This week saw a landmark vote for the more than 80 million people in the EU who are affected by a disability to some degree. The final vote on the European Accessibility Act (EAA) took place, and was passed with an overwhelming majority – 613 votes to 23.
The Act seeks to make key products and services more accessible to the elderly and disabled. It includes requirements for smartphones, computers, tablets, TV sets, ATMs, ticketing machines, e-books, e-readers, e-commerce websites, mobile apps and banking services.
The Act also aims to improve accountability, particularly within the private sector, by ensuring that national market surveillance authorities have the competence to hold private entities to account where they are found to be non-compliant.
Another important aspect of the act is that it will also support the public procurement rules for accessible products and services. This will ensure that public authorities will no longer be able to user taxpayers money on inaccessible products, services and facilities that discriminate against those with disabilities.
Morten Løkkegaard, who steered the legislation through Parliament, said: “These long-awaited rules will make a big difference not only to the millions of citizens with disabilities, but also to a lot more people, such as elderly persons. A disabled person will soon be able to use self-service machines and everyday products such as computers, phones and e-books.
“European businesses will also have more opportunities, since we were able to include public procurement in the Act and to introduce provisions that will unburden microenterprises. Consumers with disabilities now will have greater access to the digital economy, and innovation will still be possible”.
The Act, currently a draft directive, will come into force once it receives formal approval from the EU Council and is subsequently published in the EU Official Journal. Member States will have a three year deadline to provision for the directive with domestic legislation, and a further three years for their legislation to take effect.
For more information, please visit https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1202