02 Nov 2016

DIGITALEUROPE Suggestions for the European Accessibility Act

DIGITALEUROPE Suggestions for the European Accessibility Act

The ICT industry is a frontrunner in the design and development of accessible products and services. Based on this extensive expertise, DIGITALEUROPE’s members have outlined several practical suggestions to make the European Accessibility Act more innovation-friendly and effective in achieving its goals.

The Obligations of the Economic Operator [art. 5 + 11] should reflect that accessibility cannot be subject to a generic pass/fail assessment because user requirements vary and usability is subjective. Instead of demanding complete accessibility at all times, the Directive should encourage economic operators to be as ambitious as they can and take all efforts possible to innovate and make their products and services accessible. This obligation needs to be accompanied by proportionate and appropriate Safeguards [art. 12]. Drawing on the US experience with the CVAA, we propose to introduce the additional concept of achievability to clarify the existing safeguards.

As part of a partial alignment with the New Legislative Framework, administrative requirements should be kept at a necessary minimum. We suggest that no CE Mark or Declaration of Conformity [art. 15] is necessary when placing a product on the market. This approach follows the GPSD, which is also a more horizontal legislation similar to the proposed EAA. The economic operator keeps the detailed documentation on record and makes it available to Market Surveillance Authorities upon request.

The Accessibility Requirements [Annex I] are currently formulated at a too specific and technical level. Any attempt to define requirements for specific ICT product and service types in legislation is almost certain to be ineffective because of the rapid development and evolution in this sector. Reflecting latest developmentsin standardisation3 , they should be replaced by outcome-oriented functional performance requirements. These will leave economic operators the flexibility to strive for creative accessibility solutions that fulfil users’ needs.

In order to create an effective Directive, a pragmatic approach to Market Surveillance and Enforcement [Art. 19, 20 + 25] is needed. It is inaccurate to refer to the term “risk” in the accessibility context. As products or services that lack a specific accessibility feature do not present a safety risk, it is disproportionate to demand their withdrawal or recall. Instead, many issues related to accessibility can be solved through a constructive dialogue between the economic operator and consumers. We thus propose to use the EAA as an opportunity to encourage such exchange.

The Scope and Definitions [Art. 1 + 2] need to be aligned with existing language in other legislation, the UNCRPD, and accessibility standardisation. The scope of the EAA should only cover consumer products and services in all categories. Finally, as “advanced computing capability” has no known or defined meaning, it should not be used in this Directive.

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