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CHIPS Articles: Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program

Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program
By Bruce Morris - January-March 2001
Background

The Department of Defense (DoD) has a long-standing commitment to providing equal access and services for individuals with disabilities. DoD's goal is to increase the representation of individuals with disabilities to two percent of its civilian work force. To support this objective, DoD established the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP).

CAP, a program in the TRICARE Management Activity, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), was established in 1990 as the centrally funded DoD program that provides assistive technology to allow DoD employees with disabilities to access computer and telecommunication systems and realize full productivity.

Mission

CAP's mission is to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in DoD. CAP's Web site, at http://www.cap.mil, provides information on accommodations and services, initiatives, CAP Technology Evaluation Center (CAPTEC), Contact CAP, news and announcements, and request forms.

In addition to providing assistive accommodations and services to DoD employees with disabilities, CAP participates in several initiatives, including the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP), Telecommuting/Flexiplace, Workers' Compensation, Healthy Work Practices Program, Military Health System Accessibility, DoD Education Activity and Exceptional Family Member Programs, and Technology Transfer initiatives.

CAPTEC

CAPTEC (CAP Technology Evaluation Center) was established in 1995. The purpose of CAPTEC is to minimize accessibility barriers to information technology for DoD disabled employees. CAPTEC can assist DoD supervisors and individuals in choosing appropriate computer and electronic accommodations. CAPTEC has a wide variety of hands-on assistive technology aids so the user can try the technology aids to make sure user requirements and the assistive devices are a good match. CAPTEC often collaborates with private industry to meet user requirements.

You can schedule an appointment with the CAPTEC manager online at http://www.cap.mil. You can also schedule a CAPTEC presentation or tour the CAPTEC facility via video teleconferencing (VTC).

Since 1995, CAPTEC has assisted more than 5,000 DoD employees.

CAP also funds sign language interpreters, readers and personal assistants for employees attending long term training (two days or more) at no cost to the employing activity.

Accessibility for Public Areas and Health Care Providers

CAP assists Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) in meeting communication accessibility requirements, as well as the individual requirements of MTF employees with disabilities. With Secretary Cohen's recent signing of the DoD Directive for Patient's Rights, DoD has a new commitment to increasing communication and access for all patients. CAP has an expert staff to assist in identifying and purchasing appropriate technical enhancements to ensure that DoD employees, programs, and facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities, as required by DoD Directive 6000.14 and Federal Public Laws.

CAP provides electronic and communication equipment for facility accessibility as required by federal standards and requirements to accommodate all types of disabilities including hearing, vision and communication impairments. Assistive devices help patients complete forms and allow consultation with healthcare providers.

CAP purchases for the hearing impaired include: teletypewriters (TTY); TTY modems; assistive listening (amplification) devices; closed caption encoders/decoders; and signaling devices.

To assist individuals with vision impairments, CAP provides: electronic magnification devices; Braille terminals/embossers; augmentative communication devices; voice output/screen readers; and portable note-takers.

Special Program Features

As work-related injuries continue to disable employees and decrease productivity, CAP has aligned with the DoD and other federal agencies to offer disability prevention and accommodation services. Via education workshops, information dissemination, and accommodations for employees with dexterity disabilities, CAP’s proactive approach to disability management offers employers assistance in addressing this growing health concern.

By teaming with Workers’ Compensation, CAP assists employees in their return-to-work effort. CAP participates in the Flexiplace program by providing assistive equipment for disabled employees or employees recovering from work-related injuries to allow them to work at home or another site location.

Assistive devices for individuals with dexterity impairments include: alternate keyboards; keyboard enhance systems; alternate input devices; and voice recognition systems.

Success Stories

CAP services have made Defense Department work environments more accessible to DoD employees. By aligning with DoD components in promoting awareness, team building, and reengineering work processes for impaired employees, CAP assists activities in achieving their mission requirements.

Many activities have been using CAP resources. Since its inception in 1990, CAP has provided more than 20,000 accommodations throughout the DoD community. But since the program is relatively new, there may be some activities that are not aware of the variety of support programs available. We encourage you to take full advantage of our services to assist employees with disabilities become fully productive members of the workforce.

A recent review of CAP-purchased equipment indicates that most of the items furnished are computer-related. At the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) headquarters we have provided five 21-inch monitors, voice recognition software, and special keyboards for impaired employees. We have enabled an employee to return to work full-time at home under the established Flexiplace program by providing a personal computer and peripheral devices.

Summary

The Defense Department established CAP to provide equal access and services for individuals with disabilities. The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program and staff serve the DoD community by:
- Purchasing equipment to make computer and telecommunications systems accessible to employees with disabilities, as required by law.
- Funding sign language interpreters/readers and personal assistants for employees attending long-term training (two days or more).
- Providing expertise in solving accessibility problems through the use of software, hardware, and other assistive technology.

The CAP staff is available to assist DoD employees, supervisors and managers at no cost to the activity. With the right accommodations, individuals with disabilities have the power to excel.

C. Bruce Morris is a program analyst in BUMED's Business Plans and Operations Division of Health Care Operations, Washington, D.C.

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