Section 508 Procurement Guidelines
Federal Information Resources Management Regulations (FIRMR)
Excerpts on Accessibility
Selected excerpts from the new FIRMR, 41 CFR Chapter 201,
related to access to information technology by people with
This regulation uses the umbrella term, Federal Information
Processing (FIP) resources, to identify automatic data
processing and telecommunications resources that are subject to
GSA's exclusive procurement authority.
All text that is both bold and enclosed in square brackets
represents emphasis that is our own. All text that is in bold
without also being enclosed in square brackets reflects the
printing emphasis in the original document.
For readers unfamiliar with the FIRMR, a brief excerpt
concerning FIRMR applicability and scope has been included on
the last page of this section.
Copies of the FIRMR may be purchased from the Government
Printing Office (GPO) Bookstore, Washington, DC 20402,
SUBCHAPTER C -- MANAGEMENT AND USE OF FEDERAL INFORMATION PROCESSING (FIP)
201-17.001 Predominant Considerations
The policies prescribed in subchapter C are designed to promote success in
the acquisition, management, and use of Federal information processing (FIP)
resources by emphasizing the importance for agencies to--
(a) Develop and annually revise, in coordination with budget
activities, a 5-year plan to meet the agency's information
(b) Base requirements for FIP resources on agency mission, programs,
and related information needs;
(c) Consider the potential for deploying projected technological
advances of FIP resources to enhance future performance of programs
and operations in support of the agency mission;
(d) Acquire FIP resources that result in the most advantageous
alternative to the Government after consideration of--
(l) Sharing and reuse of existing FIP resources,
(2) Use of General Services Administration (GSA) services, and
(3) Acquisition of agency resources by contracting;
(e) Establish responsibility through a designated senior official
(DSO) when contracting for FIP resources under a delegation of
GSA's exclusive procurement authority;
(f) Assign an individual (such as a Trail Boss) responsible for
coordinating programmatic, technical, and contracting functions
when acquiring FIP resources;
(g) Achieve full and open competition to the maximum extent
(h) Acquire resources that comply with Federal standards;
(i) Provide for security of resources, protection of information about
individuals, continuity of operations, and national security and
[j) Provide individuals with disabilities (employees and others who
use the agency's electronic office equipment) equivalent access to
electronic office equipment;]
(k) Provide telecommunications access to hearing and speech impaired
(l) Review and evaluate existing resources and related management and
acquisition activities on an ongoing basis; and
(m) Replace outdated resources that are no longer the most
advantageous alternative for satisfying the agency's requirements.
PART 201-18--PLANNING AND BUDGETING
(a) 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(8) (the Paperwork Reduction Reauthorization Act
of 1986) requires executive agencies to develop and annually revise
a 5-year plan for meeting the agency's information technology
(b) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular No. A-130 requires
executive agencies to establish multiyear strategic planning
processes for acquiring and operating information technology that
meet program and mission needs, reflect budget constraints, and
form the basis for their budget requests.
(c) OMB Circular No. A-ll requires executive agencies to prepare and
submit annual agency-wide "Major Information Technology Acquisition
(d) The Computer Security Act of 1987 (Pub. L. 100-235, 40 U.S.C. 759
Note) requires agencies to identify each FIP system that contains
sensitive information and prepare a plan for the security and
privacy of each such system.
[(e) Section 50s of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 19s6 (Public
Law 99-506) requires the Federal Government to adopt guidelines for
electronic equipment accessibility designed to ensure that
individuals with disabilities may use electronic office equipment.
This Act requires that agencies comply with such guidelines. FIRMR
Bulletin C-8 provides guidance on planning for the FIP resources
accommodation needs of individuals with disabilities.]
(f) The General Services Administration (GSA) helps agencies with
their IRM planning by issuing handbooks, bulletins, and other
guidance documents. IRM planning services are available, on a cost-
reimbursable basis, through GSA's Office of Technical Assistance.
(g) GSA reviews agency IRM plans and the planning process as part of
the Information Resources Procurement and Management Review Program
described in part 201-22. Agencies' IRM planning is a factor in
delegating procurement authority for FIP resources.
