What is the Clinger–Cohen Act, and how does it affect people with disabilities?

Updated: January 2222nd, 2013.

In the 1996 Amendments to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) was charged with developing technical standards by which compliance with the act could be measured. Section 508 required that the Access Board standards include "a definition of electronic and information technology that is consistent with the definition of information technology specified in section 5002(3) of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 (40 U.S.C. 1401(3))."

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 (40 U.S.C. 1401(3)), also known as the Information Technology Management Reform Act, was intended, among its many other purposes, to "reform acquisition laws and information technology management of the Federal Government." The law itself has nothing to do with technology accessibility or people with disabilities. However, its relevance is that in Section 5002 of the Act (the "Definitions" section), the Clinger-Cohen Act establishes a definition of information technology that has since been cited in numerous other federal laws, including Section 508. The Section 5002 three-part definition of information technology is as follows:

  1. The term 'information technology', with respect to an executive agency means any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information by the executive agency. For purposes of the preceding sentence, equipment is used by an executive agency if the equipment is used by the executive agency directly or is used by a contractor under a contract with the executive agency which (i) requires the use of such equipment, or (ii) requires the use, to a significant extent, of such equipment in the performance of a service or the furnishing of a product.
  2. The term 'information technology' includes computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources.
  3. Notwithstanding sub-paragraphs (A) and (B), the term 'information technology' does not include any equipment that is acquired by a Federal contractor incidental to a Federal contract.