The EU population is getting older. An ageing population means more people with hearing-, vision- and mobility-related impairments. Hearing a movie soundtrack, reading an on-screen menu, dialing a phone number or just changing TV channels can be a real challenge for many. It is not just an age-related issue: in the EU there are around 30 million visually-impaired people of all ages, of whom 1.6 million are completely blind. Similarly, there are over 70 million people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, and an estimated 25-35 million people with physical disabilities of all forms. There is increasing pressure from consumers to cater for a wider spectrum of user needs and abilities. Recognising the fundamental importance of equal access to digital services, DIGITALEUROPE focusses on the definition and the benefits of global standards for widening accessibility in the European Union.
The proposal for a European Accessibility Act was published in December 2015 as a Directive with the goal of regulating the market access of and harmonising accessibility requirements for products and services. The scope focusses on the ICT domain including hardware, software and services. DIGITALEUROPE’s members hope to advance the development of a successful European Accessibility Act that achieves its goal of widening participation in society through accessible products and services. The aim must be a future-proof framework that allows further innovation in the accessibility of products and services while preserving the necessary legal certainty for manufacturers and service providers to confidently operate in the European market.
Website accessibility can be a key enabler in ensuring the accessibility of underlying services. It is critical to avoid the implementation of diverse, specific and eventually inconsistent requirements in the various Member States. The Directive on the Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies' Websites is thus a step in the right direction and DIGITALEUROPE members will continue to support the EU institutions and member state authorities with their technical expertise in order to ensure its successful implementation. We also encourage them to further pursue the great potential of public procurement policies for promoting accessibility solutions.
In 2007, DIGITALEUROPE members formed a cooperation platform with disability rights advocates from the European Disability Forum and the European Blind Union with support from the European Commission. The discussions focused on how people with disabilities struggle to use Digital TV and identified features they need and want to fully benefit from. Through the platform, industry voluntarily committed to make Digital TV more accessible in the EU market and we are proud of the results. Now, DIGITALEUROPE focuses on the development of a new IEC standard for the accessibility of digital television. The objective is to develop a voluntary standard, leading to a holistic approach without forcing a one-size-fits-all solution.
At the moment, European Standardisation Organisations are working on mandate M/473 “Design for All”. The aim is the development of a simple mechanism that is capable of identifying accessibility-related aspects in all European standardisation activities. DIGITALEUROPE is actively involved in the work of CEN-CENELEC on this mandate.