(a) Agencies shall develop a 5-year plan for meeting the agency's
information technology needs. This plan shall--
(l) Reflect current and future program and mission needs;
(2) Consider the potential for deploying projected technological
advances of FIP resources to enhance future performance of
programs and operations in support of the agency mission;
(3) Consider FIP resources needed to meet the national security
and emergency preparedness needs of the agency;
(4) Reflect budget constraints;
(5) Form the basis for the agency's budget requests to OMB;
(6) Serve as the foundation for requirements analyses; and
(7) Be updated as needed, but at least annually.
(b) Agencies shall ensure that the IRM planning process includes the
participation of each of the agency's program areas, as well as
those organizations responsible for IRM (including records
management), contracting, and budget preparation.
[(c) Agencies shall adopt electronic equipment accessibility
guidelines similar to those described in FIRMR Bulletin C-8 and C-
10 in their planning process.]
(d) Agencies shall ensure that acquisition of FIP resources is in
accordance with the updated 5-year plan.
201-20 -- ACQUISITION
201-20.103-7 Accessibility requirements for individuals with
[(a) Agencies shall provide equivalent access to electronic office
equipment for individuals with disabilities (employees and others
who use the agency's electronic office equipment) to the extent
both present and future needs for such access are determined by the
(b) Agencies shall provide telecommunications access to hearing and
speech-impaired individuals to the extent both present and future
needs for such access are identified in the requirements analysis.
Telecommunications access for hearing and speech impaired
individuals shall include education and training on the services
and features of the GSA relay service.]
(l) Agencies shall publish access numbers for TDD and TDD-related
devices in telephone directories and provide such agency
numbers to GSA for inclusion in the Federal TDD Directory.
(2) Agencies shall display in their buildings or offices the
standard logo specified by GSA for indicating the presence of
TDD or TDD-related equipment.
(c) Agencies shall consider the guidance contained in FIRMR Bulletins
C-8 and C-10 on the subject of accessibility requirements for
individuals with disabilities.]
Due to the importance of the timely provision of equipment for persons with
disabilities, the FIRMR contains an exception to the policy on deviations
from the FIRMR as follows:
Deviations from the FIRMR shall be kept to a minimum consistent with the
specific needs and statutory authorities of each agency. Individual and
class deviations may be authorized by GSA's Commissioner, Information
Resources Management Service, or the officials designated by the Commissioner
for this purpose.
[(a) For an acquisition limited solely to providing electronic office
equipment accessibility for employees with disabilities, an
individual deviation from the FIRMR may be authorized by the
agency's DSO or the DSO's authorized representatives. This
deviation authority is limited to those FIRMR provisions that--
(1) Are not specifically prescribed by statute or executive order;
(2) Do not change the level of procurement authority delegated
from GSA to the agency; and
(3) Impede or obstruct the acquisition of technology for employees
(b) A deviation authorized under paragraph (a) of this section may be
granted immediately upon a written determination by the agency,
identifying those FIRMR provisions impeding or obstructing the
acquisition of technology for employees with disabilities. Agencies
shall promptly provide a copy of each determination and deviation
to: General Services Administration, Policy and Regulations
Division (RMP), 18th & F Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20405.]
(a) The agency head or designee shall prescribe an agency procedure
for the control of requests for deviations from the FIRMR. The
procedure should include coordination with the agency DSO as
appropriate. Agencies shall provide a copy of this procedure upon
request to the address in 201-3.402(b).
(b) Each request shall explain the nature of and the reasons for the
(c) Agencies shall forward requests for deviations to the address in
For readers unfamiliar with the FIRMR, the following excerpt concerning FIRMR
201-1.000 scope of part.
This part prescribes the extent to which the Federal Information Resources
Management Regulation (FIRMR) applies to the creation, maintenance, and use
of Federal records and the acquisition, management, and use of Federal
information processing (FIP) resources by Federal agencies. It also discusses
the basic authority for the FIRMR.
The FIRMR applies to--
(a) The acquisition, management, and use of FIP resources by Federal
(b) Any Federal agency solicitation or contract when either paragraph
(b)(l), (b)(2), or (b)(3) applies:
(l) The solicitation or contract requires the delivery of FIP
resources for use by a Federal agency or users designated by
(2) The solicitation or contract explicitly requires the use by
the contractor of FIP resources that are not incidental to the
performance of the contract. FIP resources acquired by a
contractor are incidental to the performance of a contract
(i) None of the principal tasks of the contract depend
directly on the use of the FIP resources; or
(ii) The requirements of the contract do not have the
effect of substantially restricting the contractor's
discretion in the acquisition and management of FIP
resources, whether the use of FIP resources is or is
not specifically stated in the contract.
