#EAA – Accessibility: Making products and services in the EU easier to use

| March 6, 2019

Parliament and EU Council negotiators have reached an agreement on a European Accessibility Act (EAA). The new rules are a step towards a fairer and more inclusive Europe and should improve the daily lives of the elderly and people with disabilities across the EU.

The agreement will still need to be approved by MEPs and the Council before the legislation can enter into force.
More accessible products and services

More than 80 million people live with disabilities in the EU and many have difficulties using everyday products, such as smartphones, computers, e-books, and encounter problems in accessing key services via ticket machines or ATMs.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) requires the EU and member states to ensure accessibility. Measures at EU level are needed to set common accessibility requirements for key products and services.

The European Accessibility Act sets standards for key products and services: 
  • Ticketing and check-in machines;
  • ATMs and other payment terminals;
  • PCs and operating systems;
  • smartphones, tablets and TV equipment;
  • access to audio-visual media services, e-books;
  • e-commerce;
  • some elements of passenger transport services, and;
  • electronic communications, including the 112 emergency number.

Opportunities for businesses and consumers

Having common standards at EU level will prevent member states from developing different laws? This will make it easier and more attractive for businesses to sell accessible products and services in the EU and abroad.

New rules would encourage competition between economic operators and promote the free movement of accessible products and services. It is expected to give consumers more choice of accessible products and service and reduce their cost.

Exemptions for micro-enterprises

Because of their size and limited resources, exemptions would apply to some micro-enterprises, which are small companies with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet of less than €2 million.

However, these firms will be encouraged to manufacture and distribute products and provide services that comply with the accessibility requirements of the new rules.

EU countries will have to provide guidelines to these micro-enterprises to facilitate the implementation of the legislation.

Next steps

MEPs will vote on the draft directive during a plenary session in March. It will also need to be approved by the Council of Ministers before it can enter into force.

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