Reno: Communication barrier to accessibility
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- Apr 19, 2000
Attorney General Janet Reno on Tuesday presented the Justice Department's
first scheduled report on Section 508, an amendment to the 1998 Workforce
The act calls for agencies to make their electronic and information
technology accessible to employees and citizens with disabilities by Aug.
"Information Technology and People with Disabilities: The Current State
of Federal Accessibility" includes recommendations for agencies in communication,
procurement and technical assistance. Reno announced the release of the
report at the FOSE 2000 trade show in Washington, D.C.
Based on self-evaluations from 81 agencies, the report calls for increased
inter- and intra-agency coordination on the issue and the need for more
communication between "those with technical expertise and those with knowledge
of disability access issues."
"The biggest barrier is opening the lines of communication, not technology,"
Reno said. "Unless we talk together, we can't move forward. The ultimate
goal is to make the government's IT more accessible."
The report recommended that agencies:
* Designate Section 508 coordinators.
* Develop alternative dispute resolutions.
* Write specific accessibility language into their requests for proposals.
* Test World Wide Web pages before posting them and dedicate e-mail
addresses to address accessibility barriers.
The report also calls on the General Service Administration and the
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board)
to establish an information hotline, technical support center and Internet
Besides supplying the government with the assistive technologies, the
private sector also is helping agencies with the new requirements.
Steve Ballmer, president and chief executive officer at Microsoft Corp.,
on Tuesday announced that the company would provide a $250,000 grant for
a program that will help federal agencies comply with Section 508.
The cooperative project between Microsoft, Highway 1 (a nonprofit group
created to educate the government about technology) and Accessible Systems
Inc. will bring accessibility training courses to federal agencies. The
three-part program includes a survey course, a technical course and a laboratory
As part of the program, Microsoft also is setting up an assistive technology
lab where government agencies can test software for accessibility.