EAA conference hosted by MEP Šoltes and MEP Tarand
On 1st of June 2016, MEP Igor Šoltes, the Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur on European Accessibility Act hosted a conference on this act in the European Parliament.
Wolfgang Angerman, President of European Blind Union and Frank Soien from the European Network on Independent Living presented examples of accessibility problems that persons with disabilities face in Europe. A panel composed of Inmaculada Placencia Porrero from the European Commission, Rodolfo Catani from the European Disability Forum, Dan Pescod from the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the UK, Sabrina Ferraina from the European association of service providers of persons with disabilities and MEP Helga Stevens exchanged their views on the draft directive.
Many speakers agreed that the scope of the directive should be enlarged to cover more products and services. For instance, although one of the items of the scope is e-commerce, the proposal will leave websites of manufacturers and services providers uncovered. This is why EUD would like to see the accessibility of all private websites included in the scope of the directive.
Other elements of discussion included the demand to have clearer definitions of terminology and good safeguards to avoid abuse of provisions allowing economic operators to request exemptions from providing accessible products or services if this would be an disproportionate burden for their company or a fundamental alteration of their product or service. This is why well-financed, staffed and trained market surveillance authorities are key: to a) make sure that economic operators declare the accessibility of their product or service truthfully and b) to allow consumers to complain about inaccessible products or services on the market, once the proposal has been adopted and has entered into force.
Another topic of discussion was the suggestion to develop an accessibility label to declare conformity with the directive. The current proposal foresees the use of CE marking as a way for economic operators to do this, but speakers were worried that this might not be consumer-friendly: as CE marking is already being used for products to declare conformity with safety-related EU legislation, it would be unclear to consumers if a product is only safe or also accessible. Speakers also requested the foreseen transposition time of six years to be shortened, as many products, especially ICT, have a shorter life-span and could be made accessible more quickly.
Finally, speakers pointed out that persons with disabilities and their representative organisations should be involved in all stages of the creation process of products and services as well as during the development of European standards that can be used by economic operators to comply with this future directive.
All NADs know that lobbying is hard work and often undertaken over a long period of time before any results are seen. EUD would like to acknowledge the Slovenian National Association of the Deaf for its systematic and continued advocacy work working with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). An example of effective lobbying is the following: The Slovenian Deaf Association met with 6 different MEPs after the conference that EUD organised in November 2015, in honour of EUD's 30th anniversary. In all their meetings they discussed Slovenian sign language and the European Accessibility Act.
MEP Šoltes, in particular took note, and this led to a number of meetings with disability NGOs held in Ljubljana. Finally MEP Šoltes hosted this conference regarding the European Accessibility Act in Brussels that EUD attended.
EUD would like to share its appreciation and respect for the Slovenian National Association of the Deaf for it’s behind the scenes efforts in advocacy and work with MEPs that led to such visible results.
We would be happy to know of other NADs and any similar work they are also doing with MEPs that lead to other positive outcomes.
Further information on this conference can be found below