Letters to the editor

Getting away with diploma mills?

Regarding your recent stories on credentials from unaccredited institutions, it would be interesting to read what is going to happen to the individuals in the Bush administration who are allegedly recipients of these diplomas. If that was me, a "lowly" GS-7, then I would face two charges of fraud: first for including bogus information and making false statements on a government form and second for misuse of government funds.

But surely nothing will happen to anyone of any importance.

Joseph Madajewski

Easy compliance with Section 508

I was pleased to see that with the "Making government accessible — online" story in the April 19 issue, Federal Computer Week is staying on top of the issue of accessibility for

e-government users with disabilities. You are right on target by including in the testing process individuals who use assistive technology to access the Web — in my experience that's the best way to get a true gauge of users' experience.

I disagree, however, with the commentary about certain Section 508 provisions being difficult and expensive to achieve. In fact, the provisions mentioned are among the easiest problems to solve. In the case of providing text equivalents for images, one can store the images — and their text equivalents — in a database and retrieve them appropriately. Tables, bar graphs and figures can be handled effectively using spreadsheets, long descriptions or tools such as [Corda Technologies Inc.'s] PopChart. Videos are more challenging because they require scripts and captioning, but again, that can be done. Making forms accessible is as simple as ensuring that each control has a label and is properly associated. Most publishing tools include prompts for doing this. Web designers may have to verify the reading and tab order — no advanced skills required here. Developers can find help online, at www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/ or www.paciellogroup.com/resources.html.

In future articles, I think readers would be interested in knowing which 10 of the 16 accessibility tests were performed. It's useful for the whole community — developers and users alike — to know where progress is being made and where there may be common trouble spots. Also, you might consider involving other constituencies with disabilities, such as those with hearing disabilities or those who cannot use a keyboard or mouse.

Mike Paciello

President

The Paciello Group

Editor's note: The letter writer is a consultant specializing in Internet and software accessibility.

Bonuses have become entitlements

A May 19 FCW.com story, "House considers improving federal carrot," talks about attracting quality workers to government work. I am kind of curious: Since 66 percent of the federal workforce reportedly receives bonuses, which, in my field, are only provided to high-quality workers who continue to develop the organization's objectives beyond the set goals, why are federal officials so concerned about attracting high-quality workers in the first place?

The mere fact that the current workforce is doing well enough to provide two out of three workers with a bonus of taxpayer money should speak for itself.

Evidently, federal workers are already very highly qualified — so much so, in fact, that government bonuses far exceed civilian bonus awards programs. So why do federal officials feel they should sweeten the pot? Sounds pretty sweet to me already.

Or maybe there are other reasons, such as the bonus standards are set way too low or the bonus program has become another expected entitlement program for the majority of the workforce.

Bill Johnson

Hanging bits

I was reading the article "Should voting go paperless?" in FCW's May 10 issue and noticed one topic not covered.

In every article that I read about e-voting, it seems that everyone worries about systems being hacked. But after being formally trained by the U.S. government in intelligence and psychological and special operations, I believe a more viable vulnerability is one where a hacking group or terrorist organization would simply broadcast disinformation that the systems were compromised without ever attacking them. It would take days or weeks for elections officials and information security personnel to comb the systems after this disinformation was broadcast on CNN, for example.

With the birth of e-voting we can all say goodbye to hanging chads and hello to hanging bits.

John Bumgarner

President

Cyber Watch Inc.

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