(3) The solicitation or contract requires the performance of
a service or the furnishing of a product that is performed
or produced making significant use of FIP resources that
are not incidental to the performance of the contract.
Significant use of FIP resources means:
(i) The service or product of the contract could not
reasonably be produced or performed without the use
of FIP resources; and
(ii) The dollar value of FIP resources expended by the
contractor to perform the service or furnish the
product is expected to exceed $500,000 or 20 percent
of the estimated cost of the contract, whichever
amount is lower.
(c) The creation, maintenance, and use of records by Federal agencies.
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
Washington, DC 20405 January 30, 1991
TO: Heads of Federal agencies
SUBJECT: Information accessibility for employees with disabilities
1. Purpose. This bulletin provides information and guidance
regarding agencies' responsibility to meet the special Federal
information processing (FIP) resource accommodation needs of
individuals with disabilities.
2. Expiration date. This bulletin contains information of a
continuing nature and will remain in effect until canceled.
Information and assistance......................................5
Public Law 99-506...............................................8
Functional Specifications............................Attachment A
4. Related material.
a. FIRMR 201-18.001
b. FIRMR 201-20.103-7
c. GSA handbook, "Managing End User Computing for Users with
d. FIRMR Bulletin C-10 "Telecommunications Accessibility for
Hearing and Speech Impaired Individuals"
TC 90-1 Attachment
FEDERAL INFORMATION RESOURCES MANAGEMENT REGULATION
POTENTIAL SOURCES FOR ADP RESOURCES SHARING
Manufacturer and System Type
This attachment lists, by manufacturer and system type, ADP systems
that are available within the Federal government to make computer time
available for use by other Federal agencies. Attachment B lists the
information alphabetically by geographic location.
For information and assistance or to effect changes to this attachment,
General Services Administration
Authorizations Branch (KMAS)
18th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20405
Telephone (202) 501-1566 or FTS 241-1566.
Key to symbols:
* Indicates the installation has a substantial amount of computer time
available to support other agencies' requirements. The installation is
considered to be among the best known potential Government sources for
@ Indicates a Federal Data Processing Center (FDPC). (Although outside the
scope of the sharing program, FDPC listings are provided for the convenience
of the reader.)
# Indicates Amdahl, ITEL, or Magnuson systems that are compatible with
equivalent IBM systems.
Manufacturer/ Location and
System Point of Contact
#Amdahl U. S. Geological Survey
5890 Reston National Center
(703) 648-7157 or FTS 959-7157
Amdahl Dept. of Transportation
470/V7A Transportation System Center
(617) 494-2217 or FTS 837-2217
5. Information and assistance.
General Services Administration
Clearinghouse on Computer Accommodation (KGDO)
18th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20405
Voice or TDD: FTS 241-4906 or 202-501-4906.
General Services Administration
Regulations Branch (KMPR)
18th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20405
Telephone: FTS 241-3194 or (202) 501-3194.
"Computer accommodation" means the acquisition or modification of FIP
resources to minimize the functional limitations of employees in order to
promote productivity and to ensure access to work-related information
"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.
"Handicapped individuals" or "individuals with disabilities" means qualified
individuals with impairments, as cited in 29 CFR 1613.702(f), who can benefit
from electronic office equipment accessibility.
"Special peripheral" is defined in Section 508 of Pub. L. 99506 as "a
special needs aid that provides access to electronic equipment that is
otherwise inaccessible to a handicapped individual."
COCA Clearinghouse on Computer Accommodation
DSO Designated Senior Official
FIP Federal Information Processing
8. Public Law 99-506.
In 1986, Congress reauthorized the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
(Pub. L. 99-506, 29 U.S.C. 794d). Section 508, as incorporated into the
Act, mandates that guidelines be established to ensure that handicapped
individuals may use electronic office equipment with or without special
peripherals and that agencies comply with these guidelines in acquiring
In 1985, GSA's Information Resources Management Service (IRMS) established an
information resource center called COCA, to assist Federal agencies in
providing information accessibility to individuals with disabilities.
a. Accessibility. Workstations for Federal employees with sensory,
cognitive, or mobility impairments may be equipped with special
peripherals or software that provide access to computer technology,
primarily microcomputers. This accessibility is a necessary link
that enables handicapped employees to function efficiently and
effectively on the job.
