European Accessibility Act: What Will Change?

 

Eighty million Europeans living with a disability will benefit from more accessible goods and services at competitive prices! The European Accessibility Act was adopted by the European Parliament and Council. Member States have a six-year transition period before having to fully enforce it. Among the areas it covers are information for travelers, vending machines, banking services, e-commerce, e-books and emergency numbers. It is a small revolution for those with a disability and a huge challenge for businesses.

Towards Free Movement of Accessible Goods and Services

The European Accessibility Act has been on the agenda since July 2017 and has two principal goals:

⊗ Improve the daily life of the elderly, disabled people and people with reduced mobility throughout the entire European Union (80 million people at a conservative estimate); and

⊗ Facilitate the circulation of accessible goods and services by removing barriers created by divergent laws among the various Member States.

Businesses should see a reduction in costs from the standardization of accessibility laws throughout Europe. Furthermore, they will gain access to a large market for their products and services.


As for those living with a disability, they will benefit from a wider range of accessible goods and services at more competitive prices. Benefits are also expected for them in the areas of education and job access. Their expertise in accessibility should see a rise in demand and their professional integration will be eased by software accessibility.

Principles of Universal Design

Under this new European directive, goods and services should be designed in a way that allows them to be used by everyone, regardless of their particular difficulty:

⊗ color-blindness, poor vision or complete blindness;

⊗ poor hearing or profound deafness;

⊗ speech problems or total mutism;

⊗ problems in gripping or absence of physical strength;

⊗ reduced mobility;

⊗ cognitive difficulties (reading, gesturing, memory, etc.).

Essentially, every good or service must be “perceptible, usable, understandable and sturdy.” This means:

⊗ An action should be possible by using different sensory methods (voice message, speech recognition, visual display, touch);

⊗The transfer of information should also be possible via various sensory methods;

⊗ Visual contrasts ought to be considered;

⊗ The font can be increased;

⊗ It should be possible to change the volume and speed of audio messages;

⊗ Actions requiring strength or precision should be limited;

⊗ Latency time between two actions ought to be open to configuration;

⊗ There should be information on accessibility functions;

⊗ And, of course, assistance technologies should be compatible (screen readers, audio support, voice command, etc.).

Interested to know if Accessible Pedestrian Signals are required in your country? Check this article!

From Ticketing Machines to E-commerce Platforms, Many Areas Are Covered!

The directive mainly applies to digital services and related equipment:

⊗ Computers and operating systems;

⊗ Ticketing machines, check-in machines;

⊗ Smartphones;

⊗ Audiovisual services, digital television and related equipment;

⊗ Telephony services;

⊗ Public transportation ticketing and related information (road, rail, air, sea or river);

⊗ Bank services;

⊗ E-books; and

⊗ E-commerce.

Now that the European Accessibility Act has been adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council, only its publication in the Official Journal remains. After that formality, Member States will have three years to transpose the directive into national law and another three to apply it. Some associations representing disabled people have criticized the text’s lack of ambition, lamenting how it does not apply to transportation infrastructure, streets and buildings. It also includes many restrictions for small businesses. Let’s hope however that the new European Accessibility Act will be a positive impetus for the extension of universal design to all areas of everyday life!

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For those living with a disability, they will benefit from a wider range of accessible goods and services at more competitive prices.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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