Section 508's the talk of FOSE

Section 508's the talk of FOSE

By Dipka Bhambhani

GCN Staff

MARCH 21—This week's FOSE trade show in Washington is abuzz with talk about Section 508 and agencies' hurried efforts to comply with systems accessibility requirements.

Simply put, 508 is the section of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act requiring all government systems to be accessible to disabled users by June 21.

Hewlett-Packard Co. used FOSE to announce establishment of a corporate-level unit called HP Accessibility Solutions. The new group will coordinate access enhancement efforts by the company's product divisions, each of which must use different technologies for accessibility, said Jocelyn Lai, HP's program manager for accessibility.

For example, printers need front-panel power switches and paper trays that pull out and reinstall easily, she said. Desktop PCs must be equipped with standard interfaces to other vendors' assistive products.

Human Factors International, a Fairfield, Iowa, designer of Web sites, applications and intranets, said it has just won a contract from the Library of Congress to make sure the library's site complies with Section 508.

"We redesigned their intranet, and we will be doing the" public site next, said Taruna Thapliyal, a representative for the company. The contract is worth up to $600,000 if the library exercises all the options.

One-tenth of all Human Factors' government contracts over the past year have been to help agencies comply with Section 508. Thapliyal said government agencies have been frantically hiring the company to help them meet the June deadline.

When asked about agencies' seemingly 11th hour efforts, Thapliyal said, "I can't comment on why they're waiting until the last minute."

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