DATE: January 22, 2001

SUBJECT: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR); Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility

SOURCE: Federal Register, January 22, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 14, page 7165

AGENCIES: Department of Defense (DOD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

ACTION: Proposed Rule

SYNOPSIS: It is proposed that the FAR be amended to incorporate the accessibility standards for electronic and information technology (EIT) recently developed by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more on the Access Board's EIT accessibility standards, see the December 21, 2000, FEDERAL CONTRACTS DISPATCH "Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board; Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards."

More information on the EIT accessibility standards can be obtained at http://www.access-board.gov/news/508-final.htm.

DATES: Interested parties should submit comments on or before March 23, 2001, to be considered in the formulation of a final rule.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments to General Services Administration, FAR Secretariat (MVR), 1800 F Street, NW, Room 4035, ATTN: Laurie Duarte, Washington, DC 20405, or be e-mail to farcase.1999-607@gsa.gov. Cite FAR case 1999-607 in all correspondence related to this proposed rule.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Linda Nelson at 202-501-1900.

SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION: On August 7, 1998, President Clinton signed the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-220), which included the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. Subsection 408(b) of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments amended Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794d) to require that when federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use EIT, that they make sure that the EIT allows federal employees with disabilities to have comparable access to and use of information as other federal employees. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities who are members of the public seeking information or services from a federal agency have comparable access to and use of information and data as those without disabilities. However, comparable access is not required if it would impose an undue burden.

On December 21, 2000, the Access Board published the final EIT accessibility standards and the technical and functional performance criteria necessary for accessibility for such technology (Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1194, Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards). The amended Section 508 requires that the FAR implement the standards within six months of their publication -- that is, June 21, 2001. Therefore, the FAR Council is publishing this proposed rule.

This proposed rule implements the Access Board's regulations by revising the FAR as follows:

EDITOR'S NOTE: The introductory material to the proposed rule addresses the micro-purchases exemption: "The exemption for micro-purchases is made in recognition of the fact that almost all micro-purchases are made using the governmentwide commercial purchase card. Government personnel, who are not warranted contracting officers, use the purchase card to purchase commercial-off-the-shelf items. Use of the purchase card makes it generally impractical to comply with the EIT accessibility standards unless all commercial-off-the-shelf products incorporate the standards. Manufacturers are continuing to develop products that comply with the EIT accessibility standards. It is expected that almost all products will comply with the standards within the next two years. Therefore, we have established a sunset date of January 1, 2003, for the micro-purchase exemption. Prior to that date, the government will revisit the state of technology and the pace at which manufacturers have conformed to the required standards."

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Panoptic Enterprises at 703-451-5953 or by e-mail to Panoptic@FedGovContracts.com.

Copyright 2001 by Panoptic Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.

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