Today, the European Parliament and the Council came to a provisional agreement on the Commission's proposal for a European Accessibility Act, which will make many everyday products and services accessible to persons with disabilities. Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, welcomed the agreement with the following statement:
"Today we have made another important step towards a fairer and more social Europe. Following today's provisional agreement, the European Union is set to become a more accessible place to live and work for persons with disabilities.
Concretely, we have agreed on the establishment of common accessibility requirements for key products and services such as phones, computers, payment terminals or self-service terminals, banking services, electronic communications including the 112 emergency number, access to audio-visual media services, e-books, e-commerce and some elements of transport services.
The European Accessibility Act establishes the world's largest market for accessible products and services. This will have a positive impact on the lives of more than 80 million Europeans with disabilities. It will also make it easier and more attractive for businesses to sell accessible products and services in the European Union and abroad.
By agreeing on the European Accessibility Act, the European Union is showing its firm commitment to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
I wish to thank all parties who made this result possible, and would like to acknowledge in particular the efforts made by the Austrian Presidency and its predecessors on behalf of the Council, as well as Rapporteur Morten Løkkegaard and the shadow Rapporteurs on behalf of the European Parliament.
I hope this agreement will be confirmed quickly, so that we can make a real difference in the lives of millions of European citizens."
The agreement will be submitted to the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) for approval. Once the Member States' Permanent Representatives confirm the agreement, the European Parliament will vote in the plenary session and the Council will conclude by the final adoption.
More than 80 million people in the EU are affected by a disability to some degree. Accessibility is a precondition for their equal participation and active role in society. It also contributes to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The European Accessibility Act was proposed by the European Commission in December 2015 in order to bring benefits both for persons with disabilities and for businesses producing relevant products and services. Persons with disabilities, as well as many elderly people, will benefit from a greater supply of accessible products and services, and will thus be able to participate more actively in society. Manufacturers and service providers will be able to sell and export their products and services across the EU without the need to adjust them to divergent national provisions. Imported products and services will also have to comply with these obligations and requirements.
ATMs, for instance, will provide sockets for headphones so that blind persons can withdraw money with the support of audio instructions. Keyboards will provide tactual clues. ATMs will also have visual alerts (blinking lights) in addition to audible signals to indicate where the cards need to be introduced or where the money comes out.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) contains accessibility obligations, and was ratified by the EU in 2011. It requires that its Parties, like the EU and the Member States, take the necessary measures, including legislation to ensure accessibility. Without EU action, each EU country would continue to develop different laws as they implement their obligations, thus causing fragmentation within the EU market. EU action in this field prevents such fragmentation and creates more market opportunities for businesses. It broadens the choice and reduces the cost of accessible products and services for consumers and has a potentially positive impact on public budgets on the long-term, by reducing the dependency of older and disabled persons.
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