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I. Accessibility in the Evolving Information Environment
A. Federal Requirements for Accessibility
When information environments accommodate people with limitations of
vision, hearing, or mobility they are afforded equal opportunities to
become proficient users of information resources. Federal agencies are
responding to their mission level responsibility to ensure that evolving
information environments are accessible to current and prospective
employees with disabilities and citizens with disabilities who need to
access Federal offices and public information services. By establishing
accessible information environments, agencies also promote productivity,
job retention of employees who develop disabilities, and the
introduction of innovative interfaces to enhance access to information
by all users.
This accessibility policy is based on two laws, the 1986 Reauthorization
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub.L. 99-506, Section 508) and the
Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act of 1988 (Pub.L. 100-
542). These statutes have been implemented in the Federal Information
Resources Management Regulation (FIRMR) promulgated by GSA. The FIRMR
requires that agencies identify computer and telecommunications
accessibility requirements for current and prospective employees and
public information services and address the functional aspects of these
requirements in solicitation documents and when subscribing to
telecommunications services. (See Appendices F, G, H, and I for text of
the laws, regulations, and bulletins).
These laws do not represent a radical new direction for agencies, but
serve to reinforce through a strong IRM focus, the existing mission
requirements under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This Act requires
federally conducted or federally sponsored programs to be accessible to
persons with disabilities and mandates that management policies must not
discriminate in the hiring, placement, and advancement of persons with
disabilities. In 1986, Congress amended this legislation and added
Section 508 on electronic equipment to make more explicit the importance
of information technology to meet mission responsibilities for
accessibility to Federal programs and facilities. The second statute,
the Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act, mandates a
proactive approach within the government to advancing accessibility to
the Federal telecommunications system by hearing impaired and speech
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) has adapted and
extended many of the existing responsibilities of the Rehabilitation Act
for implementation outside the Federal government. The law requires
barrier-free access to places that serve the public, such as theaters,
restaurants, and museums. State and local government services,
transportation, and telecommunications services must also be accessible.
Discrimination on the basis of disability in private sector employment
is also prohibited. As implementation of ADA begins, accessibility to
information resources represents just one important area where Federal
departments can demonstrate to the private sector successful
implementation strategies and the benefits of accessibility policies.
The contents of two laws specifically addressing the requirements for
computer and telecommunications accessibility within the Federal
government are included in this section. The laws are:
P.L. 99-506, Section 508 - an Act to extend and improve the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
P.L. 100-542 - Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act of 1988
PUBLIC LAW 99-506 - OCTOBER 21, 1986
100 STAT. 1807
An Act To extend and improve the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Section 603. ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT ACCESSIBILITY.
(a) ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT ACCESSIBILITY. - Title V of the Act is amended
by inserting after section 507 the following new section:
"ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT ACCESSIBILITY
"Section 508. (a) (1) The Secretary, through the National Institute on
Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Administrator of the
General Services, in consultation with the electronics industry, shall
develop and establish guidelines for electronic equipment accessibility
designed to insure that handicapped individuals may use electronic
office equipment with or without special peripherals.
"(2) The guidelines established pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be
applicable with respect to electronic equipment, whether purchased or
"(3) The initial guidelines shall be established not later than October
1, 1987, and shall be periodically revised as technologies advance or
"(b) Beginning after September 30, 1988, the Administrator of General
Services shall adopt guidelines for electronic equipment accessibility
established under subsection (a) for Federal procurement of electronic
equipment. Each agency shall comply with the guidelines adopted under
"(c) For the purpose of this section, the term 'special peripherals'
means a special needs aid that provides access to electronic equipment
that is otherwise inaccessible to a handicapped individual."
"(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT. - The table of contents of the Act is amended
by inserting after item "Sec. 507." the following new item:
"Sec. 508. Electronic equipment accessibility."
PUBLIC LAW 100-542 - OCTOBER 28, 1988
102 STAT. 2721
An Act To expand our national telecommunications system for the benefit
of the hearing-impaired and speech-impaired populations, and for other
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the "Telecommunications Accessibility
Enhancement Act of 1988".
SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.
As used in this Act-
(1) The term "TDD" means a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, a
machine which employs graphic communications in the transmission of
coded signals through the nationwide telecommunications system.
(2) The term "Federal agency" has the meaning given such term by section
3(b) of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40
SEC. 3. FEDERAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS.
(a) ACCESSIBILITY OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS. - The Administrator of
General Services, after consultation with the Architectural and
Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, the Interagency Committee on
Computer Support of Handicapped Employees, the Federal Communications
Commission, and affected Federal agencies, shall, by regulation, take
such actions in accordance with this section as may be necessary to
assure that the Federal telecommunications system is fully accessible to
hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals, including Federal
employees, for communications with and within Federal agencies.
