Another small bureaucratic hamlet, the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, has joined the sporadic guerrilla resistance to the Reagan administration's budget-cutting policy.
The board, formed by Congress in 1973 to help make federal buildings accessible to the handicapped, had been told to put itself out of business by Sept. 31, when the current fiscal year ends.
The board is "an unnecessary regulatory layer" in the government, says the Office of Management and Budget, which wants to save the $2.4 million the board would have received for the next fiscal year.
But the board's public members are fighting back, led by chairman Mason H. Rose V, a Los Angeles lawyer who is confined to wheelchair.
At a tumultuous meeting, Rose and his allies fended off a coordinated attack by the federal officials on the board aimed at one of the board's most significant and controversial regulations -- a set of guidelines on architectural barriers approved in the final weeks of the Carter administration.
Although the parliamentary wrestling had its comic moments, according to some of those present, there is nothing comical about the issue dividing the board -- how far the federal government should go in assuring that handicapped people have easy access to public buildings and other facilities such as buses, subways, public telephones and restrooms.
The Reagan administration isn't about to be tripped by such scattered protests within the government. Most federal departments and agencies have cooperated with the OMB's budget control campaign; some have even volunteered deeper cuts, possibly to stay on OMB's good side.
One exception is the National Consumer Cooperative Bank, whose president legally, but quietly, transferred $60 million in Treasury funds to the bank after the administration disclosed plans to cut off funding for the bank, a lending institution jointly owned by the federal government and consumer cooperative stores. Treasury officials have said they will try to get the money back.
Another exception is the transportation barriers board -- or at least is "public" members.
The board is evenly divided, 11 citizens (nine of them handicapped) appointed by the president to represent the public, and 11 members of federal agencies and departments such as the Postal Service, the Transportation Department and the General Services Administration.
Until recently, the public and federal board members hadn't been split. In fact, five federal members voted with most of the public members to approve the board's Jan. 6 guidelines on public access. Some of the federal members have been increasingly concerned however, that the board's actions were imposing unreasonable costs on the government.
Then, a week ago, the federal members were called to OMB for what one administration official described as a "team meeting" to work out strategy for a board meeting last Tuesday.
C. Boyden Gray, counsel for Vice President Bush's Task Force on Regulatory Relief, said he didn't give the group any "marching orders," although he and OMB officials did go over the Reagan administration's position on the board. "I don't know what authority I have to give marching orders," he said.
The federal members of the board were in general agreement on how to proceed, he added.
In any case, Rose faced a solid phalanx of federal board members at the Tuesday meeting, seeking to suspend the Jan. 6 guidelines. The 11 federal members were joined by one of the public members who also opposed the guidelines. Rose retaliated by announcing that a two-thirds majority would be necessary, for procedural reasons, and after a loud, angry debate, Rose's position prevailed.
The issue was put off until the board's June 8 meeting.
The policy conflicts over access for the handicapped are dramatized by the Jan. 6 guidelines, which set forth minimum requirements for new and rebuilt federal buildings (and federally supported buildings).
For instance, the guidelines initially called for installation of a teletypewriter alongside each row of public telephones so that a deaf person could communicate with another deaf person who had access to a teletypewriter. Several of the federal representatives objected to the cost of this provision and the risk of damage to the machines by vandals, and the matter was held for further study.
The guidelines require that at least one telephone in a bank of public phones be no more than four feet above the floor, within the grasp of people in wheelchairs and those with other disabilities that limit their reach. The telephone industry has opposed this provision.
And the Postal Service continues to oppose another guideline provision requiring that the entrances, work areas, and restrooms in buildings leased for post offices be accessible to people in wheelchairs and others with handicaps.
The reagan administration, in proposing the elimination of the board and the guidelines, says that the General Services Administration can coordinate federal actions required by the Architectural Barriers Act.
Rose and his allies maintain that what the handicapped need is not a coordinator but an advocate, defending their rights.