diversity”. Thus, we expect that next year the State of the Union will address all citizens in an accessible and inclusive manner.