On 4th July 2023, EUD attended the launch of the European Accessible Resource Centre – “AccessibleEU Centre” (the Centre hereafter) held by the European Commission. As one of the flagship initiatives of the Disability Rights Strategy 2021 – 2030, the Centre aims to ensure accessibility – through the sharing of knowledge, good practices, and expertise – for all persons with disabilities and in all aspects of life.
The event was opened by Ms Katarina Ivankovic-Knezevic, Director at Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), who recalled that “accessibility is embedded in the EU law”. This was also echoed by Ms Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, who also stated that accessibility includes not only the surrounding environment but also technology which needs to be interoperable for everyone. In this context, Commissioner Dalli highlighted the improvements made within the field of accessibility by the European Commission – which include the EU Accessibility Act and the EU Accessibility Awards. Nevertheless, Ms Dalli also stressed that much more needs to be done, especially concerning the implementation of laws on accessibility, and the key role that the AccessibleEU Centre will play in this. These words were also echoed by Ms Imaculada Placencia–Porrero, Senior Expert in Disability and Inclusion at DG EMPL – who defined the scope of the Centre as “the professionalisation of accessibility and the fixation of legal accessibility standards”.
Indeed, as pointed out by the European Disability Forum President – Ioannis Vardakastanis – the Centre is a clear demand by the disability community and by political leaders to make the EU more accessible. MEP Katrin Langensiepen (Greens/EFA – Germany) further added that this will be possible through the sharing of accessibility knowledge of the Centre with EU Member States and by providing adequate funding to the Centre.
The EUD welcomes this initiative to promote accessibility for all persons living in the EU. The deaf community remains marginalized in all areas of life due to accessibility reasons, both on the physical as well as in the digital environment. However, predominantly the accessibility barriers pertain to communication and information. In order to promote accessibility for deaf persons, EUD calls the centre to:
- The EU must grant legal recognition to all its 31 National Sign Languages (NSLs) and International Sign (IS) at the EU level and their employment in all aspects of life (see more on this in our position paper on NSLs accessibility).
- Ensure all information on the AccessibleEU Centre is provided both in NSLs as well as in IS.
- Ensure full collaboration between the European Union of the Deaf and those responsible for the development of the Centre to share knowledge, expertise, good practices, as well as a monitoring mechanism to promote accessibility for deaf people.