Blind citizens ignored by EU legislation

The European commission must do more to ensure the visually impaired are equally involved in society, says Catherine Stihler.

By Catherine Stihler

19 Nov 2014

Last week, hundreds of people took the chance to experience a 'blind date' and offer their backing to end discrimination against blind and partially sighted people.

The two-day event I hosted in the European parliament allowed MEPs and staff to be blindfolded, they were then asked to carry out daily tasks such as using a television remote control or operating a washing machine.

 "30 million blind and partially sighted Europeans continue to face unjust and unnecessary barriers when trying to access everyday goods, services and information"

The aim of the event was to show the barriers the 30 million blind and partially sighted people across Europe experience every day. Such barriers include inaccessible cash and ticket machines, websites and apps, televisions and household goods such as microwaves and washing machines.

The 'blind dates' took place with members of the European blind union who are demanding urgent action from the European institutions to legislate an end to discrimination against blind and partially sighted people. They highlighted the everyday barriers that blind and partially sighted people face, which the EU has a role in removing through legislation and implementation of existing standards and technology.

Advances in technology mean most items people use day-to-day are touchscreen, this results in those with sight related problems being left behind. This is despite technology existing to rectify this.

Some 30 million blind and partially sighted Europeans continue to face unjust and unnecessary barriers when trying to access everyday goods, services and information. I was shocked to hear even the European commission and council websites are not making their information accessible enough - I want to see this changed as soon as possible.

But most importantly, technology which can make almost everything accessible is not being incorporated into the design of everyday goods and services which all of us need to and should be able to access.

Back in January 2011, the commission promised a European accessibility act to remove the barriers people face when trying to get information, when using goods and services and when travelling. We are still waiting, and it is time for action from the new commission to ensure the visually impaired are involved in society on the same terms as sighted people.

For more information visit www.euroblind.org

 

Read the most recent articles written by Catherine Stihler - Citizens and research: The forgotten voices of copyright reform

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