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Catherine Naughton is the director of the European Disability Forum, an umbrella NGO representing some 80 million people with disabilities across Europe.
Not only will it give EU businesses the chance to take the lead on the world market for accessible products and services. It will also and more importantly start to pave the way for all EU citizens to participate in society on an equal basis with others.
The proposal of the European Commission does not bring up something unreasonable or even anything particularly new, it is rather a means to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that the EU and all its members states – except Ireland – have already ratified.
So, is the proposed Accessibility Act really damaging EU businesses and imposing an undue burden on them? Having followed the discussions around the proposal over the last year, one could get the impression that businesses already do enough to improve their products and services, for example by providing assistance at train stations to persons with disabilities that wish to travel by train.
First of all, being assisted to travel and being able to travel independently are two completely different things. And besides that, businesses often fail to mention, this very assistance service has only been established because of EU legislation that obliges them to do so. Individual exceptions aside, businesses tend to act when they are obliged to do so by law. Of course having a law alone is not enough, but it is a basic precondition for a harmonised and efficient approach to achieve accessibility.