EU Accessibility Act will make products and services more accessible to persons with disabilities

EU Accessibility Act will make products and services more accessible to persons with disabilities

Around 80 million people in the EU are affected by a disability to some degree. Due to the ageing of the population, the figure is expected to increase to 120 million by 2020. Accessibility is a precondition to their equal participation and active role in society. And it can contribute to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contains accessibility obligations. It requires that its Parties, like the EU and the Member States, take the necessary measures, including legislation to ensure accessibility. Without EU action, each EU country will continue to develop different laws as they implement their obligations, thus fragmenting the EU market more and more. The EU action will prevent such fragmentation and create more market opportunities for businesses. It can reduce the cost of accessible products and services and have a positive impact on public budgets on the long-term, by reducing the dependency of older and disabled persons.

In 2011, the EU ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) This addresses disability as a human rights issue – not from a medical or charity perspective. It covers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and a wide range of policy fields: from justice to transport, employment to information technology, and so on. Article 9 of the Convention contains the obligations for State Parties on accessibility to ensure to persons with disabilities access on an equal basis with others.

In December 2017, the Members State of the European Union agreed on the European Accessibility Act. The European Accessibility Act will set common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services that will help people with disabilities at EU level to participate fully in society. The products and services covered have been carefully selected in consultation with citizens and civil society organisations as well as businesses. They include ATMs and banking services, PCs, telephones and TV equipment, telephony and audiovisual services, transport, e-books and e-commerce

The Directive 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.

The agreement on the Accessibility Act between Member States paves the way for final negotiations with the European Parliament, which already adopted its position in September 2017.

Official text of the Accessibility Act Proposal

Author: Marco Matrisciano (Abis - The Academy of Business in Society)