Disabled groups’ dismay at Parliament vote on accessibility

A wheelchair-using passenger on a disability ramp at Ottawa station in Canada - the sort of infrastructure the EU Accessibilty Act promises. [ShankarS/Flickr]

Disability groups have expressed dismay at this week’s vote in the European Parliament on the proposed EU Accessibility Act, saying it risks making the act “meaningless for millions of people.”

On Tuesday (25 April) the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) voted on the act, which is intended to improve accessibility requirements for products and services for disabled people and PRMs (people with reduced mobility).

The report as passed by IMCO was immediately lambasted by the European Disability Forum (EDF) – an umbrella group representing 100 associations and some 80 million disabled people across the EU.

It said the report was a “watering down” of the original responsibilities of the act, and that IMCO had ultimately “favoured business demands over the rights of people”.

They point to a series of measures which they say has diluted the original intentions of the act, which itself was an adoption into EU law of principles first espoused by the United Nations.

The IMCO voted by 20 votes in favour, 17 abstentions and zero against the report on Tuesday, under Danish MEP and rapporteur Morten Lokkegaard.

Battle hots up over details of Accessibilty Act for passengers with disabilities

Last week dozens of people with disabilities demonstrated outside the European Parliament in the hope that MEPs will honour promises they saw in a landmark new accessibility act.

According to the committee’s analysis, the draft rules approved by IMCO will make products and services such as smartphones, ebooks and ticket machines “more accessible” to people with disabilities.

Lokkegard, from the liberal ALDE group, said “Accessibility is a precondition for persons living with disabilities to enjoy equal participation and therefore to play an active role in society. To this end, it is vital to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. With greater accessibility for people with disabilities, we get a stronger Europe, which is not just a goal for politicians but also for businesses, which the European Accessibility Act will encourage to innovate with more accessible products and services.”

However, the EDF are urging MEPs, when they meet in plenary in June, to vote to “substantially” amend the report. Spokeswoman Lila Sylviti highlighted some eight areas in which they think the report falls flat.

She said: “This deletes the definition of ‘persons with functional limitations’, it exempts both SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and micro-enterprises  from notifying obligation to authorities, it limits the application of the act on transport services, and does not address the accessibility of the built environment.”

According to the EDF, “millions of people will continue facing barriers to enter a bank, a school or a train station.

“Even if they are not ‘accessible’, cash machine ATMs or ticketing machines can still be used until the end of their economic lives – they don’t have to be replaced by ones which would make it possible for all people to use them to withdraw money or buy a ticket.”

The UITP (International Organisation of Public Transport Authorities and Operators) – which represents private and public transport providers across Europe – has previously strongly argued that staff and personnel present to help disabled passengers was a more realistic solution that replacing all ticket machines at stations and metro stops.

Separately, the EDF has criticised the IMCO report for allowing SMEs – that is companies up to 250 employees – for being able to continue making inaccessible (to PRM) products without notifying authorities, if they consider making accessible products “would be too much of a burden for them”.

It also condemns the decision to allow a company to estimate how many disabled people would be “directly affected”, saying this would exclude older people and people with temporary ailments.

However, MEPs do specifically state in their report that “lack of priority, time or knowledge” shall not be considered as legitimate reasons for claiming that a burden is “disproportionate”.

The report will be debated by the Parliament at its June plenary, before going to EU ministers in the Council.

European Accessibility Act ‘not future-proof enough’

The EU tech industry has criticised the European Commission’s draft Accessibility Act, saying it is too prescriptive and fails to provide incentives for innovative businesses to develop the solutions that will make life easier for people with disabilities.

Further Reading

Leftist MEP: EU Accessibility Act is an 'ideal chance'

The European Accessibility Act for people with disabilities opens a "huge horizon" and new innovation fields for everybody, but its scope should be widened to more products and services, MEP Konstantina Kuneva said in an interview with EURACTIV.com.

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UITP Europe

UITP is the international association representing public transport stakeholders. In the EU, UITP brings together more than 400 urban, suburban and regional public transport operators and authorities from all member states and is a key partner for the European institutions and other bodies.

UITP and its members aim to make public transport infrastructure and services more accessible to “the world’s largest minority” and, more broadly, to all people with reduced mobility and with disabilities.


Events

UITP-Busworld International Bus Conference | 23-24 October 2017 | Kortrijk, Belgium

The UITP International Bus Conference will take place in conjunction with the Busworld Europe exhibition in Kortrijk, Belgium. These unrivalled major bus events will bring together bus operators, authorities, and industry experts from across the world. This will be an unmissable opportunity for you to learn and exchange best practices on day-to-day bus operations, compare trends and see the opportunities that new technology can bring to your organisation.

UITP Workshop: Mobility as a Service: How to make an integrated mobility solution successful | 18 October 2017 | Paris, France

Join the UITP Combined Mobility Community for an interactive workshop day on Mobility as a Service (MaaS). MaaS or integrated mobility platforms are key to reduce car ownership as they provide registration, information, booking, payment, and ticketing/billing for the use of all available urban mobility services, but how can we get it right to offer an alternative to car ownership and guarantee freedom of mobility to our citizens?


Best practices

Find out more about ongoing efforts of UITP members to make travelling in cities accessible for everyone:

Bluebus
Vienna – Wiener Linien
Paris – RATP
Stuttgart – SSB (only in German)
London – Transport for London
Helsinki - HKL
Madrid - EMT / Metro
Madrid
Keolis
Handéo – French Association
TMB - Barcelona
Transdev Group
MyAid - Swiss Innovation Lab
Rimini
Movia Denmark (available only in Danish)
Stockholm
Västtrafik – Gothenburg


Publications

Accessibility Guide - UITP’s latest work in this field is a practical guide to help public transport staff deal with people with reduced mobility and with disabilities made together with the International Road Union (IRU) and the European Disability Forum (EDF).

PTI magazine is out!

PTI2 - Access to my city