Fort Belvoir, Virginia –
From videophones to laptops, Defense Logistics Agency Information Operations strives to provide cutting edge technology and tools to accommodate employees with disabilities as they support the needs of the warfighter.
October is the 70th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues. For DLA Information Operations, accommodating and enhancing the workplace experience of employees with disabilities is a year-round effort.
Ensuring employees with disabilities have equal access to the agency’s programs, processes and services is part of DLA’s information technology policy, which states DLA systems are to be useable by all employees, regardless of their type of disability.
As part of DLA Instruction 1440.01, “Procedures for Requesting Reasonable Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities,” DLA Information Operations appointed a Section 508 coordinator to ensure its compliance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“DLA Logistics Information Services also participates in the reasonable accommodation process by conducting a technology review and providing written advice in support of all requests involving assistive technology and/or agency computer systems,” said Kathy Cutler, director of DLA Information Operations and the agency’s chief information officer.
In addition, DLA is preparing to implement Video Remote Interpreting and Video Relay Services agency wide, providing on-demand American Sign Language interpretation via a DLA-provided tablet that uses wireless connectivity.
According to a Sept. 25 DLA Information Operations Bulletin, the availability of VRI and VRS services throughout DLA will reduce communication barriers and provide deaf employees more flexibility to do their jobs and the opportunity to fully participate in meetings, collaborate on work projects and compete for career opportunities.
Employees who want to take advantage of these services are urged to contact their local disability coordinator and submit a request for a reasonable accommodation for mobile technology with interpretive services.
By submitting a request to the DLA Equal Employment Opportunity office, federal employees and individuals with disabilities participating in the Workforce Recruitment Program can also receive assistive technology through a partnership with the Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program. This includes individuals who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, hard of hearing, or have dexterity, communication, cognitive or learning disabilities.
The CAP covers the cost of installation, integration and training on assistive technology including closed captioning to accommodate employees with auditory disabilities and audio technology for visually impaired employees. Other technologies include:
● Job Access with Speech, known as JAWS, is text-to-speech software compatible with Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and Firefox that is often used by employees who cannot see screen content or navigate with a mouse.
● Zoom Text Magnifier/Reader, is a magnification and screen reading program that enlarges, enhances and reads out loud what is displayed on the employee’s computer screen. It also has inverted color schemes features enabling the user to switch from screen colors they can’t see to those they can.
● Kurzweil 1000 is a program for visually impaired people that scans and reads out loud textbooks or other written material.
● Kurzweil 3000 is interactive learning software that converts text into speech and features tools like pronunciation breakdowns, highlighting and note-taking. Word prediction tools, spell check, a dictionary and a thesaurus help the user write more accurately and the software can read the text out loud, enabling the user to quickly recognize any needed revisions.
● Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech-recognition software that enables employees with disabilities to create documents, spreadsheets, reports and emails and conduct Internet research just by speaking.
Assistive technologies have proven to be very useful in the daily operations of DLA employees, said Eileen Fulk, a DLA Information Operations IT management specialist who also serves as one of two DLA Section 508 coordinators.
In one instance, a Kurzweil user was taking a course in the DLA Learning Management System but couldn’t process the information on the screen despite its compatibility with JAWS, Fulk said.
“I asked the LMS folks to provide a printer-friendly option so that Kurzweil could read the question out loud. [The user] was then able to go back to the screen, answer the questions and was thrilled with the workaround,” she said.
Previously, Kurzweil users at DLA Headquarters were only able to complete LMS training if a coworker read the questions out loud, Fulk said.
“Today, with that option to print, they can take the training independently without having someone looking over their shoulders,” she said.
In addition to assistive technology, DLA Document Services has contractors who can produce works in Braille, said Ron Kaczmarek, DLA Document Services Commercial Procurement Program Manager.
“DLA Document Services has the means of providing aids such as enlarged text print for those individuals with visual impairments as well as the ability to offer most items such as pamphlets, brochures, desk guides and even bound books such as training manuals, in Braille,” he said. “All in all, just about anything that has to do with printed material can be offered to those individuals that need these services.”