2000 Conference Proceedings
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Assistive Technology Centers: Making the Center Useful to Your Customers
Dinah F. B. Cohen,
Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program
Department of Defense
5111 Leesburg Pike, Suite 810
Falls Church, VA 22041
703-681-3976 (Voice/TTY) 703-681-9075 (Fax)
Ophelia Y. Falls,
Accessible Technology Program/TARGET Center
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. 1006-S
Washington, DC 20250
202-720-2600 (Voice/TTY) 202-720-2681 (Fax)
Derek S. Shields, Program Manager
5111 Leesburg Pike, Suite 702
Falls Church, VA 22041
703-575-0670 (Voice) 703-845-1658 (TTY) 703-575-0686 (Fax)
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Accessible Technology
Program (ATP) and the Department of Defense (DoD) Computer/Electronic Accommodations
Program (CAP) were developed to ensure accessible work environments for
people with disabilities. The ATP Technology Accessible Resources Gives
Employment Today (TARGET) Center and the CAP Technology Evaluation Center
(CAPTEC) both serve as links that bring valuable resources closer to people
who require accessible technologies and improved access to the electronic
and information environment.
The concept behind the centers is to provide assistive technology services
to managers, supervisors, employees and educators throughout the country.
These services include how to obtain assistive technology information,
demonstrations, and evaluations regarding the use of technologies that
enhance the accessibility of our information infrastructure. The centers
range in size depending on the customer base being served, facilities and
equipment available, and funding. In order to understand the development
of the USDA and DoD centers, a short review of the ATP and CAP missions
and services is required.
The ATP mission is to support USDA's workforce diversity and the Federal
workforce 2000 policies. The USDA TARGET Centers provide technology and
information services to assure equal access to electronic technology and
automated systems essential to today's jobs. The centers assist in making
electronic and information technology accessible to persons with disabilities
for career enhancements. The Centers serve as focal points in USDA for
conducting needs assessments, demonstrations, evaluations, training, and
acquisitions support for accommodations and technologies. The ATP staff
is available to service employees and the public using agricultural information
with sight, hearing, speech, or mobility disabilities
The CAP mission is to provide assistive technology to DoD employees
with disabilities. The mission also includes making DoD programs and activities
accessible for employees and beneficiaries with disabilities, including
military retirees, family members, and hospital patients. For example,
CAP purchases equipment that helps blind people access computers and printed
materials, allows deaf people to use the telephone, and lets people with
dexterity impairments access the information environment with voice recognition
systems. The CAP services make the DoD work environments more accessible
to DoD employees with visual, hearing, dexterity, and cognitive impairments.
DoD also manages one of the largest school systems in the world. CAP
provides the assistive technology for children with disabilities to ensure
compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
CAP provides the assistive technology to students in the DoD Education
Activity, which includes over 300 schools in the United States and overseas.
When a disabled student is enrolled in the educational activity, CAP provides
assistance in obtaining the appropriate auxiliary aids. CAP conducts annual
training for the special education instructors, administrators, and resource
specialists to ensure utilization of services. The CAP staff is available
to assist the DoD, Federal, and general communities.
Since managers and educators need to be familiar with the various types
of assistive technologies available for people with disabilities, the centers
play a crucial role in meeting larger program objectives. The growth of
computers and technology in today's environment has provided opportunities
for people with disabilities. Developing accessible resource centers is
the next step in the information age that is required to make information
easily available for all people. Assistive technology demonstration and
evaluation centers provide the information to link individuals with needed
accommodations and resource information. As with any initiative, the success
of a center depends upon the work completed up-front to identify your customer
base, determine requirements, solicit management support, and obtain sufficient
The TARGET and CAPTEC Centers display accommodations and technologies
in the office work environment that can aid people with disabling conditions.
The services provided by the centers facilitate the evaluation and assessment
of various accommodations and technologies. The staff assist in identifying
solutions that will best meet the needs of an individual. The centers'
hands-on techniques are a benefit to employees and managers by ensuring
the best and most cost effective accommodations are evaluated. Technologies
in the centers have been tested and proven to meet the needs of the documented
requirements of the solution. Senior and mid-level managers are enlightened
of the capabilities technology can provide to people with disabilities.
The benefits include a decrease in resources (time and dollars) for a manager
to accommodate an employee, improved productivity, and assistance in career
enhancements and promotions. The managers of the centers are working to
incorporate techniques in their Departments for information system designs
to include accessibility that will provide the environment for universal
design of information systems. Universal design ensures information systems'
design include features to provide solutions for a variety of limitations
for people with disabilities and those who will become disabled in the
This document provides guidance for managers, supervisors, employees,
and educators participating in the assistive technology center establishment
process. The following guidelines outline a process to utilize during the
review, planning, and creation stages of developing an assistive technology
Identifying a Customer Base: Determine the number of the
potential technology center users population. What is this populations
background and interests? What are the missions of the specific programs?
