December 29, 2000, 2:31 PM — Rules issued Thursday by the U.S. government require IT companies that sell their products to the federal government to include accessibility features so that handicapped federal employees can use them.
The rules, released by a special board established to come up with the rules, also say government Web sites must be accessible to handicapped people.
The final accessibility rules spell out the technical and functional performance necessary for the technology to be in compliance with the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. The act says federal employees with disabilities must have access and use of information "that is comparable to" the access and use of information that people without disabilities have.
Web site access also has to be provided in a way that is "comparable to" access enjoyed by people without disabilities, according to the act. Federal agencies have six months to incorporate the rules into their procurement policies; however, in both cases the rules include a loophole that says agencies do not have to comply if the rules impose an "undue burden" on the agency.