On 14 September, the European Parliament will vote to determine its position on the European Accessibility Act (EAA). If we want an Accessibility Act with real impact, it is crucial to improve the proposal currently on the table.
The date of 14 September 2017 is very important for disability policy in the European Union. On this day, the entire European Parliament (all 751 MEPs) will vote on the EAA report adopted by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) in May. ENIL is deeply concerned, however, that IMCO has watered down the initial European Commission proposal to create a toothless European Accessibility Act.
ENIL is especially concerned about the following 3 points:
- The IMCO report has introduced an escape clause into the provision requiring that the built environment, in which the product or service is provided, is made accessible. In the current proposal, Member States that already have national legislation in place on accessibility requirements for the built environment will be exempt from the obligation to introduce new accessibility measures, regardless of the level of accessibility that these national laws require. As most Member States already have some form of (weak) legislation on the accessibility of the built environment, this would mean that the EAA will only reaffirm the principle, without any need for action. Therefore, it is essential that on 14 September the MEPs vote to replace this clause with a strong and binding commitment for Member States to make the built environment – where goods and services are provided – accessible. Otherwise, one could have an accessible ATM in an inaccessible bank; this would both be useless for the disabled person and a waste of resources for the bank.
- The original EAA proposal links the accessibility requirements to other EU Acts, namely the Public Procurement Directive, the European Structural and Investment Funds Regulations and the Trans-European Transport Networks. All these legal acts were adopted with the obligation to buy accessible products, services and facilities. However, the IMCO Committee has limited the application of the EAA requirements to other Union Acts to only the products and services included in the scope of the EAA (for example, the EAA would not influence existing passenger rights legislation, apart from defining accessibility). In order to ensure that when the authorities spend tax-payers’ money on buildings, products and services, those buildings, products and services are accessible, it is essential to use the accessibility requirements proposed in the EAA.
Related to this, EAA should define ‘accessibility’ as “enabling equal use of a product or service for all users” and NOT as “products and services… operated and understood by persons with disabilities and are sufficiently robust for them to use“.
- Instead of limiting disability to a strict medical interpretation, the EAA should, in line with the CRPD, define disability as any ‘long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in interaction with various barriers may hinder […] full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’.
Contact your MEP!
As the main representative body of the EU, the European Parliament has already shown on several occasions that it is ready to stand up for the rights of all EU citizens. Therefore, we would like invite you to contact your national MEPs and urge them to change the currently proposed IMCO report on the EAA. This is the only way the EU can live up to the promise of a Triple A Social Europe, with equal opportunities for all citizens.
Please use this model letter to send to your MEPs, which you can change or translate as needed. We would also like to encourage you to set up a meeting with your national MEPs during the ENIL Freedom Drive on the 26th September, in order to discuss the Freedom Drive Declaration.
Let us make it clear that we will not settle for anything but a strong European Accessibility Act!