Accessibility Deadline May Move

WASHINGTON (05/25/2000) - Hold the lawsuits.

An amendment passed by the U.S. Senate and likely to be accepted by the House would push back by several months the date federal agencies can be sued for failing to have office equipment that can be used by disabled people.

The date now is Aug. 7, but it is likely to be moved back to November or December.

Sen. Jim Jeffords (Republican-Vermont) tacked the deadline delay onto the annual bill to fund military construction, passed May 11. A House version of the military construction bill does not have a similar amendment, but a Senate staffer said the amendment is expected to be accepted by a House conference committee.

The move would push back the implementation date for Section 508 regulations requiring federal agencies to provide computers, photocopiers, telephones and other electronic equipment that can be used by people who are blind or deaf or suffer from other physical impairments.

Although agencies now are required to comply by Aug. 7, it is still unclear what they must comply with. Final regulations have not yet been published by the federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. They are expected sometime in June.

The regulations were supposed to have been published Feb.7, giving agencies six months to come into compliance by the Aug. 7 deadline. Jeffords' amendment simply pushes the effective date back to six months after final regulations are published - whenever that may be, the Senate staffer said.

Information technology companies, who lobbied hard to get the deadline pushed back, said the delay may head off millions of dollars in lawsuits.

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