<p>ALEXANDRIA, Va.-In the streamlining frame of mind of the NCUA, the agency has updated and modernized its Web site. NCUA has managed to make the site easier to use and navigate while providing more up-to-date information on government affairs, including information regarding congressional actions and federal legislation affecting to credit unions. According to NCUA Director of Public and Congressional Affairs Cliff Northup, planning for the new Web site went on throughout 2001. The actual design was completed in about two weeks, NCUA Chief Information Officer Doug Verner said. In addition to updating the site, NCUA also aimed at making the 6,000-page site more accessible to the disabled. Under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which amended the Americans with Disabilities Act, effective June 2001 all new systems have to use software that is compatible with several different types of technology to make pages more accessible to the disabled, Northup said. For example, if a site includes sound, the dialogue must also be available in text for the hearing impaired. Training and testing for the new requirements cost $4,000, Northup said, but the design was done in-house without incurring additional cost. NCUA's old Web site, which had been in use since March of 1996, had been grandfathered and was not covered under the new law. "Technology is very important both for NCUA and those we regulate and insure. The more accessible and resourceful the Web site is for users, the better job the agency can do in serving the public," NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar said. "With the new technology, users will be able to access more NCUA information and benefit from that access." Dollar said that he would like for credit unions located all over the country to eventually be able to view board meetings over the Internet. While NCUA is moving forward with technology in some areas, updates to the agency's antiquated telephone system have been stalled. At the December board meeting, Dollar and then-Board Member Yolanda Wheat voted to delete an item from the agenda to approve a new phone system. Then-Board Member Geoff Bacino cast the lone vote against the deletion of the agenda item. NCUA's current system was purchased in January of 1988, Verner said. Some updates have been made since then. Dollar, the only currently seated board member, said that he supports updating the phone system, but he "want[s] to do it at the right time, fiscally." He said that if the issue arises again it would likely be at the mid-session budget review. Dollar noted that an update to the phone system would be helpful in providing Internet access to board meetings and teleconferencing. Additionally, he said he would like all the regional offices and Alexandria-based headquarters all on the same phone system, which they currently are not. The new system would cost approximately $400,000, according to Dollar. However, he admitted, "I will point out that expenditures on upkeep and maintenance [on the current system] is running in the range of about $80,000 a year." Dollar, whose theme as chairman appears to be streamlining, indicated he would like to see NCUA "the leanest and most efficient agency possible." The NCUA Web site receives about two million visits per month. Webmasters are continuing to design pages on the site and update information on a daily basis. View the new electronic face of the NCUA at www.ncua.gov. [email protected]</p>

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