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Meeting of November 16, 2011

Written Testimony of Dinah Cohen
Director, Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP),
U.S. Department of Defense

Madam Chair, Commissioners, and colleagues, it is an honor to be here today to provide information on how the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) supports our wounded Service members and disabled veterans.

The Department of Defense (DoD) CAP provides real solutions for real needs while ensuring that people with disabilities and wounded Service members have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the Federal government. In 1990, CAP was established to provide accommodation solutions for DoD employees with disabilities. CAP was later expanded to provide services to other federal agencies and now has partnerships with 68 Federal Government agencies, including EEOC.

CAP services were expanded again via the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 to provide accommodation support to our returning wounded Service members. As outlined in DoD Instruction 6025.22, CAP works closely with medical providers, therapists, case managers, and military liaisons at military treatment facilities (MTFs) to increase awareness and availability of assistive technology (AT) Once the appropriate AT has been identified, CAP provides the solutions, free of charge, to support a Service memberís medical recovery and rehabilitation.

The ability to use AT during the early phases of recovery promotes positive rehabilitation outcomes and future employment opportunities. Through this change in legislation, wounded Service members may retain these devices upon separation from active service, further promoting their equal access to the information environment. In fiscal year 2011, CAP had partnerships with 58 MTFs and filled over 6,685 requests for accommodations for wounded Service members at an average cost of $258.37 per accommodation.

CAP also provides training onsite, via Video Teleconference (VTC) or web-cast, including:

  • Discuss how CAP provides individualized needs assessments and AT to wounded Service members throughout the recovery and rehabilitation process.
  • Review and demonstrate available AT for various disabling conditions and solutions Service members who sustain multiple injuries.
  • Identify methods to integrate AT into rehabilitative services and settings using best practice partnerships and training models as examples.
  • Review AT training and interoperability support services available for new products or significant upgrades.
CAP equips Service members with AT devices, accommodations and training as specifically described below:

Dexterity

CAP provides devices to assist Service members who have sustained nerve damage, fractures, burns, and amputations to their upper extremities, including compact keyboards, alternative pointing devices, and voice recognition software with certified training.

Cognitive Difficulties, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) For TBI and closed-head injuries, CAP provides various cueing aids to Service members who struggle with memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. Cueing aids can assist service members in remembering appointments, medication schedules, and personal contact information. Technology options can vary in complexity, from simple cueing aids to powerful computer-based applications.

Vision Loss

For Service members that experience vision issues due to ocular or neurological trauma, screen magnification software and/or hardware may reduce eye strain, blurry vision, and eye fatigue. Software enlarges fonts and changes color contrasts, enabling users to customize the application for specific needs. Portable magnification devices are also available. For complete vision loss, CAP provides scanners and screen reader software with certified training. On the CAP website, www.cap.mil you can see the story of Capt Ivan Castro. After 36 surgeries and recovery, he was the first blind Captain to attend the Maneuver Captainsí Career Course at Ft. Benning, GA. After graduation, he was assigned to Special Operations Recruiting Battalion at Ft Bragg. He learned how to use assistive technologies early in his recovery and allowed him to stay active duty.

Hearing Loss

CAP supports Service members who suffer from hearing loss, including fluctuating, progressive, or low-frequency hearing loss and tinnitus. Assistive listening devices can be used at an individualís discretion, allowing the user to adjust the level of amplification to their needs and reduce unwanted background noise. This technology can also be beneficial to individuals with TBI.

It is CAPís mission to empower our nationís heroes by providing them with the AT and accommodations they need to increase access and employment opportunities in the Federal government. Since CAP provides accommodation support to DoD employees with disabilities and to 68 other federal agencies, we are prepared and able to accommodate our Service members and disabled veterans as they return to Federal Government as a civilian employee.

In CAPís efforts to improve employment opportunities for disabled veterans, we have partnered with other federal programs that also focus on employment, such as the DoD Hiring Heroes Career Fairs and the Office of Personnel Managementís Veteranís Symposiums and trainings for Veterans Employment program Office Coordinators as outlined in Executive Order 13518: Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government.

We also have provided additional employment support through the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). This program provides summer internships for college students with disabilities. WRP is coordinated by the Department of Laborís Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and DoD. Each year, trained recruiters interview 2,000 students with disabilities at over 200 campuses across the nation, and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student. CAP provides the needed assistive technology for the summer interns to increase accessibility and productivity. We are seeing an increase of wounded Service members taking advantage of the GI Bill and attending college and using the WRP as another avenue for placement in summer and permanent positions.

Additionally, CAP supports Telework as a form of reasonable accommodation, and the retention of people with disabilities, including returning Service members and Workersí Compensation claimants, by providing assistive technology and services to ensure productivity.

In closing, since CAPís inception, we have filled over 105,000 requests for assistive technology and accommodation services for federal employees with disabilities and Service members. We recently developed an on-line training on Executive Order 13548 for Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities and Executive Order 13518, with information on the accommodation process and the hiring authorities for managers. The CAP website has the information on all these initiatives at www.cap.mil and a site dedicated to Service members at www.cap.mil/wsm. CAP encourages the recruitment, placement, promotion, and retention of people with disabilities, wounded Service members and disabled veterans within the Federal Government and provides the accommodation solutions to make the Federal Government a model employer.