EU promises universal access for users with disabilities

Tuesday, 5 January 2010 14:28pm

In December 2009, the European Parliament passed a directive to specifically address the needs of users with disabilities in electronic communications networks and services. This new directive effectively amends the 2002 universal service directive.

The changes mean that Member States of the European Union (EU) must take specific measures to ensure that access to, and affordability of, electronic communications networks and services for users with disabilities is equivalent to the level enjoyed by other end-users. Member States are required to:

  • regularly inform users with disabilities of details of products and services designed for them;
  • ensure equivalence in access and choice;
  • ensure access to comprehensive, comparable, reliable and user-friendly information;
  • ensure equivalence in quality of their services; and
  • ensure that access for disabled end-users to emergency services is equivalent to that enjoyed by other end-users.

Under the changes, Member States may also undertake additional optional measures, such as to:

  • direct national regulators to assess the general need and the specific requirements, including the extent and concrete form of such specific measures for users with disabilities; and
  • impose reasonable "must carry" obligations, for the transmission of specified radio and television broadcast channels and complementary services, particularly accessibility services to enable appropriate access for disabled end-users.

A copy of the new directive, 2009/136/EC, is available from the EU Law Website.

 


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