(b) SPECIFIC REQUIREMENT. - In carrying out subsection (a), the
Administrator shall -
(1) provide for the continuation of the existing Federal relay system
for users of TDDs;
(2) within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, expand such
relay system by employing at least one additional operator;
(3) within 180 days after such date of enactment -
(A) conduct, as part of the rulemaking proceeding required by subsection
(a), an analysis of modifications to the Federal telecommunications
system that the Administrator, in his discretion, determines to be
necessary to achieve the objectives of subsection (a); and
(B) submit a report on the results of such analysis to each House of the
(4) within 180 days after completion of such analysis, prescribe the
regulations required by subsection (a);
(5) assemble, publish, and maintain a directory of TDD and other devices
used by Federal agencies to comply with such regulations, and publish,
in Federal agency directories, access numbers of TDD's and such other
(6) after consultation with the Architectural and Transportation
Barriers Compliance Board, adopt the design of a standard logo to
signify the presence of a TDD or other device used by a Federal agency
to comply with such regulations.
(c) CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT. - The Administrator shall not prescribe the
regulation required by subsection (a) before the end of the 90-day
period beginning on the date the Administrator submits the report
required by subsection (b)(3)(B).
SEC. 4. ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS.
(a) SUPPORT FOR RESEARCH. - The Administrator shall, in consultation
with the Federal Communications Commission, seek to promote research by
Federal agencies, State agencies, and private entities to reduce the
cost and improve the capabilities of telecommunications devices and
systems that provide accessibility to hearing-impaired and speech-
(b) PLANNING TO ASSIMILATE TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS. - The
Administrator, in planning future alterations to and modifications of
the Federal telecommunications system, shall take into account results
of the analysis required by section 3(b)(3) and any technological
improvements in telecommunications devices and systems that provide
accessibility to hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals.
SEC. 5. INQUIRY REGARDING INTERSTATE TDD RELAY SYSTEM.
The Federal Communications Commission shall, within 9 months after the
date of enactment of this Act, complete its existing inquiry regarding
an interstate relay system for users of TDD's.
SEC. 6. TDD INSTALLATION BY CONGRESS.
As soon as practicable, each House of the Congress shall establish a
policy under which Members of the House of Representatives and the
Senate, as the case may be, may obtain TDD's for use in communicating
with hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals, and for the use
of hearing-impaired and speech-impaired employees.
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
Washington, DC 20405
FIRMR BULLETIN C-10
TO: Heads of Federal agencies
SUBJECT: Telecommunications accessibility for hearing and speech
1. Purpose. This bulletin provides guidelines for acquiring products
and services that provide telecommunications accessibility for hearing
and speech impaired individuals for communication with and within
Federal agencies. This bulletin also provides general information
regarding responsibilities for accommodating the needs of those with
hearing and speech impairments.
2. Expiration date. This bulletin contains information of a continuing
nature and will remain in effect until canceled.
Related material 4
Information and assistance 5
GSA responsibilities and actions 10
Agency responsibilities 11
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) Attachment A
Federal Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf
(TDD) Directory Attachment B
Agency Telecommunications Accessibility Planning Attachment C
4. Related material.
a. FIRMR 201-18.002
b. FIRMR 201-20.103-7
c. FIRMR Bulletin C-8
5. Information and assistance.
a. General inquiries about the contents of this bulletin or info
concerning updates should be directed to:
General Services Administration
Regulations Branch (KMPR)
18th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20405
Telephone: (202) 501-3194 or FTS 241-3194 (v).
(202) 501-0657 or FTS 241-0657 (tdd).
ATBCB Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
COAT Council on Accessibility Technology
COCA Clearinghouse on Computer Accommodation
FIRS Federal Information Relay Service
Pub. L. Public Law
TDD Telecommunications Device for the Deaf
"Information accessibility" means the application or configuration of
FIP resources in a manner that accommodates the functional limitations
of individuals with disabilities so as to promote productivity and
provide access to work-related or public information resources.
8. Background. The Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act of
1988 (Pub. L. 100-542, 102 Stat. 2721) charged the General Services
Administration (GSA) with assuring that the Federal telecommunications
system be fully accessible to hearing and speech impaired individuals.
Included among the provisions of this law is the requirement that GSA
prescribe regulations to help assure such accessibility. In
consultation with COAT, GSA has developed these guidelines as well as
related regulatory provisions in the FIRMR to comply with this statutory
mandate. This bulletin will be revised periodically to keep pace with
technological advancements and as dictated by agency compliance with
FIRMR policies and procedures.
a. Individuals with hearing and speech impairments should be provided
access to Federal telecommunications services and facilities.
