Last November, a big step further has been made for the European Accessibility Act (EAA): after three years of negotiations, an agreement has been met between the three EU Institutions, namely the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. The EAA sets common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services that will help people with disabilities to participate fully in society.
Thanks to this Directive, a range of products and services will need to be accessible to and usable by millions of persons with disabilities in the EU; such as computers, smartphones, TVs, ATMs, payment terminals, e-books, e-readers, websites and mobile applications of private companies and ticket machines. The 112-emergency number and telephony services will also have to be accessible to all Europeans.
It aims to improve the functioning of the internal market, making it easier for companies to provide accessible products and services across borders. Common accessibility requirements will also apply in the frame of EU procurement rules and for the use of EU funds. The initiative will stimulate innovation and increase the offer of accessible products and services for the around 80 million persons with disabilities in the EU.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, welcomed the agreement with the following statement:
“The European Accessibility Act establishes the world’s largest market for accessible products and services. This will have a positive impact on the lives of more than 80 million Europeans with disabilities. It will also make it easier and more attractive for businesses to sell accessible products and services in the European Union and abroad. By agreeing on the European Accessibility Act, the European Union is showing its firm commitment to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
People with disabilities will benefit from a greater supply of accessible products and services at more competitive prices. The improved offer can also benefit older citizens with similar needs for accessibility, as well as others in the wider public facing challenges linked to an accident, a temporary illness or a difficult environment such as low light or high noise. This will help increase active participation in society, including in education and in employment, as well as more autonomy and mobility opportunities.
In the meantime, the EU Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee approved the proposal, meaning that the European Parliament will vote on it in its plenary session and the Council will conclude by the final adoption.
However, ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardisation, and also the European Disability Forum expressed their disappointment, commenting that the Act lacks ambition and essential aspects notably by excluding transport, micro-enterprises that provide services, household appliances, as well as any obligation on accessible buildings and infrastructure. Basically the real environment where people spend most of their time.