European Parliament votes in favour by a majority

IF – 10/2022

In its plenary session at the beginning of October, the European Parliament voted by an impressive majority (611 in favour, 9 abstentions, 3 against) in favour of an own-initiative report by the Internal Market Committee on the establishment of a new "Accessible EU Centre." Behind this is that a new European centre is demanded by the MEPs to support the Member States in implementing accessibility standards.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a benchmark

The participation of people with disabilities is a fundamental right that encompasses all areas of life. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contains a large number of individual implementation goals tailored to the needs of people with disabilities. The EU first acceded to the UN Disability Rights Convention at the end of 2010. Nevertheless, many Member States lag behind in implementing the rights of people with disabilities, including Germany. Therefore, consequently, the report on the demand for a Centre for Accessibility was also created.

Correspondent calls for more accessibility

In the report coordinated by the German MEP Katrin Langensiepen (Greens/DE), she advocates that the new EU Centre should be of use to the Member States in implementing accessibility in a more targeted way in the EU and in national policy strategies. MEPs call for a well-funded Centre that brings together experts, national stakeholders and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, accessibility in buildings, in transport and in digital technologies is still being unsatisfactorily implemented. There is an urgent need for guidance and policy recommendations to implement accessibility across Europe.

The goal is for the Centre to become an Agency in the long term that can also initiate legislative proposals. Therefore, a strong structure including a secretariat is required, subgroups consisting of different stakeholders of disability organisations, experts in groups at European and national level to find appropriate solutions and policy recommendations for more accessibility.

The human being in focus

The Centre's primary goal is to advance the better inclusion of people with disabilities. For example, in the current standardisation system, these groups of people are not involved in the work of European and national standardisation bodies on an equal footing with other interest groups. When accessibility standards are developed, people with disabilities in particular should be involved in the future.

The ball is in the European Commission's court

The financial and staffing arrangements for the centre are one of many demands on the European Commission. MEPs wanted the European Commission to evaluate the effectiveness and added value in improving accessibility in the EU within five years of the implementation of the Centre for Accessibility. If the targets are not met, the European Commission should intervene and push for improvement of the Centre's functioning. Perhaps there could be an Accessibility Agency as early as the next legislative session.