b. Equivalent access. Disabled individuals and nondisabled
individuals should be provided equivalent access to electronic
office equipment. FIP resources, particularly microcomputers,
provide enhancement features, such as text enlarging and speech
input and output, allowing disabled individuals to accomplish tasks
previously impossible for them. For example, the inherent
flexibility of microcomputers permits their adaptation to meet the
specific needs of disabled individuals through the use of braille
printers, spoken screen review, and keyboard replacement devices.
c. Functional specifications. Attachment A presents specifications
that are organized by functional requirement into three categories:
input, output and documentation. These specifications reflect the
major areas that need to be considered during planning and
d. Accessibility alternatives. Accessibility solutions range from
third-party hardware and software add-ons, such as "layered"
solutions, to hardware "built-ins" and operating system
enhancements. Agencies should attempt to provide the same
equipment to all of their employees, whether or not they are
disabled. For that reason, "built-in" accessibility solutions are
preferable to "layered" solutions. Layering involves adding layers
of software between the end-user and the operating system or
application software. While this often complex solution may have
advantages, such as increased function and performance, it can also
have serious disadvantages. Disadvantages include increased costs,
greater difficulty in maintaining software updates at the operating
system level, and increased costs to train employees to utilize
dissimilar equipment at different sites within the agency. For
these reasons, layering should be selected as an accessibility
solution only after careful analysis of its merits relative to that
of "built-in" solutions.
11. Agency responsibilities.
a. DSO. The agency DSO for Federal information processing resources
is the individual primarily responsible for ensuring electronic
office equipment accessibility for current or prospective employees
with disabilities. This responsibility also includes providing
access to Federal public information resources for individuals with
disabilities. The DSO or an authorized representative should
monitor progress toward achieving electronic equipment
accessibility goals. The Federal Information Resources Management
Review Program is one means of monitoring this progress.
b. FIRMR requirement. The FIRMR requires that agencies shall provide
FIP resource accessibility to individuals with disabilities and
that agencies consider the guidance contained in FIRMR bulletins
concerning this subject. This action is essential to enable
handicapped employees to perform as productive employees.
c. Coordinated effort required. Agency management and technical
personnel need to work closely with contracting officials when
contracting for new or additional FIP resources to ensure
accessibility to FIP resources by individuals with disabilities.
Acquisition, management and technical personnel should:
(l) Provide to contracting officials, for inclusion in the
solicitation, an inventory and description of any accommodation
hardware or software currently-being used with the resources
scheduled for replacement or modification.
(2) Specify the need for a plan from prospective offerers that
ensures functionally equivalent or better access to and use of
proposed replacement resources.
(3) Specify the need for technical assistance in resolving
problems in providing computer accommodation resources.
(4) Specify the need for the Government to be permitted to install
additional accommodation devices, peripherals, or software that
may be acquired from a third party, without voiding the
maintenance and warranty agreements of the contract, provided
such devices or peripherals conform to the electrical
specifications of the system and can be connected through
standard expansion slots or peripheral ports.
(5) Develop functional specifications to meet the access needs of
individuals with disabilities (see Attachment A).
d. Consult GSA handbook. Agency managers determining accommodation
strategies for FIP resource accessibility should consult the GSA
handbook "Managing End User Computing for Users with Disabilities"
for guidance. This handbook is available from COCA.
12. COCA services.
Upon request for assistance, COCA will:
a. Respond to requests for general information on frequently used
hardware/software and workstation furnishings to accommodate
individuals with disabilities.
b. Assist agencies with researching specific hardware, software
and communications problems associated with an employee's
computer accommodation requirements.
c. Provide on-going consultative/technical assistance to agencies
during planning, acquisition, and installation of individual
and agency wide office automation systems; and
d. Conduct workshops on computer accommodation procedures.
FIRMR Bulletins 42, 48, and 56 are canceled.
Thomas J. Buckholtz
These specifications are organized by functional requirement into three
categories: input, output and documentation. This organization reflects the
major areas that need to be considered during planning and acquisition. The
capabilities set forth in these specifications are currently available from
industry in various degrees of functional adequacy, except for access to
screen memory for translating bit- mapped graphic images.
GSA will update this attachment to keep pace with technological advances and
to address other types of FIP resources.
