Accessibility - Towards a European Accessibility Act
ANED Annual meeting 12 November 2013, Brussels
Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero (Deputy Head, Disability Unit European Commission) suggested that the EU could act to promote accessibility bringing benefits both to disabled people and from a market perspective. A European Accessibility law is in the legislative program for 2014. A proposal will be brought forward in the first months of 2014.
Eurobarometer 2012 reported strong public support for such a proposal, and there is also a general understanding that differences in accessibility laws across the EU is leading to market problems.
This is just one aspect of the Commission’s work on this issue. Work continues in regards to EU standards. Most recently in respect to ICT standards, which will replace national standards.
Work on standards in the built environment is just beginning. It will involve two stages. First a consideration of functional requirements and then consideration of the range of physical specifications that can meet such requirements. It will be a slow process, but the ultimate objective is Design for All.
Gunta Anca (Board member of the European Disability Forum [EDF]) spoke of the urgent need for EU legislation on accessibility, and about the EDF’s Freedom of Movement campaign. This campaign highlights the obstacles confronting disabled people which still need to be removed.
There are several important initiatives on accessibility for persons with disabilities on EU level that have a great deal of potential, especially the European Accessibility Act (EEA).
The EAA would be one of the biggest and most important steps towards making Freedom of Movement a reality for disabled people. It would help to raise awareness and change people’s attitude towards accessibility by mainstreaming it, in accordance with the “design for all” concept.
Whilst taking a market-based approach, the benefits for the consumers and users, i.e. people with disabilities, of such a measure would be considerable.
In addition, standards are useful tools to make sure that “accessibility” is understood in the same way everywhere. EDF supports standardization efforts to create a coherent set of rules and to facilitate freedom of movement within the EU for persons with disabilities.
Gunta Anca concluded by stressing that much progress was still needed as full and equal accessibility, and total freedom of movement, are currently not the reality for disabled people.