Agencies may get more time for Section 508 fixes

Agencies may get more time for Section 508 fixes

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

MAY 25—The Senate last week passed an amendment that would give federal agencies a bit more time in making their information technology accessible to the disabled.

The amendment would shift the effective date for the Section 508 requirements of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 from Aug. 7 to six months after the Access Board publishes its final rule. The Access Board's draft rule was published last month [see story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no9/news/1782-1.html]. The comment period for the draft closes next week.

Industry groups had argued that without legislation to extend the deadline, the effective date would come before the rules are finalized.

The amendment, attached to the Military Constructions Appropriations Act for fiscal 2001, S 2521, by Sen. Jim M. Jeffords (R-Vt.), readjusts that time period.

The amendment was in the Senate version of the bill but not in the House version, so it must be worked out in a Senate-House conference committee. That is not expected to be a problem, however, since even the Access Board has said it supports the concept.

Derived from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the rule applies to agencies when they develop, buy, maintain or use information technology. The rule, however, does not require agencies to retrofit existing technology. Section 508 is designed to help disabled federal employees as well as disabled citizens who use federal IT. [See story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no8/news/1733-1.html].

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy is instructing agencies that federal Web sites must be accessible to the disabled by July 26. The fixes are targeted at agencies' principal Web sites and their top 20 sites by volume.

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