GCN Insider | Advances in Section 508

508 FRIENDLY: The newest Emprint embosses Braille and prints in color.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is due for an upgrade and Michael Takemura, head of Hewlett-Packard's Accessibility Program Office, sounds excited about the potential changes. 'When 508 started, there weren't a lot of these,' he says, holding up an HP iPaq handheld. Takemura is intimately involved with accessibility standards issues worldwide and currently sits on, among other things, an accessibility working group of the International Committee for Information Technology Standards. During a visit to GCN, Takemura warned that an aging workforce could present serious accessibility issues for the government. But he was optimistic. 'Accessibility is not a destination you arrive at. No one wants [508] standards that are so restrictive they stifle innovation,' he said.

Last month, HP partnered with ViewPlus Technologies to develop Emprint, a single-pass Braille embosser and HP color inkjet printer. Takemura was also impressed with new technology from Peacock Communications Inc. of Marietta, Ga. Peacock is coming out with a product called COMMplement that combines wireless communications, a personal digital assistant and a tiny wearable display to offer personal closed captioning.

The Access Board is currently putting together a steering committee for the 508 refresh, which should be announced in September, Takemura said. A completely updated Section 508 is on target for 2008.

For more IT trends and analysis, visit the GCN.com Tech Blog at www.gcn.com/blogs/tech.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that COMMplement was based on technology from Georgia Tech Research Institute. Peacock Communications severed ties with GTRI in July 2005. Current COMMplement systems do not include technology licensed from GTRI.]

About the Authors

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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