GSA sets early accessibility deadline

The General Services Administration has asked all federal agencies to make

their most popular World Wide Web pages accessible to the disabled by July

26.

GSA's informal deadline is part of the so-called Section 508 of the Rehabilitation

Act of 1998, which requires agencies to make all electronic equipment and

information systems, including Web sites, accessible to the disabled.

GSA has asked agencies to make accessible their principal Web pages, typically

the home page, as well as the site's top 20 Web pages, as measured by traffic

volume.

Keith Thurston, assistant to the deputy associate administrator at GSA's

Office of Governmentwide Policy, said he did not know how many agencies

have complied with the request.

Agencies have until Aug. 7 to make electronic equipment and systems accessible.

But Thurston, speaking to a group of about 100 information technology managers

at the annual GSA Trail Boss Roundup in Williamsburg, Va., said GSA most

likely will not meet the deadline. "We are making all efforts to make the

deadline," he said.

After Aug. 7, the public and federal employees can sue agencies that have

not complied with the law. The law is designed to help visually or hearing

impaired users and users who have limited mobility and dexterity, including

those users who have carpel tunnel syndrome.

If an agency can prove that compliance would impose an undue burden, such

as unusually high costs, the agency can be exempt. Systems that control

military intelligence operations, for example, are exempt, Thurston said.

A draft of the accessibility standards were released earlier this year,

and comments are due May 30.

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