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A milestone in the accessibility history: the European Accessibility Act

On the 2nd of December 2015 the European Commission published a proposal for a European Accessibility Act. Once this proposal is adopted, it should lead to common accessibility standards covering products and services across the EU. Currently, there is no specific EU legislation on accessibility for persons with disabilities and the proposed Accessibility Act has therefore great importance and potential.

What is it exactly?

The European Accessibility Act is a proposal for a law that would make many products and services in the European Union (EU) more accessible for persons with disabilities.
The proposed Accessibility Act is a Directive, meaning that it's legally binding: the EU Member States are legally obliged to enforce it. However, the proposal provides for the accessibility of a limited amount of products and services:

  • Smartphones, tablets and computers;
  • Ticket and check-in machines;
  • Televisions and TV programmes;
  • Banking and ATMs;
  • E-books;
  • Online shopping.

We know that this is not enough. We would like for other things to become accessible, such as transport: when we travel, the railway stations or other buildings should all provide the so-called "built environment".

Fortunately, there is a lot that we can do to improve the situation. For instance, we can make decision-makers more aware of the difficulties we are faced with as visually impaired persons. And that's exactly what the European Disability Forum (EDF), a big organization representing all people with disabilities, aims to do. Indeed, the improvement of the proposed European Accessibility Act is high on EDF's agenda. To this end, EDF is working closely with the Disability intergroup, a group within the European Parliament that promotes the rights of people with disabilities and tries to bring positive changes in the European legislation, through continuous dialogue with the European institutions.

On 9th November 2016, almost exactly a year after its publication, the proposal was discussed at an event co-organized by EDF and the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament. You can read more about the meeting here.