Clinton pushes access
- By Diane Frank
- Jul 31, 2000
Access America for People with Disabilitie
Agencies have a renewed sense of urgency to provide technology that is accessible
President Clinton issued two executive orders on the 10th anniversary
of the Americans with Disabilities Act last week that underscore the federal
government's push to be a model employer of people with disabilities.
The new policies will emphasize the need to get the technology in place
as soon as possible, experts said. That's especially important after Congress
moved back the deadline for compliance with Section 508 of the Workforce
Investment Act of 1998, which calls for agencies to make their technology
accessible to people with disabilities.
Clinton ordered agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over
the next five years. To support that goal, Clinton directed agencies to
submit plans to the Office of Personnel Management by Sept. 25 on how they
will put in place the tools and procedures to make it easier for people
with disabilities to perform in the federal workplace.
"Bringing in these 100,000 people will place an extraordinary premium
on all of us...to move with great alacrity and ensure we have a prompt transition
to Section 508," said David Colton, a lawyer with the Information Technology
Association of America.
In May, Congress pushed back the deadline for compliance with Section
508 from Aug. 8 to six months after the Access Board releases guidelines
for agencies and technology vendors to follow. The reprieve has helped vendors
that are working on accessible technology and agencies that are training
contracting officers on the new requirements. But it also gave room for
procrastination, so the executive orders will help refocus attention, Colton
The order to hire 100,000 new employees addresses the shortage of skilled
IT employees within government because it draws on an underrepresented
pool of workers, said Bill Piatt, chief information officer at the General
Services Administration. "There are a lot of skilled IT people out there
that are disabled," he said.
In a memo to agencies last week, Clinton also asked for the Interagency
Committee on Disability Research to develop a report on the types of technologies
that need more research and development, including text-to-speech and speech-recognition
"Assistive technologies and products that incorporate universal design
principles can significantly improve the quality of life for people with
disabilities and increase their ability to participate in the workplace,"
the memo states.
Clinton also called on agencies to take advantage of new call-center
technologies that make it possible for employees to staff the centers from