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.


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