Government blocks new Europe-wide disability rights
What is this about?
Disabled people face widespread discrimination because goods like washing machines, mobile phones or TVs are not often designed to meet their needs. For example, blind/deafblind people can’t use modern washing machines because they don’t have tactile/raised buttons and menus in high contrast print and/or braille; deaf/deafblind people miss out on films if subtitles don’t have accessible viewing options.
The Disability Discrimination Act does not cover this area, so it's left to the European Union to act. In 2008 the European Commission put forward proposals to address discrimination in access to goods and services, with support from the European Parliament.
If adopted, the proposals would make it a requirement for manufactured goods to be accessible for disabled people. In other words, it would ensure that items such as washing machines, digital TVs, microwaves, mobile phones, etc. are designed to be accessible.
Sounds good, what's the problem?
Governments of the 27 EU countries are negotiating on this now and will have the final say on whether it goes ahead. Unfortunately, some countries, including the UK, are opposing new EU laws to make manufactured goods accessible, thus wasting a unique opportunity.
We don't have much time
A new round of negotiations on this has just started in Brussels, so it is crucial to put pressure on the government. We must ensure that the government is aware of our concerns when it takes part in negotiations and that their position so far is letting disabled people down.
There is a second issue. A new law is being negotiated at the moment that would significantly improve the rights of disabled people across the European Union when using buses and coaches. The proposed law was meant to cover all bus and coach transport in the EU both international and local.
Unfortunately, some countries, including the UK, have weakened the proposals and therefore the rights disabled people could have at local level. The proposed European law would have led to mandatory training of transport staff (including bus drivers) and better provision of information. This won’t happen if the UK government continues to maintain its current opposition.