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<European Accessibility Act

In December 2015, the Commission issued a Proposal for a Directive on accessibility requirements for products and services. It has since then taken on political momentum and its name has even morphed into ‘European Accessibility Act’, yet another sign of the inexorable rise of aging-related issues on the EU agenda.

The Proposal contained a provision on the built environment:

Article 3

Accessibility requirements

...

10.Member States may decide, in the light of national conditions, that the built environment used by clients of passenger transport services including the environment that is managed by service providers and by infrastructure operators as well as the built environment used by clients of banking services, and customer services centres and shops under the scope of telephony operators shall comply with the accessibility requirements of Annex I, section X, in order to maximise their use by persons with functional limitations, including persons with disabilities.

ANNEX I

SECTION X - ACCESSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PURPOSE OF ARTICLE 3(10) CONCERNING THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT WHERE THE SERVICES UNDER THE SCOPE OF THIS DIRECTIVE IS PROVIDED

The accessibility to persons with functional limitations, including persons with disabilities, of the built environment where the service is provided, referred to in Article 3(10) for its foreseeable use in an independent manner, shall include the following aspects of areas intended for public access:

  1. use of related outdoor areas and facilities under the responsibility of the service provider;
  2. approaches to buildings under the responsibility of the service provider;
  3. use of entrances;
  4. use of paths in horizontal circulation;
  5. use of paths in vertical circulation;
  6. use of rooms by the public;
  7. use of equipment and facilities used in the provision of the service;
  8. use of toilets and sanitary facilities;
  9. use of exits, evacuation routes and concepts for emergency planning;
  10. communication and orientation via more than one sensory channel;
  11. use of facilities and buildings for their intended purpose;

Non-binding nature

"Member States may decide": There is no obligation on member states to do anything.

Scope

"the built environment used by clients of passenger transport services including the environment that is managed by service providers and by infrastructure operators as well as the built environment used by clients of banking services, and customer services centres and shops under the scope of telephony operators"

In May of this year, Council dumped the whole provision: "the built environment should be left out of the Directive, as a Directive should not include recommendations or voluntary provisions;" (Progress Report, p. 3) Well said! Indeed, a Directive is supposed to be binding European law, not a wish list.

However, in September Parliament (Rapporteur: Morten Løkkegaard) made the provision binding:

Amendment 224 Proposal for a directive Article 3 - paragraph 10

10. Member States shall ensure that the built environment used by clients of passenger transport services including the environment that is managed by service providers and by infrastructure operators as well as the built environment used by clients of consumer banking services, and customer services centres and shops under the scope of telephony operators shall, as regards the construction of new infrastructure or substantial renovations to existing infrastructure, comply with the accessibility requirements set out in Section X of Annex I, in order to maximise their use by persons with disabilities. This shall be without prejudice to Union legal acts and national legislation for the protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historic and archaeological value.

To make this binding requirement more digestible for Council, they have reduced the scope, EPBD-style, to new buildings and buildings undergoing substantial renovation.

The vote was an amazing 537 votes to 12, with 89 abstentions.

Once Council reaches a common position on the text of the Directive, negotiations with Parliament will begin.

EPF Members: Full report under epf17-78 of 19.09.2017