Determining Site Requirements: Based on customer demographics
and facilities available, potential center configurations are identified.
Outline specifics, including the size requirements, number of workstations,
server(s), platform(s), application(s), and assistive technologies that
will be included in the new facility.
Gaining Management Commitment: Upper management support throughout
the development and promotion of the center is critical to the success
of an assistive technology center. Educating management on the benefits
of an accessible information environment and a more diversified population
will offer them new tools to use in the larger organizationís management
Securing Appropriate Funding: Once a customer base, site
requirements, and management commitment have been established, appropriate
funds are obtained from all participants/users. In order to ensure proper
funding, review potential sources, including technical and personnel funding
channels, to engage as many stakeholders as possible.
Providing Services to Other Organizations: External agencies
can provide an additional source of users and funding for center development
and on-going operations. Developing partnerships with outside sources helps
to increase available resources while providing additionally avenues for
information dissemination. Federal agencies and school districts often
create centers that are shared via fee-for-services arrangements.
Preparing Center Staff: Center staff may require training
in the use of assistive technology and the management of a demonstration
and evaluation facility. Assistance is available through various information
sources such as ATP training at the TARGET Center and through CAPTEC. Furthermore,
as you acquire assistive technologies, most vendors offer reasonable and
effective training. It is highly recommended that center staff are fully
educated and trained on the capabilities of all organizational applications
and how the centerís assistive technologies interact with those applications.
These guidelines were developed by the USDA ATP and DoD CAP to provide
initial guidance to those interested in developing an assistive technology
center. It is expected that as more technology centers are established,
these guidelines will be updated to reflect lessons learned and improvements
identified. This type of commitment to accessibility is recognized as a
model in the United States government. The USDA and DoD assistive technology
evaluation centers are available for all people and organizations to visit,
both in person or on the WWW, to discover the possibilities of technology
in increasing employment and opportunities of people with disabilities.
Conducting Needs Assessments for Programs and Individuals: Technology
has leveled the playing field for many disabled people in the information
age. To successfully hire, place, and accommodate people with disabilities,
managers and educators must become familiar with the needs assessment process.
This includes the various types of accommodations and the current technology
available in todayís environment. Centers provide a valuable service for
allowing individuals to test and evaluate assistive technology. In order
to successfully accommodate people with disabilities, a thorough needs
assessment must be completed for successful placement purposes. The steps
to a needs assessment process include: needs analysis, identifying barriers
to performance, identifying potential accommodations, and assessing the
reasonableness of potential accommodations. Since assistive technology
centers provide support to managers, supervisors, and employees regarding
accessibility requirements for programs to ensure equal access to program
information and services, as well as identifying specific solutions for
individual employees with disabilities, needs assessment training for all
center staff is a crucial step to ensure success.
Providing Information (Library Services): Through reference
libraries or outside partnering agencies, assistive technology centers
provide information on relevant laws, policy and guidance, various technologies,
community based organizations, and contractors/vendors that support the
creation and maintenance of an accessible environment. This information
may be obtained in writing as well as accessed via accessible World Wide
Web (WWW) sites. A good resource library should be the backbone of all
assistive technology demonstration and evaluation centers.
Identifying Alternative Solutions to Accessibility Requirements:
Centers provide direct customer assistance or provide referrals to
external sources that may identify viable alternatives to meeting defined
accessibility requirements for either a program or individual employee.
External resources, such as access associations, centers for independent
living, and the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs),
may offer alternative ideas to create a more accessible and productive
information environment for people with disabilities.
Acquiring and Implementing Solutions: Contract vehicles are
available to acquire and implement center solutions. By creating assistive
technology devices and training services contracts, a center will be able
to decrease costs while establishing a partnership with a trusted vendor.
Reporting Successes/Requirements: Assistive technology centers
should report their successes to supporting management. The center incorporates
successes and requirements in periodic reports to assist in achieving goals
by increasing management attention to benefits, funding, and other requirements.
By establishing a baseline, centers are able to measure their progress
in creating more accessible information environments for their organizations.
Spreading the Word Ė Information Dissemination: Successful
assistive technology center operations require awareness throughout the
centerís offerings and how they benefit each agency. Information dissemination
is the key to increasing awareness and participation. Providing information
can be done in a variety of ways including nationwide presentations, developing
a large mailing list of interested parties to receive written news bulletins
and other written information, utilizing the latest forms of multimedia
and distance learning, and designing an interactive and accessible WWW
Designing an Accessible World Wide Web Site: Through the
WWW, individuals can access information via new and faster methods. Assistive
technology demonstration and evaluation centers provide opportunities for
people to visit the centers on the WWW, including viewing and listening
to demonstrations, reviewing product details, and downloading shareware
for trial evaluations. The power to access information via the WWW is strengthening
the role of assistive technology centers for employers and educators. By
creating accessible information environments, centers have harnessed the
information age to empower people with disabilities.
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