Environmental Factor, July 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Assistive Technology Aids Federal Employees
By Shannon Baker
"The key words are reasonable and appropriate," explained guest speaker Michael Young during his June 4 presentation in Rodbell Auditorium on assistive technology and services for federal employees with disabilities. Young's talk, titled "Leading the Way with Accommodations," was sponsored by the NIEHS Diversity Council's Disability Advocacy Committee (DAC).
Young is manager of the Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program Technology Evaluation Center (CAPTEC)(http://www.tricare.mil/cap/acc_sol/CAPTEC.cfm) . DAC Chair Alicia Moore welcomed the audience, which consisted of both NIEHS and Environmental Protection Agency employees. Young was introduced to by DAC member Lauranell (Nell) Burch, Ph.D.
Young immediately grabbed the audience's attention by asking, "Who has heard of CAPTEC?" With no more than two or three people raising their hands, the response underscored Young's feeling that CAPTEC is one of the federal government's best kept secrets.
CAPTEC was established in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities and wounded service members have equal access to opportunities in the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government. CAP was enacted by the National Defense Authorization Act and currently has partnerships with 65 federal agencies. During the lecture, Young reminded the audience of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act - a law that was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology and provide disabled employees with electronic and information technology.
Young stressed the need for assistive technology for our country's wounded service men and women and the alliance between CAP and the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program(http://www.ncatp.org/) . The program is funded by the state and federal governments to increase access statewide to assistive technology.
An information booth located outside Rodbell A gave attendees an opportunity to see for themselves how some of the assistive technology devices work. Assistive devices available from CAPTEC include new technology to help people with disabilities overcome dexterity, cognitive and communication impairments. CAPTEC provides new technology ranging from modified keyboards to state of the art voice-recognition software.
According to CAP's Disability Profile, 61,448 federal employees have been evaluated and provided with assistive technology since 1990. Young also discussed how disability accommodation aids in employee retention and cuts down on workers compensation costs. He said the average workers compensation claim cost the government $29,000, while an accommodation averages $450. CAP supports employees throughout the employment lifecycle to increase recruitment, placement, promotion and retention.
CAP's mission is to provide real solutions for real needs. Young concluded, "We don't want anyone to feel they can't do anything; all they need is the right tools."
"Mr. Young did an outstanding presentation on CAP. Living with a disability in the workplace can be challenging," Moore commented afterwards. "As an employee with a disability, it is helpful for me to know that CAP can provide accommodations and assistive technology that can help me to continue being productive in the workplace. I feel that use of the technology provided by the program would also help to improve my quality of life in the workplace."
The DAC is a standing committee of the NIEHS Diversity Council. Its mission is to improve the employment conditions and quality of life of employees with disabilities, as well as aid visitors to NIEHS facilities. The group sponsors events throughout the year. All employees with or without a disability are welcome to join the DAC. Please contact Alicia Moore (541-7914), JJ Bell-Nichol (316-4519), or Cindy Innes (541-4721) if interested.
For more information about CAP and the agency's programs please visit the website at http://cap.tricare.mil/(http://cap.tricare.mil/) . NIEHS employees who would like more information regarding assistive accommodations should contact EEO Specialists Ginny Ivanoff and Gerard Roman.
(Shannon Baker is a rising senior at Peace College in Raleigh who spent a three-week internship in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison. She currently works part time in the NIEHS Office of the Director.)