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Assistive technology breaks down barriers

Kimberly Gorland, speech language pathologist, explains the use of technology in augmentative communication at the Fort Rucker Assistive Technology Expo Oct 16. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Kimberly Gorland, speech language pathologist, explains the use of technology in augmentative communication at the Fort Rucker Assistive Technology Expo Oct 16. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Published: October 23, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 23, 2014) -- New technology is helping disabled people break down old barriers that were overshadowing their skills and talents before, and those innovations were on display at the Soldier Center during the Fort Rucker Assistive Technology Expo Oct. 16.

Assistive technology is assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities, and also includes the process used in selecting, locating and using them, according to Timothy Knighton, director of Fort Rucker’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

October is National Employment Disability Month, and EEOO took time to “inform and educate our employees about employment for people with disabilities,” Knighton said.

“There are several agencies here demonstrating equipment and sharing information in hopes of breaking down barriers so that people can recognize that there are things available to assist employees with disabilities,” he said. “People with disabilities have skills and abilities that are valuable in the workplace, and they deserve an opportunity at employment just like anyone else. Sharing knowledge and educating the employers is key.”

Using today’s technology allows people with disabilities to use their skills, knowledge and experience fully without the barriers that their disabilities would have placed on them in the past, he added.

“If a disability limits you, you are at the risk of not getting the job or advancing in it,” Jeffrey Mega, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, said. “By using the technology, it gives you the capability to do the same things as any other employee.”

“Technology is moving very fast,” Mega said. “When I started, for example, to use voice recognition programs that type your spoken words on the screen … you… had… to… talk… like… this. Now, programs can type our words just as we are talking.”

“We are bringing it out of the dark ages with assistive technology,” Knighton said. “There are numerous opportunities for people to come to work, and use their skills and abilities, even though they may be disabled.

“The federal government is taking the lead in this,” he said. “The important thing is to break down the barriers, so that employers, supervisors and managers don’t have those stereotypes about individuals with disabilities that would preclude them from being selected for employment.”

President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13548 in July of 2010, which says that the federal government, the nation’s largest employer, must become a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities. The order directs executive departments and agencies to improve their efforts to employ federal workers with disabilities, and targeted disabilities through increased recruitment, hiring and retention of these individuals.

“With the federal government, the Schedule A Hiring Authority is available to enable an individual with a disability to pursue employment non-competitively,” Knighton said. “The important thing there is making employers, managers and supervisors aware that these avenues are available to be able to reach people with disabilities.”

“If people need information, they can give us a call and we can talk with them about equipment that is available or agencies that are available to assist them,” said Knighton.

The EEOO maintains a 24-hour hotline for reporting sexual harassment and other issues an individual feels necessary with confidentiality. The hotline number is 255-9558.

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/136833/

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