Microsoft organized an online event called the “Innovation for Accessibility Forum” on Wednesday, March 22nd, which aimed to gather representatives of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Governments, as well as public and commercial sectors, to discuss different initiatives regarding accessible digital solutions and legislation compatibility with the European Accessibility Act (EAA).
The European Accessibility Act was adopted by the European Union in 2019. Whilst products and services covered need to comply with the Directive from June 28, 2025 onwards, EU countries are now implementing it into their national laws. This Act aims to make products and services more accessible to people with disabilities and elderly people in the EU. It applies to a wide range of products and services, including computers, smartphones, ATMs, e-books, transportation services. This Act is expected to benefit over 80 million people with disabilities in the EU by making it easier for them to access and use products and services.
Esa Kaunistola, Director, Trade and Industrial Policy at Microsoft, European Government Affairs, during his speech emphasized the significance of EAA implementation and explained what it will bring to the Baltics, stating that the EAA is an important part of the EU institutions’ journey to include everybody, particularly people with disabilities in modern society. „Microsoft has been continuously supporting European institutions and their efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility for all which started with the European Union’s efforts to implement the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with the disabilities, and that has resulted in the adoption of the European Accessibility Act”, Mr. Kaunistola said.
The panelists of the „Innovation for Accessibility Forum” were the representatives of public sectors in Baltic countries: Erika Kurčokina from the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania, Elīna Celmiņa from the Ministry of Welfare of Latvia, Pauls Puķītis, Information and communication technology development policy coordinator, in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia, and Rasmus Eimla, Product Owner at Riigi Infosüsteemi Amet, Estonian Information System Authority.
Ms. Kurčokina stated that Lithuania is facing a language barrier issue. She also pointed out that digital literacy is a prerequisite for successful digital transformation. „The government’s special attention to the digitization of language resources is directly linked with the accessibility requirements of the country’s successful digital transformation process. Faster development of language technologies and their application to modern technical solutions would allow Lithuania to make a mark progress in the field of accessibility technologies development and would reduce the technological divide of the society,” she said. Ms. Kuročkina emphasized that there is a huge need for open data in this area and modernization of language resources and also that the question of their application to the progress of language technologies is extremely relevant. The opportunities for the development of the Lithuanian language in the digital environment are unused, and there are numerous non-digitalized linguistic data and data sets, existing linguistic infrastructures, and existing digital languages as well that are not fully utilized.
“Language resources digitalization will help provide people with advanced communication, technical support tools, and requirements adapted to the Lithuanian market and complement the market with the technical means of the assistance of disabled or senior people and will create prerequisites for an independent life of all persons using services and tools”, Erika Kuročkina concluded.
By continuously developing new technologies to make everyday life more accessible in every way to people with disabilities, Microsoft always aims to institutionalize accessibility and make it a fundamental right of the community and society. The company and its partners help to overcome the gap in societal inclusion for people with disabilities, and to expand opportunities for them, by providing solutions that will help them to be better at school, at home, and at work. Microsoft believes that accessibility is essential to deliver on the mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”