White House recharges effort to help people with disabilities use government technology

Better access to federal websites will help people with disabilities to apply for jobs and obtain services and information, administration says on 21st anniversary of ADA.

Federal agencies must make technology more accessible for people with disabilities, the White House said Tuesday.

The Obama administration announced it is creating a strategy to achieve this goal by improving compliance with Section 508, a technology-oriented 1998 amendment to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Section 508 requires federal agencies' electronic and information technology to be accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities.

The administration said increased access to technology, including government websites, will allow more people with disabilities to apply for federal jobs and obtain government services and information. More access also could help current federal employees with disabilities perform their duties with greater ease.

The announcement comes on the 21st anniversary of the 1990 American with Disabilities Act.

"The ADA was about independence and the freedom to make of our lives what we will. We celebrate that today, and we recommit ourselves to ending discrimination in all its forms," President Obama said in a press release.

The initiative also follows Obama's July 2010 executive order to hire more disabled individuals, which was based on a July 2000 initiative by President Clinton to increase the number of disabled employees in the federal government by 100,000.

According to a July 2010 report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, disabled individuals made up 1.12 percent of the federal workforce in fiscal 2000. By fiscal 2009, the number had dropped and 24,663 individuals with disabilities worked for the government -- less than 1 percent of the federal workforce. EEOC's statistics for fiscal 2010 are not available yet.