Making IT available to disabled helps everyone, Reno says

Making IT available to disabled helps everyone, Reno says

APRIL 18—Agencies have a way to go to make information technology available to the disabled as required under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, Attorney General Janet Reno said today.

Meeting the Section 508 requirements will not cost a lot of money, she said, but will require a coordinated effort between the public and private sectors.

"Access doesn't have to cost a lot ' and it is good design," she said.

In conjunction with her speech at the FOSE trade show in Washington, the Justice Department issued a report on the status of agency compliance with Section 508. Reno said the report contains some surprises but shows that, despite a few exceptions, agencies have not done a good job at making IT accessible to everyone.

"While several agencies are models of accessibility, the data suggest the need for improvement in the accessibility of federal [IT] to persons with disabilities. Most agencies can also improve the extent to which disability accessibility issues are incorporated into their mainstream technology procurement contracts," the report states.

"This human resource needs to be included," Reno said. The problems are not often with technology, she added, but in a lack of communication.

"The barriers to communication must come down," she said.

"The most significant challenge posed by section 508 is the need for coordination between those with technological expertise and those with knowledge of disability access issues. The rapid pace of technology innovation can further complicate the issue," the report states.

The Justice Department report is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/report/content.htm. [See the GCN story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no8/news/1733-1.html.]



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