The European Parliament’s internal market committee has amended draft EU rules to make phones, e-book readers, payment terminals and other key products more accessible to people with disabilities.
On April 25, the committee approved the rules, which would apply only to products and services placed on the EU market after the directive takes effect, by 19 votes in favour, none against and 17 abstentions.
Internal Market Committee rapporteur, Morten Løkkegaard (ALDE, DK), said: “Accessibility is a precondition for persons living with disabilities to enjoy equal participation and therefore to play an active role in society. To this end, it is vital to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. With greater accessibility for people with disabilities, we get a stronger Europe, which is not just a goal for politicians but also for businesses, which the European Accessibility Act will encourage to innovate with more accessible products and services.”
According to a European Parliament press release, there are around 80m disabled persons in the EU, a figure that is expected to rise to 120m by 2020.
The proposed “European Accessibility Act” (EAA) would enable them to benefit from more accessible products and services. The draft directive sets out accessibility requirements for a list including ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines, PCs and operating systems, phones and TV equipment, consumer banking services, e-books, transport and e-commerce. MEPs added other items to the list, such as all payment terminals, e-book readers and websites and mobile device-based services of audio-visual media.
The accessibility requirements would also cover the “built environment” where the service is provided, including transport infrastructure (e.g. train stations), “as regards to the construction of new infrastructure or renovations with a substantial change of the structure of the existing building”, where member states do not already have requirements in place, the committee decided.
MEPs agreed to base the requirements for accessibility on functionality, rather than on technical specifications. This means the EAA will say what needs to be accessible in terms of “functional performance requirements” but will not impose detailed technical solutions as to how to make it accessible, thus allowing for innovation.