On 7th December, the Council of Ministers of social/labour affairs (also referred to as EPSCO Council) reached an agreement on the proposed accessibility for products and services directive, also referred to as European Accessibility Act. On the basis of this mandate, the presidency is ready to start negotiations with the European Parliament.
More than 80 million persons with disabilities and 120 million older people live in the EU and this number will keep rising in the coming years as a result of an ageing society. With this European Accessibility Act, a wide range of products and services will become much more accessible to those with support needs. This means that they will be more included and can play a more productive role in society.
As a reminder, the products and services covered by the directive include: consumer computer hardware systems such as personal computers, tablets, smartphones; electronic communications services; e-commerce, e-books, services providing access to audio-visual media products; various transport services (for example ticketing machines and travel information) and banking services (ATMs, websites, and mobile device-based banking).
Microenterprises that provide services are exempt from the accessibility requirements since they are small, often newly established, and therefore lack the necessary resources.
The directive also helps EU Member States to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), which itself includes an obligation under Article 9 to ensure the accessibility of products and services. The adoption of the Accessibility Act will lead to harmonised implementation of accessibility requirements across the EU and will prevent the fragmentation of the single market and the additional costs which would arise as a result of the lack of harmonized rules.
COFACE Families Europe firmly supports the swift adoption of the European Accessibility Act as it would help persons with disabilities, older persons and others with support needs to participate in society and to live a more autonomous, dignified lives. Member States of the EU should show clear commitment to implement their own obligations under the CRPD and adopt a strong Accessibility Act as soon as possible.