Section 508 to apply even to small purchases starting April 1

After nearly four years of being expempt from Section 508 requirements, agency IT purchases of less than $2,500 will, beginning April 1, have to comply with the law's accessibility rules.

With that deadline quickly approaching, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration are putting together a series of outreach and training sessions to help federal employees meet the mandate.

Lesley Field, a procurement policy analyst and chairwoman of the Section 508 Working Group, today said Federal Acquisition Council amended the Federal Acquisition Regulation last summer with the rule ending the exemption.

'After three-and-a-half-years, the council felt it was enough time for industry to become compliant and for agencies to understand what it means,' Field said at the IDEAS 2004 conference sponsored by GSA and PostNewsweekTech, parent company of Government Computer News, in Washington. 'If we continue along without the micropurchase requirement, we will accrue non-accessible IT.'

GSA's recently released Buy Accessibility Wizard tool (See GCN story) is one of a handful of ways it is offering contracting officers and other federal employees assistance in understanding how to meet the accessibility requirements.

Field said Section 508 requirements also will be prominent in the Office of Management and Budget's new circular on using purchase, travel and fleet credit cards. The document will put information about setting up a credit card program and rules for using the credit cards into a consistent format and outline sample performance metrics.

The draft circular should be available for agencies by Dec. 31, she said.

Agencies also should expect to see the first set of results from GSA's bi-annual Section 508 survey by Dec. 31.

This survey is a follow-up to the Justice Department's survey of how agencies have implemented Section 508 in 2001. It took three years for Justice to release the final results, but Field doesn't think agencies will be able to compare the results of the two evaluations.

'The questions focused more on procurement issues as opposed to implementation of the act,' she said. 'We hope to give agencies a sense of what they are doing as compared to other agencies. This is the first survey done since Section 508 has been in place.'

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