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DoD's assistive technology office helps keep workers on the job

Man standing at computer in office Army Master Sgt. Akinola Oladipo uses assistive technology in his role as a force protection specialist at Fort Hood, Texas. He also used it to earn a master's degree. (Courtesy photo)

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After multiple combat deployments in hot spots including Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Army Master Sgt. Akinola Oladipo developed chronic knee and back pain as well as lingering issues from a mild traumatic brain injury. But thanks to the Department of Defense's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program, or CAP, Oladipo was able to get assistive technology devices. They not only have helped him on the job as a force protection specialist at Fort Hood, Texas; they also enabled him to advance his education, culminating with a master's degree.

A chair with lumbar/seat support lets Oladipo sit without experiencing pain. A standing desk enables him to work comfortably on his feet, with a riser that adjusts his monitor for the best location, height, orientation, and angle. A ballpoint pen with an embedded computer and digital audio recorder helps him upload and synchronize notes.

"I really appreciate the help," Oladipo said, "and I make sure to tell anybody who might need assistance, all you have to do is ask."

Various assistive technology tools

CAP provides assistive technology and reasonable accommodation devices to DoD civilian employees with disabilities as well as wounded, injured, and ill service members who need help reintegrating into the armed forces or transitioning to the DoD civilian workforce.

"Our mission is helping people come to work, stay at work, and return to work," said Curtis Bell, a Navy veteran and CAP director. The program provides no-cost accommodations for people who need solutions for myriad reasons including loss of hearing and sight, and problems with cognition and dexterity. It also offers training on how to best utilize specific devices.

To date, CAP has helped more than 90,000 people with approximately 218,000 assistive technology devices, Bell said.

"Whatever our service members have needed, we've been able to get through CAP," said Jonathan Morris, program manager of the DoD's Warrior Care Office. "We've had great success."

Morris recalls one service member who became blind in one eye and had difficulty seeing out of the other. CAP provided a speech-recognition software program for the service member to use with his computer. The software translates spoken words into text, so typing isn't necessary.

Amanda Meares is an assistive technology specialist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. "We look at ways to help a person regain independence through the use of technology," she said. "Assistive technology can help bridge the gap between where a person is, and where they want to be."

Meares notes that with technology advancing so quickly, "It's impossible for one person to know everything. So it's important to have a good network of colleagues who are also familiar with the assistive technology process and the current status of available technology. We work well with CAP, knowing we can always reach out for their help with brainstorming creative solutions that will meet an individual’s needs within a specific work environment."

Morris notes that those served by CAP through his office are not just the war wounded. Some have been injured in training accidents, or they're recovering from a serious illness. "Some people with cancer have needed adaptive devices either because they weren't able to stand for long periods of time, or because they needed to stand for comfort measures," he said.

"We've seen 100% success with everything we've applied for," Morris said. "It's a very helpful program."

Questions regarding CAP and its services can be sent via email. Team members also are available by phone at 703-614-8416 and 833-227-3272, and by videophone at 571-384-5629.

More information, including how to make a request, is available at the CAP website.

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