Accessibility regs vague
Federal agencies will likely receive rules within one month instructing
them to buy office equipment and information technology that can be used
by people with disabilities. However, the accessibility standards will be
intentionally vague when it comes to spelling out how manufacturers must
make their products universally usable.
"They won't tell you how to do it," said Mary Lou Mobley, a lawyer and
accessibility specialist for the Justice Department. Instead, the standards
will focus on what equipment and software must be able to do. That way,
"if you can find a better way to build an accessible mouse trap, go for
it," she said.
However, the absence of detail in product specifications has government
procurement officials considering ways to solve the problem, including voluntary
testing procedures for compliance with acces-sibility standards and self-certification.
OSHA soothes aches and pains
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule
last month on a program designed to reduce work- related physical disorders
that are caused by such things as typing on a computer keyboard all day
and repeatedly pushing or pulling heavy boxes.
The ergonomics rule, which would go into effect in January, applies
to virtually all general industry employers, including federal agencies.
At a minimum, it will require employers with manufacturing and manual handling
jobs to implement a basic ergonomics program. This would include assigning
someone to be responsible for ergonomics and setting up a way for employees
to report disorders.
Army readies online university
The Army plans to award a contract in mid-December for the Army University
Access Online initiative, but educational institutions can enlist at any
time, according to Army Secretary Louis Caldera.
The Army program is a $600 million distance-learning effort to enable
soldiers to earn college degrees and technical certificates regardless of
where they are stationed. Soldiers will use an Internet portal to access
colleges, universities and companies offering technical certificates.
"We didn't want this to be a traditional procurement, where we pick
one vendor and soldiers would have one choice of educational institution,"
Caldera said. "Personally, I would like to see scores — if not hundreds — of schools attempt to appeal to our soldiers."
The effort will begin in January.