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Campaigners urge UK government to drop obstacles on EU disability equality rights

27 September 2018

The British government is blocking key European legislation that would improve the lives of millions of disabled people.

Disability Rights UK is joining other European disability organisations in urging the government to drop its opposition to key parts of the European Access Act (EAA) and commit to passing the legislation by 3 December – the European Day of Disabled Persons.

Letters between ministers and the Commons European Scrutiny Committee reveal the UK has led efforts to water down the legislation. The Act would require minimum standards of accessibility in certain products and services.

The letters between Lord Henley, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Sir Bill Cash, chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, expose the UK’s role in limiting the scope of the proposed legislation.

Measures opposed by the UK government include:

  • Making accessibility a key requirement of public procurement

  • Requiring micro-businesses – which account for more than 90% of goods and services in the EU – to be accessible

  • Extending accessibility rules to the built environment – community infrastructure such as buildings, pavements and transport hubs.

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said:

“It is three years since the European Commission published proposals for a European Accessibility Act. Since then the proposals have ping-ponged between the EU institutions while disabled people are excluded from employment, leisure activities and access to public transport.

“Now it appears that the UK government has played a leading role in that procrastination. What’s worse, they’ve also led the charge to water down the proposals – supposedly in the name of protecting businesses.

“Ensuring that everyone has access to employment, goods and services is not just good for disabled people – it helps businesses by ensuring they recruit the best and brightest and that their products and services can be bought by Europe’s 80 million disabled people.”

Mr Mallick also questioned claims in the ministers’ letters that they have consulted with disabled people in the UK.

He concluded:

“Ministers repeatedly tell the world that the UK is a leader in disability rights and equality. Today we learn they’ve instead been leading resistance to measures that would give disabled people the comprehensive accessibility to everyday life that everyone else takes for granted.”

Notes:

Open letter to the EU institutions: we need a strong european accessibility act and we need it now

Letter from Lord Henley to William Cash MP - December 2017

Letter from Lord Henley to William Cash MP - July 2018

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