DoD Technology Aid Program
Called Federal "Model"
By Staff Sgt.
Kathleen Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
May 4, 2000 -- A Pentagon program that makes life easier and employment
possible for thousands of DoD employees with disabilities was lauded
recently by Attorney General Janet Reno and the federal agency that
sets public access standards for people with disabilities.
In a Justice
Department report released in April, "Information Technology and
People with Disabilities: The Current State of Federal Accessibility,"
Reno called DoD's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program a model
for other federal agencies.
In its March
report, the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance
Board specifically recognized CAP, stating the program "is a model
for accommodating individual needs, completing more than 477 training/integration
requests during fiscal years 1997 to 1999."
Dinah Cohen said the DoD program has provided "assistive technology"
to more than 17,000 DoD employees with disabilities since its inception
in 1990. The technology helps these employees access telecommunications,
computers and electronic information at no cost to defense employees
or their agencies.
with disabilities isn't just "the right thing" to do, it's the law,
she said. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination
based on disability, requires affirmative action and mandates accessibility
with regard to employment with the federal government. The Telecommunications
Act of 1996 further mandates that telecommunications service providers
and equipment manufacturers make their products accessible to people
With an annual
budget of $2.6 million, CAP strives to make DoD facilities accessible
for people with disabilities and to provide workplace accommodations
for all employees with disabilities. Cohen said agencies are more
likely to hire individuals with disabilities if the cost of accommodating
their special needs doesn't have to come out of the agency's budget.
"I think the
true benefit of the CAP program is that we really work with managers
to bring people with disabilities into the workforce," Cohen said.
to aid people with disabilities has moved forward in leaps and bounds
in recent years, she said. When the program began, most accommodations
were made in the form of Teletype machines for people with hearing
impairments. Today, CAP helps people with visual and hearing impairments,
dexterity and communications problems, and cognitive disabilities.
aren't necessarily expensive. Cohen said 70 percent of the items
the program buys cost less than $500. The process is simple, too.
Individuals requiring assistance fill out a two-page request form
and a short needs assessment conducted by one of the six CAP staff
"We help them
determine what exactly they need to help them accomplish their job,"
Cohen said. "Would they benefit from hardware, software, communications
can come in many forms. CAP can provide computer input and output
devices, telecommunications and assistive listening devices, Braille
keyboards and readers, touch screens, and captioning services, among
Cohen or a
member of her staff purchases the equipment using a government credit
card, and the accommodating technology is delivered directly to
the requesting individual, usually in about a week.
people say, "This can't possibly be for me, I just put in my
request two days ago," Cohen said.
on CAP or on requesting
The full Justice
and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board report