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Accessibility Act: Time to move forward!

Tackling the complex proposal for the European Accessibility Act was the ambitious task of the 3 panels organized on the subject at an event that took place at the European Parliament on 9th November 2016. The event was co-organized by EDF and the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament and hosted by MEP Olga Sehnalová. A range of experts presented their views on the Accessibility Act, with each of the 3 panels focusing on a different aspect: accessibility of ICT products and services, accessibility of transport and built environment, and how the Act should be put into practice.

The Disability Intergroup was represented by its co-chairs Ádám Kósa, Helga Stevens and Kostadinka Kuneva, as well as by its vice-chair, Olga Sehnalová. They all expressed their support on the adoption of a meaningful Accessibility Act, that will benefit not only the 80 million persons with disabilities and the 150 million elderly people living in Europe, but all European citizens. It was also highlighted that the commitment of EDF and its national members is essential in this process.

The newly appointed rapporteur of the Act in the IMCO Committee, Morten Løkkegaard, was also present at the meeting. He stated that his intention was to listen rather than to present a defined stance, as he has taken the file upon himself only very recently. He expressed his determination to make swift progress with regards to the proposal, but added that its scope is probably not precise enough. Furthermore, he reflected on the issue of striking a balance and ensuring that innovation would not be hampered.

The rapporteur for the TRAN Committee, Davor Škrlec, also presented his views and underlined the need for an accessible, multi-modal transport chain, including booking and ticketing.

The EDF Director, Catherine Naughton, emphasised that accessibility is a fundamental right enshrined in the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), but that it also has an enormous economic potential: “Accessibility is a pre-condition to enjoy other fundamental rights, such as access to the workplace, education, public services, free movement, leisure, etc. that persons with disabilities should enjoy on equal basis with others. On the other hand, by harmonising a set of accessibility requirements for products and services for the EU, we will create economies of scale and more know-how inside public and private organisations to take into account 80 million persons with disabilities and many more millions that will benefit from having more accessible products and services”. You can listen to the recording of the meeting here.

VIEWS International has been following the progress of the Accessibility Act with great interest and anticipation, as it has the potential to positively influence the lives of young visually impaired people and to improve their freedom of movement and independent living, two key elements of VIEWS' mission.