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'Subsidising Accessibility'

Using EU State Aid Law and Policy to Foster Development and Production of Accessible Technology

Delia Ferri

Accessible technology encompasses a series of different universally designed and assistive products. The market for these products is wide and highly diversified. However, a common trend can be identified: Private industry is hesitant to engage in experimental products which require massive development and production costs, and is reluctant to invest in developing goods without a clear consumer demand. In this context, the role of public subsidies is of key importance. This article aims to explore whether and to what extent accessible technology has been fostered under the current EU legal framework, and to investigate the potential role of State aid in the future. In particular, the article discusses whether accessibility has been taken into consideration in the evaluation of support schemes by the Commission (especially under Article 107(3)(c) TFEU), and whether there is the opportunity to consider it. Particular attention is paid to aid for R&D in the field of technology, and to schemes specifically aimed at stimulating the production of technological goods. The article also considers whether and to what extent the 2008 General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) has allowed Member States to use public subsidies to encourage the production of accessible technology. Finally, taking into consideration that the EU has recently undergone a wide-ranging reform of the rules governing State aid, the article reflects on the possible changes in the EU State aid regulation that might nudge the market in a more ‘accessible’ direction.
Keywords: Accessible technology, GBER, R&D&I, Risk Capital Guidelines, SMEs, Technology

Dr Delia Ferri, LL.M., PhD., Attorney at Law (Verona Bar) – Lecturer in Law, Maynooth University (Ireland).This Article was written during my stay at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy of the National University of Ireland Galway. It is an academic output of Work Package 7 of the EU funded project DISCIT on ‘Active Citizenship Through the Use of New Technologies’ ( This article only reflects the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the position of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments, and to Anthony Giannoumis for his support and for the linguistic revision. Special thanks go also to Charles Edward O’Sullivan.


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