DATE: June 27, 2002

SUBJECT: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR); Section 508 Contract Clause

SOURCE: Federal Register, June 27, 2002, Vol. 67, No. 124, page 43523

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

ACTION: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

SYNOPSIS: The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council are considering whether there is a need for changes to the FAR or other acquisition guidance to promote more consistent and effective implementation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and, if so, what specific changes are needed.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more on the rule amending the FAR to implement Section 508, see the April 25, 2001, FEDERAL CONTRACTS DISPATCH "Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC) 97-27, Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility."

For more on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board's electronic and information technology (EIT) accessibility standards, see the December 21, 2000, FEDERAL CONTRACTS DISPATCH "Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board; Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards."

DATES: Submit comments in writing on or before August 26, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to General Services Administration, FAR Secretariat (MVP), 1800 F Street, NW, Room 4035, ATTN: Laurie Duarte, Washington, DC 20405, or by e-mail to: farnotice.2001-033@gsa.gov. Cite FAR Case 2001-033, Section 508 Contract Clause (Notice) in all correspondence related to this advance notice.

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 to require that when federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use EIT, that they make sure 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 Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board published the final EIT accessibility standards and the technical and functional performance criteria necessary for accessibility for such technology. The amended Section 508 required that the FAR implement the Compliance Board's standards within six months of their publication. Therefore, FAR Subpart 39.2, Acquisition of Information Technology, was added by FAC 97-27 to implement the Section 508 standards, effective June 25, 2001.

FAR Subpart 39.2 does not require vendors to certify that offered products or services comply with the requirements of Section 508. However, some suggested there is a need for additional guidance, such as a FAR clause which would promote greater consistency and reduce confusion in the implementation of Section 508 by avoiding the proliferation of agency specific clauses. Others insist that EIT standards are best addressed through the statement of work or other specifications instead of a FAR clause.

The Councils are seeking comments on the following to help them determine the best approach to promote more consistent and effective implementation of Section 508:

  1. The Councils ask that respondents discuss whether additional acquisition guidance to implement Section 508 is needed. Respondents are encouraged to discuss potential advantages and disadvantages.

  2. To the extent additional guidance is desired, the Councils ask respondents to identify if such guidance should be in the form of a FAR clause, a solicitation provision, other FAR coverage, or non-regulatory guidance. If a clause is desirable, respondents are encouraged to identify the types of EIT purchases on which a clause should focus (for example, all EIT purchases, EIT services only). Non-regulatory guidance may be in the form of reference material or frequently asked questions on the web site at http://www.section508.gov. Respondents are encouraged to discuss potential advantages and disadvantages of the form of guidance they suggest and why they believe other forms of guidance would be less beneficial or not appropriate.

  3. The Councils invite respondents' ideas regarding what should be included in the guidance.

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

Copyright 2002 by Panoptic Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.

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