Tomorrow, on 3 December, we will celebrate the European Day of Persons with Disabilities. The European Commission chose this important occasion to publish a long-awaited piece of legislation: the European Accessibility Act (EAA). The new Directive has a great importance as it will guarantee that persons with disabilities can access goods and services across the European Union on an equal basis with other citizens.
Persons with disabilities still face significant barriers to participate and enjoy their rights in the EU. They remain excluded from using public transport, spending their money in shops, accessing financial, social or cultural services, using mobile phones, reading information on the web or in printed format. While these things are so common for many European citizens, persons with disabilities struggle every day, due to the lack of accessibility requirements on public goods and services in the EU. Persons with intellectual disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in this regard. They need accessible information to be able to fully participate in society. Providing information in easy-to-read and plain format helps not only persons with intellectual disabilities, but also many other European citizens in understanding complex matters or explanations. Inclusion Europe strongly believes that the lack of accessible information results in persons with intellectual disabilities being victims of discrimination, violence and social exclusion.
Inclusion Europe expects the Act to bring improvement in the accessibility of goods and services for all persons with disabilities in EU countries. In order to fully participate in society and enjoy the freedom of movement, one of the most important pillars of the EU, persons with disabilities need better access to a wide range of goods and services in areas like built environment, transport and information and communication. The European Accessibility Act has great potential to positively influence manufacturers and service providers to make the goods and services they provide accessible for every EU citizen.
Inclusion Europe welcomes the European Commission’s decision to give the European Accessibility Act the form of a legally binding directive. Only a strong and legally enforcing document can ensure that accessibility is taken into account in all relevant EU legislations and policies. It was high time to make concrete steps to comply with the EU’s international obligations and put the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in practice to bring real change in the lives of 80 million European citizens.
While Inclusion Europe did not have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the text of the European Accessibility Act throughout the drafting process, we hope that all areas of life will be covered by the legislation and persons with intellectual disabilities will truly benefit from it. We expect this piece of legislation to allow effective mainstreaming of accessibility in all EU policies, legislation and programmes, and thus bring enormous benefits to citizens and to the EU as a whole.
The publication of the EAA will be followed by an 8-week consultation period in the European Parliament. Inclusion Europe will also analyse the scope and content of the Act. We will publish our official position early next year.
For more information about the European Accessibility Act and Inclusion Europe’s position, please contact Magdi Birtha, Policy Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org