SEE welcomes the EU Accessibility Act

The social economy, which is one of the pillars of the European social model, has traditionally been a key player in fighting discrimination and promoting the integration of people with disabilities at all levels.

In that context, Social Economy Europe (SEE), the EU-umbrella organization bringing together cooperatives, mutuals, foundations, associations, social enterprises, ethical banks and paritarian institutions, welcomes the proposal for a European Directive on accessibility requirements for products and services.

SEE strongly believes that this initiative will contribute to create a more social and competitive Europe by combining profitability with solidarity. This combination is a central component of our sector’s DNA.

We welcome that the proposal takes the form of a Directive, since this will ensure that the obligations are sufficiently strong. At the same time it will give Member States the necessary flexibility and create a common level playing field for all companies operating across the European market, including all social economy enterprises.   

SEE believes that there are areas in which the Commission proposal should be further strengthened, in particular:

  • The scope of the proposal should be broader, including a more comprehensive range of products and services, and referring also to the areas of health safety, environmental protection and consumer protection.
  • Accessibility needs of persons with disabilities should be ensured taking into account the diversity of this population and the principle of design for all. This means using easy –to read and alternative texts, pictograms, braille, sign language, induction systems which facilitate interaction with hearing aids, suppor products, assitive technologies, and any other devices and tools that facilitate accessibility.
  • Also, it is important to guarantee user involvement in testing the accessibility of products and training on the accessibility requirements.
  • The transition phase of six years is too long and should be shortened.

Equally, effective surveillance and enforcement mechanisms should be guaranteed in the proposal, in order to make sure that Member States apply the rules in their national legislation in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which is part of the EU legal system.

SEE encourages the European Parliament and the Council to further strengthen the Commission proposal along the above mentioned lines.

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