New GSA usability training team begins work

ORLANDO, Fla.'The General Services Administration has kicked off a usability training project to improve Web design practices across the government.

The agency formed the Usability Solutions Group within the Office of Governmentwide Policy, said Rosemary A. Gibert, a member of the new office, which has three staff members but will expand to 10 employees and add contract staff.

The goal is to make federal sites more useful for disabled people and the general public, said Gibert, who is so new to her post that she doesn't have a title yet.

"The usability training will cover content, privacy policy and accessibility," she said this weekend at the Information Processing Interagency Conference. "We believe we can train several hundred people each year."

The group, formed last month, held its first training session last week. The Arlington, Va., session, which covered methods of evaluating Web sites for compliance with Section 508, drew about 150 attendees from 46 agencies, two state governments and 12 vendors, Gibert said.

The participants included webmasters, content managers and 508 coordinators, Gibert said. "We had more people than space," she said.

The new group's director is Janice Nall, a former Web leader for the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute. In her GSA job, she is broadening the application of usability evaluation tools developed for the cancer institute, Gibert said. At NIH, Nall helped develop sites to make it easier for cancer patients and their families to find and use information.

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