President Bush on Tuesday heralded technology accessibility regulations that will take effect next week as an opportunity for all Americans with disabilities to gain better access to their government. Bush praised the rules in Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act Amendments after touring the Pentagon's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program facilities, which provides government agencies with assistive technology and devices. Section 508 requires that all federal agencies make their electronic and information technology accessible to the disabled. The rules to implement Section 508, which were drafted by the U.S. Access Board, require changes in federal procurement policy, since procurement officials must ensure that purchased technology is Section 508-compliant. "When Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act…becomes effective for all federal agencies next Monday, there will be more opportunities for people of all abilities to access government information," Bush said. Section 508 will also make the federal government a better employer, since approximately 120,000 federal employees with disabilities will have greater access to the technologies they need to perform their jobs, Bush said. Bush said Section 508 is a key part of his New Freedom Initiative, which aims "to help Americans with disabilities realize their potential and to achieve their dreams." The initiative also includes an executive order mandating that federal agencies implement the Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead decision. The initiative increases community-based services for people with disabilities. Also on Tuesday, the Information Technology Industry Council said it is joining with the White House to develop an Internet-based template for the government to use in evaluating the accessibility of its technological products and services. The joint effort aims to help the government comply with Section 508.
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