Letters to the Editor

Access regs good investment

The cost to the government to become more inclusive in providing better access to services for persons with disabilities by adopting the proposed Access Board recommendations for accessibility is minuscule, not extravagant ["Access regs too pricey?" FCW, April 3].

I was shocked to read the quotes attributed to a General Services Administration IT professional. Not only are they cruel in their insinuation that disabled persons are not worth the added investment in time and materials, they are contrary to Clinton administration policy and federal law.

I am physically disabled, but I am not blind or have any vision impairments. The reasonable accommodations that are granted to persons with disabilities allow them, or us, to better function in society. Technology accommodations mean increased independence for persons with disabilities. It gives us a better chance to participate in government and make a contribution to our country and to fellow citizens and residents.

Many able-bodied persons do not have a clue what it feels like to be disabled. As the saying goes, "Walk a day in my shoes, and you will have a different perspective." A game that I use to demonstrate what it feels like to be physically disabled uses suggestion and restriction. To demonstrate hand and wrist disabilities, I make the participant use the weaker arm. To simulate visual impairments, a blindfold or eye patch brings the disability home immediately.

The GSA IT professional quoted would not have made those comments if [he] was disabled. Persons with disabilities want to enjoy life just as much as able-bodied persons. (Even more maybe, because it is often harder for us to accomplish things because we no longer have the luxuries that able-bodied persons take for granted.)

Once the Access Board finalizes the accessibility standard, no federal agency should be allowed to hide behind the "significant difficulty or expense" door. However, that escape clause should be allowed for information that is on World Wide Web sites prior to Aug. 7. It would send a great signal to persons with disabilities that federal agencies believe in universal inclusiveness if the information presently on federal Web sites was made accessible also.

I would like to go on the record: As soon as I discover that a federal agency refuses to adopt the Access Board accessibility standards, I will fling a formal complaint to that agency's inspector general and the Access Board as fast as my arthritic body will allow. Don't discriminate against persons with disabilities for two reasons:

    * It is the right thing.

    * Because you never know — you could become one of us tomorrow.

Gary Dickson

Federal Highway Administration

What's behind the fee?

After reading your editorial "Card fees a tough sell," and article, "Purchase card fees pinch vendor profits" [FCW, March 27], I would like to provide a few comments from the banking industry perspective.

There are some cases where a vendor will pay a fee of up to 5 percent. However, the majority of merchant fees are less than 3 percent. The first 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the fee goes to the bank issuing the credit card, with the remainder going to the bank owning the vendor relationship.

The associations (for example, Visa and MasterCard) establish the portion of the fee that goes to the bank issuing the credit card. The bank owning the vendor relationship takes this fee, adds in its own costs and determines the total fee charged to the vendor.

In most cases, the bank owning the vendor relationship is not one of the banks participating in the GSA credit card program. If a bank owns the vendor relationship and the card to which the purchase was charged, the transaction can be processed more efficiently. The savings created by this efficiency can be passed onto the vendor in the form of a lower merchant fee. An IT company that does a significant amount of government business would benefit from contacting one or more of the banks participating in the GSA credit card program regarding a more competitive merchant fee.

It's also important to clarify that the majority of these fees are to cover the cost of funds and operating expenses, not the possibility of nonpayment and fraud. To the extent a vendor does a significant amount of business with the government, this has been factored into the fee.

Christopher L. Pieroth

Senior Vice President

U.S. Bank

More on e-filing support

I read with interest the article about the Internal Revenue Service's e-filing ["Off the mark," FCW, March 20]. I just wanted to pass on my own good experience.

I've used TurboTax for 10 years, used 1040PC [filing] the first year we could and have filed electronically for as long as the service has been available.

This year, my wife and I were two of the 18,000 taxpayers selected for the entirely paperless, electronic signature filing trial. It worked exactly as advertised. I filed no paper, used no postage and no physical signature was required. And no, I'm not a PR consultant for the IRS, just a regular taxpayer who works in the Defense Department.

The timeline I experienced follows:

    * Wednesday, March 29, 8 a.m. EST: Filed electronically via Intuit's service with software seamlessly integrated within TurboTax, and file is "accepted" by IRS.

    * Friday, April 7, 6 a.m. EST: Directly deposited IRS refund funds available in my personal checking account.

I could not have asked for better service. These guys appear to be on the right track.

Jim Wyant

Defense Department

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