Technological advances, such as the TDD, make this possible. A TDD is a
machine that uses typed input and output, usually with a visual text
display, to enable individuals with hearing or speech impairments to
communicate over a telecommunications network.
b. Technological advances for non-disabled individuals may have an even
greater long-term effect on improving telecommunications accessibility
for those with hearing and speech impairments. Such advances include
electronic mail; facsimile; teleconferencing; LAN-based video imaging;
text-based information services and messaging; and remote, real-time
transcription/translation capabilities. Many of these services are
available to agencies through FTS2000, GSA's long-distance
telecommunications service. GSA's TDD relay service will also improve
the ability of those with hearing and speech impairments to access
Federal agencies. The flexibility inherent in these new
telecommunications capabilities makes it possible to accommodate the
special requirements of speech and hearing impaired individuals.
10. GSA responsibilities and actions.
a. In accordance with Pub. L. 100-542, GSA is required to:
1) Assume responsibility for the operation of the pilot Federal
telecommunications relay system operated by the Department of the
Treasury and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance
Board (ATBCB). Attachment A contains information on this system.
(2) Assemble, publish, and maintain a directory of TDD and other
devices used by Federal agencies and publish access numbers for TDD's
and other devices in Federal telephone directories. Attachment B
contains information on the Federal TDD Directory.
(3) In consultation with the ATBCB, adopt the design of a standard logo
to indicate the presence of TDD equipment in Federal buildings.
(4) Jointly with the FCC, promote research to reduce the cost and
improve the capabilities of equipment for providing telecommunications
accessibility for those with hearing and speech impairments.
(5) Consider technological improvements in telecommunications
accessibility devices when planning future alterations and modifications
to the Federal telecommunications system.
b. GSA solicitations for local telecommunications services or equipment
will include specifications that require vendors to provide services or
equipment to ensure accessibility for hearing and speech impaired
c. GSA's COCA staff will assist Federal agencies in identifying
strategies to accommodate the telecommunications needs of their
employees with disabilities.
11. Agency responsibilities. Agencies are responsible for:
a. Assessing telecommunications accessibility for individuals with
hearing and speech impairments and developing specifications for
solicitations. Attachment C provides guidance on how to fulfill these
b. Publishing access numbers for TDD and TDD-related devices in agency
telephone directories and providing such numbers to GSA for inclusion in
the Federal TDD Directory in accordance with the procedures in
Attachment B of this bulletin.
c. Displaying in their buildings or offices the standard logo specified
by GSA for indicating the presence of TDD or TDD-related equipment. In
accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Part 8, the
mandatory source of supply for standard logo signs is UNICOR, Federal
Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI). Prior approval from FPI is required
before using any other source of supply. Purchase Orders should be
submitted to: UNICOR, Federal Prison Industries, Inc. 320 First Street,
NW., Washington, DC 20534. (202) 724-8239.
12. Cancellation. FIRMR Bulletin 63 is canceled.
Original signed by:
Thomas J. Buckholtz
FIRMR Bulletin C-10
FEDERAL INFORMATION RELAY SERVICE (FIRS)
1. Background. In 1986, the Federal TDD Relay Exchange Service was
initiated as a pilot project of the ATBCB and the Department of the
Treasury. Pub. L. 100-542 required that GSA assume responsibility for
this pilot relay service.
GSA began operation of its own relay system, called FIRS, on March 20,
1989. GSA has since expanded its relay system by adding additional
operators and nationwide toll-free (800) service to allow individuals
with hearing and speech impairments to communicate with and within the
2. Description of service. FIRS allows communication between hearing
and non-hearing individuals through a GSA operator relaying messages
between the two parties. The GSA operator uses a computer that is
configured to accept incoming TDD calls to converse with hearing or
speech impaired individuals and a telephone to converse with hearing
individuals. At least one of the individuals whose message is being
relayed must be conducting official business of the Federal Government.
Hearing individuals may also originate calls over FIRS. The relay's
operating hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday,
except on Federal holidays. The local number for the TDD service is
(202) 708-9300 (v/tdd). The nationwide number is (800) 877-8339
3. Agency responsibilities. Users of FIRS must assume certain
responsibilities in order to assure the most efficient operation of the
system. Future revisions of this bulletin and a brochure on the use of
FIRS will explain these responsibilties.
4. Information and assistance. Information and assistance regarding
the FIRS or how agencies might establish their own TDD relay systems
should be addressed to:
General Services Administration
Federal Information Relay Service
National Capital Region
7th and D Streets, SW
Washington, DC 20407
Telephone (202) 708-6100 or FTS 458-6100 (v/tdd).
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