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U.S. Senate Committee Addresses Accessible Government Technology

On July 20th, Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging conducted a hearing titled “Unlocking the Virtual Front Door: Ensuring Accessible Government Technology for People with Disabilities, Older Adults, and Veterans.” The hearing, held a week before the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1973, focused on accessible technology’s significance for veterans, senior citizens, and individuals with disabilities in accessing government services and information.

During the hearing, Chairman Casey mentioned his report, “Unlocking the Front Door,” which identified accessibility issues within the Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal government’s technology. He also highlighted two bills: the Veterans Accessibility Act and the Federal Agency Accessibility Compliance Act. These bills aim to guarantee that federal government services, programs, and communications are accessible to all Americans.

Chairman Casey stated that accessible government technology, including websites and apps, is crucial for individuals with disabilities seeking access to veterans’ benefits, transportation schedules, or tax payments. He emphasized the importance of taking action to ensure accessibility through the Biden Administration’s efforts and collaborative legislative initiatives with Senators Rick Scott, Fetterman, Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Duckworth, and Sanders.

One of the witnesses, Chris Westbrook, who is blind and serves as the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania Deaf-Blind Division and an accessibility engineer for Allyant, testified about the daily challenges related to accessibility. He emphasized the necessity of ensuring accessibility in government websites to provide access to programs, services, and information for all constituents, regardless of disabilities. Westbrook highlighted the need to integrate accessibility from the design phase throughout the entire website development process to achieve accessibility in government technology.

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Kitty D Hann 1938-2024

At 18 years of age, Kitty was recruited to work for the Dept. of the Navy in Washington, D.C., where she resided in an all-girl’s boarding house. She created lifelong friendships there.

John Eugene Walck 1933-2024

Mr. Walck worked proudly for Hagerstown Canteen Vending Service for 50 years, retiring in 2003. He enjoyed the outdoors, trap shooting, and collecting trains.

Justin L. Nichols 1981-2024

Justin enjoyed hunting, fishing, spending time around a camp fire, time spent with family and friends and living life to the fullest.

Robert “Bob” Rhoten 1933-2024

After he left the military, Bob worked several data entry jobs. After 10 years of service to the Federal Government, he retired in his early 70’s.

Nina Fegan 1947-2024

Nina graduated from St. Joseph’s Nursing School in Lancaster, PA as a Registered Nurse. She enjoyed puzzles, reading and vacationing in Cape May, NJ.

Duane Lee Bidlack 1938-2024

Duane earned a Bachelor’s degree from Tri-State College and later a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State University.

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