IATE Term of the Week: barrier-free

September 22, 2017 10:00 am

On Thursday the 14th September 2017, the European Parliament approved “a draft EU law” by the European Commission that states that “‘[p]eople with disabilities should have access to key products and services, such as phones, ticketing machines and banking.” It is estimated that around “80 million people in the EU have some form of disability” (European Parliament, 2017b) and this “figure is expected to increase to 120 million by 2020” (European Parliament, 2017a). For these reasons, the term barrier-free has been chosen as this week’s IATE Term of the Week.

Vocabulary related to accessibility - Speech balloon

People who “live with disabilities in the European Union” represent “15% of the population. (…) Like all EU citizens,” they “are entitled to accessibility, i.e. ‘to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life‘. In its Charter of Fundamental Rights, the EU considers the accessibility of people with disabilities to be a fundamental right (Articles 21 and 26)” (…) Yet people with disabilities usually face a number of challenges that hamper their daily activities, such as difficulties in accessing public transport and buildings or in using household appliances or e-commerce services” (Lecerf, 2017).

‘It is essential that this directive includes persons with disabilities as well as persons with temporary or permanent functional limitations,’ such as elderly persons, pregnant women and persons travelling with luggage, ‘in order to ensure genuine benefits and an independent life for a wider portion of society,’ said Parliament (European Parliament, 2017a).

The McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine defines barrier-free as “pertaining or referring to structural or architectural design that does not impede use by individuals with special physical needs.”

Here you can see the entry for barrier-free in IATE:

IATE entry for barrier-free

This directive, named “European Accessibility Act” (EAA), outlines the “requirements to make a number of products and services more accessible,” although it does not “impose detailed technical solutions” (European Parliament, 2017a). Besides covering new infrastructures or renovation of existing ones, the EAA will also cover the following products or services:

  • ticketing and check-in machines,
  • ATMs,
  • PCs and operating systems,
  • phones and TV equipment,
  • consumer banking services,
  • e-books,
  • e-commerce,
  • transport, including public urban transport such as underground, rail, tramway, trolleybus and bus, and the related services, MEPs clarified,
  • other items, such as payment terminals, e-book readers, websites and mobile device-based services offered by audiovisual media and tourism services were added by MEPs (European Parliament, 2017a).
Contribute to IATE! We would appreciate your contribution to update this term in your language. A terminologist of the relevant language will be in charge of the validation of contributions and, thus, a delay is to be expected.

IATE Term of the Week banner - Definition of barrier-free; several accessibility symbols

We suggest that you check some previous IATE Terms of the Week that relate to disability:

We also encourage you to check related glossaries through our Glossary Links tool and through our recently-updated EU Glossaries‘ list!

Enjoy terminology learning and have a nice weekend!

Written by Pedro RamosTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).


  • EUR-Lex (2012) Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Available at: http://bit.ly/2xPZUUY (Accessed 20 September 2017)
  • EUR-Lex (2012) Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States as regards the accessibility requirements for products and services. Available at: http://bit.ly/2wI7MTG (Accessed 21 September 2017)
  • European Commission (2010) European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe. Available at: http://bit.ly/2xp0iIJ (Accessed 21 September 2017)
  • European Parliament (2017a) Disabled persons to have better access to products and services in the EU. Available at: http://bit.ly/2ye0qIN (Accessed 20 September 2017)
  • European Parliament (2017b) Plenary highlights: State of the Union, wifi for all, gas supplies. Available at: http://bit.ly/2wGAMep (Accessed 20 September 2017)
  • Lecerf, Marie (2017) At a glance: Plenary – September 2017- European Accessibility Act. Available at: http://bit.ly/2xezmMw (Accessed 20 September 2017)

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