Making products & services more accessible for disabled people

ATMs, PCs, telephones, TVs, e-books and e-commerce shall become more accessible for people with disabilities. The European Commission proposes the so-called European Accessibility Act.

How did we get here?

There are products and services for disabled people in all EU countries. However, they are not harmonized. Different countries have different standards. For example, a blind person cannot always expect a cash machine to have an earphone plug.


Why is this important for me?

In case you are living with a disability, this is obvious: The initiative aims to increase the offer of accessible products and services for around 80 million people with disabilities in the EU. At the same time, the improvements would also benefit the elderly or people suffering from an accident or temporary illness.

Apart from this, the proposal also wants to enhance the functioning of the internal market. It should become easier for companies to provide accessible products and services across borders, since they won't need to adjust to different national rules.


What's the content?

The proposal by Marianne Thyssen, EU-Commissioner for Social Affairs, covers a defined range of products and services. It includes

For each of these categories a basic set of common accessibility requirements has been specified. For example, a cash machine's user interface must "provide for communication via more than one sensory channel" which means you should be able to read and listen to information. By this rather vague wording you can see that the Directive will tell What? needs to be accessible, leaving the technically detailed How? to Member States and companies.

Finally, a special clause avoids that accessibility requirements will impose a disproportionate burden on companies - in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises - keeping them from going bankrupt due to the additional cost and effort. MEPs then also included a general exemption for all companies with less than 10 employees (microenterprises).


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

This proposal was supposed to be published in 2013 but was blocked because of the financial crisis. Now, the initiative is dealt with in the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. The report was adopted in April 2017 in the committee and again in a plenary vote in September 2017 which changed some details. The Council adopted its position in late 2017. Trilogues will start in early 2018.


Related Bills:

New consumer rules for online shopping

Access to a Basic Bank Account for Everyone

Strategy Against Discrimination of LGBTI Persons


Picture: "ATM keypad 3/4" by respotted on August 27, 2004, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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