Copenhagen, 4th March 2012 /// The leaders of the European Disability Forum gathered on the 3rd and 4th of March in the capital of Denmark for their board Presidency Conference on Accessibility and Inclusion where the disability movement presented how the EU has to improve accessibility for 80 million citizens with disabilities.
18% of the population in Europe remains unable to enjoy their full right for mobility, which prevents persons with disabilities access to studies, to work, and more generally to full integration in society. The leaders of the disability movement have focused on five crucial issues where the EU institutions can bring a major change:
- The access to the internal market through the European Accessibility Act,
- The EU legislation for accessibility of websites
- The anti-discrimination directive
- The integration of disability in the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020
- The alarming effects of the economic crisis
1 Upcoming European Accessibility Act is a key milestone
The President of the European Disability Forum Yannis Vardakastanis stressed that “No goods and services should be allowed on the EU internal market unless they are accessible for persons with disabilities. We call on the European Commission to come forward with a strong proposal for legislation on accessibility before the end of 2012”. For EDF, to be effective this Act should have:
- A scope as broad as possible
- a clear and extensive definition of accessibility covering all aspects and domains including among others e-services, safety even in case of emergency, and mentioning the need for interoperability and affordability of accessible goods and services.
- a clear reference to the relationship between accessibility, sustainability and quality of life during the whole life circle cycle
- basic accessibility requirements for goods and services in the frame of Universal Design’s approach.
Hosting the event, the chair of Disabled People Organisation Denmark, Stig Langvad reminded: “Lack of accessibility will not reduce costs. On the contrary, it will bring more costs to member states. This is why the crisis cannot be the excuse for lack of action. The organisations of persons with disabilities should be fully involved in the shaping of the act as well as during the monitoring and evaluation phases of its application”.
2 Accessibility of public websites
Under the Digital Agenda, the European Commission for Europe committed to produce legislative proposal on accessibility of publicly-related websites. It is now time to act and the European Commission must propose binding EU legislation ensuring that public websites and websites delivering basic services of public interest are made accessible as soon as possible and no later than 2015. A web-accessibility legislation giving the focus on access to content is complementary to a binding Accessibility Act which targets accessibility of goods and services. EDF believes both are necessary.
3 The anti-discrimination directive
The disability movement urges the members states to go ahead with the anti-discrimination directive and make sure persons with disabilities and other groups have the same rights as any other European citizens.
4 The integration of disability in the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020
The MFF is one of the indispensable tools to promote equal opportunities and accessibility for persons with disabilities for the next decade. EDF board members have adopted a resolution to ensure the inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities in the MFF being in process of negotiation this year.
The disability movement wants to add a new article to mainstream disability. This new article would cover all issues that the European Commission has to mainstream and should include the rights of persons with disabilities and in particular the CRPD. This resolution also calls to include accessibility for persons with disabilities as a condition in the legislative proposal for the MFF in order to ensure that all EU financial instruments won’t create more barriers for people with disabilities in Europe. This proposition also covers all the European Union external action instruments. The promotion of Human Rights and the inclusion of 1 billion persons with disabilities worldwide has no borders.
5 “We won’t pay for the economic crisis”
The EDF calls on the European institutions and all the Governments of Europe to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are not undermined by the current responses to the economic crisis. EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis stated: “Right now, persons with disabilities are struggling to keep their salary, their pension and their social benefits. Although we have been ensured by the European institutions that persons with disabilities would not pay for the crisis, extremely negative effects of the austerity measures are being reported. This is unacceptable: 80 million European with disabilities don’t want to pay for the crisis.”