1. Input alternatives. Access problems concerning the input
interface to a microcomputer differ according to the type and
severity of an employee's functional limitation. Some users
with disabilities are capable of using a keyboard, if it can be
modified slightly. Others require an alternative input
strategy. The following is an overview of common input
alternatives and other input functional requirements that
should be considered:
a. Multiple simultaneous operation. Microcomputers have
many commonly used functions that require simultaneous
striking of multiple keys or buttons. Sequential
activation control provides an alternative method of
operation by enabling a user to depress keys or buttons
one at a time to execute the same function.
b. Input redundancy. Some programs require a "mouse" or
other fine motor control device for input. Some users
with motor disabilities cannot operate these devices. An
input redundancy feature permits the functions of these
devices to be performed by the keyboard or other suitable
alternative such as voice input.
c. Alternative input devices. The capability to connect an
alternative input device can be made available to a user
who is not able to use a modified standard keyboard. This
feature supplements the keyboard and any other standard
input system used. The alternative input capability
consists of a port (serial, parallel, etc.) or connection
capability allowing an accommodation aid to be connected
to the system to augment or replace the keyboard. For
example, an alternative input device, such as a switch,
eye scan, or headtracking system, may be customized to
provide the most effective method of input for a user
while supporting transparent hardware emulation for
standard input devices, such as the keyboard and the
d. Key Repeat. A typical microcomputer generates
repetitions of a character if the key for that character
remains depressed. This is a problem for users without
sufficient motor control. A key repeat feature can give a
user control over the repeat start time and rate by
allowing the timing parameters to be extended or the
repeat function to be turned off.
e. Toggle key status control. Microcomputer toggle keys
provide visual indications of whether they are on or off.
A toggle key status feature provides an alternative, non-
visual means of showing the on or off status of a toggle
f. Keyboard orientation aids. To orient a visually impaired
user to a particular keyboard, a set of tactile overlays
should be available to identify the most important keys.
The tactile overlays can be in the form of keycap
replacements or transparent sticky tape with unique
symbols to identify the various keys.
g. Keyguards. To assist a motor-disabled user, a keyguard
should be available to stabilize movements and help ensure
that the correct keys are depressed. A keyguard is a
keyboard template with holes corresponding to the location
of the keys.
2. Output alternatives. Some users with disabilities need an
alternative output to be able to functionally use FIP
resources. The following is an overview of common output
alternatives, and other output functional requirements, that
should be considered:
a. Auditory output. The auditory output capability on
current microcomputers is sufficient to beep and play
music. However, some users with disabilities may require
a speech capability. A speech synthesizer is required to
generate speech on today's computers. The capability to
support a speech synthesizer should continue to be
available in future generations of computers, or this
capability may be internalized through an upgrade of the
computer's internal speaker. The speech capability should
include user-adjustable volume control and a headset jack.
b. Information redundancy. Currently, several programs
activate a speaker on the microcomputer to provide
information to the user. Some programs do not have the
capability to present this information visually to the
hearing-impaired user. An information redundancy feature
presents a visual equivalent of the auditory information
c. Monitor display. The requirement to enhance text size,
reproduce text orally or in braille, or modify display
characteristics is crucial for some users with visual
disabilities. To ensure that this access continues, the
following capabilities are required:
(l) Large Print display. There should be a means for
enlarging a portion of the screen for a low-vision
user. This process uses a window or similar
mechanism allowing magnification to be controlled by
a user. A user can invoke the large-print display
capability from the keyboard or control pad for use
in conjunction with any work-related applications
software. If applications software includes
graphics, enlargement of graphic displays should also
(2) Access to visually displayed information. The
capability to access the screen is necessary to
support the speech or braille output requirement of
many blind users. Currently, blind users are able to
select and review the spoken or braille equivalent of
text from any portion of the screen while using
standard applications software. Third-party vendors
should have access to the screen contents in a manner
that can be translated and directed to any internal
speech chip, a speech synthesizer on a serial or
parallel port, or a braille display device.
Information presented pictorially also needs to be
available in such a manner that, as software
sophistication improves, it may eventually be
translated using alternative display systems.
(3) Color presentation. When colors must be distinguished in
order to understand information on the display, color-
blind end users should be provided with a means of
selecting the colors to be displayed.
3. Documentation. Access to documentation for computer
technology in a usable format should be provided for Federal
employees with disabilities. Braille, large print, or ASCII
disk equivalents of standard manuals are options to be