Site revamped to teach 508

The law on high-tech accessibility, Section 508, has been in effect for more than two months, but the General Services Administration is worried that too few government employees know what it means.

GSA has overhauled its Section 508 Web site, making it less a library and more of an interactive site that features online training, buying guidelines for government agencies and advice on Section 508 for government employees, vendors, Webmasters and others.

Section 508 requires federal agencies to buy electronic and information technologies that are accessible, meaning they can be used by people with a wide range of disabilities. Agencies are also required to make their Websites accessible.

"We're trying to make people aware that Section 508 has impact on all employees," said Terry Weaver, who heads GSA's Center for Information Technology Accommodation and oversees the Web site, www.Section508.gov.

The new site eliminates much of the clutter that characterized the old one. The home page features a news section and a column of buttons along the left side that lead to inside features.

The first button is Buy Accessible, which is supposed to lead viewers— presumably government procurement officials — to a database of products that meet Section 508 accessibility requirements. For now, clicking on the Buy Accessible Database link leads to a notice that reads, "Buy Accessible Product Search Coming Soon."

The fourth button down is 508 Training, and it leads to an online training course that teaches Webmasters how to design Web sites that meet Section 508 requirements. Similar online training courses are being designed for contracting officers, human resources managers and Section 508 coordinators.

About 4,000 people have registered for the Webmaster course since it went online July 5, and more than half have completed it, Weaver said.

A section labeled 508 and You includes subsections for academics, state employees and people with disabilities. At present, they contain little more than a few hot links to other sites, but the idea is that eventually they will contain more resources.

"We are trying to reach different customer groups. A whole host of people have a need to know about Section 508," Weaver said.

A video presentation that explains Section 508 and how it affects government workers and Web site users will be added to the site.

The video will be fully captioned and in compliance with Section 508, Weaver said. The whole site meets accessibility requirements and is intended to serve as an example of how an accessible Web site can meet the standards and still look good and be interesting, she said.

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