Department: Job Accommodations
I am writing this in hopes that it will spark some healthy debate. As a worker in the rehabilitation field, and a visually impaired person as well, I am very concerned that the very adaptive technology that can assist individuals with disabilities at home, school, and on the job is not getting into the hands of those who need it most. Too many resources are being poured into maintaining large government bureaucracies, and too little goes into actual equipment funding. Thanks to the marvels of the computer revolution, most adaptive systems cost very little, and the prices are sharply declining. A speech synthesizer can be purchased for around one-hundred dollars, and a screen-reading software package for about $75. For less than $200, a personal computer can be adapted for a blind person, a worthwhile cause if ever there was one. But we continue to throw money into programs that do not bear fruit, programs that make us feel good, but provide very little in return. It has been proven that providing assistive technology to persons with disabilities does more than make us feel good. It results in people being put back to work, or entering the work force for the first time. It means that a person goes from a tax burden to a tax payer. It means that a student can enter a college or university, and then move boldly into the work force. For very little investment, we can tap one of our most valuable resources--the skills and determination of persons with disabilities.
Job Accommodatoin Resources
Braille on the Job
One of the most frequently ask questions among business persons is how do they produce proper braille for blind workers. In the past, generating braille was a difficult task at best, requiring the skills of a knowledgeable braille transcriber. With the aid of a personal computer and software, producing braille is much easier and faster. Here's what you need to begin printing braille at your job site. You need a personal computer, braille translation software, and (of course) a braille printer. There are numerous braille translation software packages for the IBM PC family of computers and clones. These braille translators consume standard word processing text files, and produce files compatible with braille printers. The first step is to create the source document on a word processor. The output file is then sent to the translator, and the translated file is finally sent to the printer for embossing. Duxbury Systems (Littleton Massachusetts, 508-486-9766), manufactures braille translators for both the IBM PC and Macintosh platforms. Raised Dot Computing (Madison Wisconsin, 608-257-9595), is also a major player in the braille translation market. Braille printers can be purchased from Telesensory (Mountain View California, 415-960-0920), or from Enabling Technologies Company (Stuart Florida, 407-283-4817). Blazie Engineering (Forest Hill Maryland, 410-893-9333), also offers a line of braille access products.
New AbleData CD ROM
The AbleData CD ROM is a trustworthy source of information on assistive technology products. The Trace Center (Madison Wisconsin, 608-262-6966), has created a version of the AbleData database that works well with adaptive equipment. Because of their care to make their product accessible, Trace should be highly praised for their successful efforts. The single CD ROM disk contains about 18,000 listings of various high and low tech products. It is an excellent resource and can be used within an organization or by individuals to perform searches for specific equipment, vendors, or types of devices. Single CD subscriptions are $27.00. Two CD subscriptions are $50.00, which includes the current CD and the next update.
COCA GUI Tutorial
The ClearingHouse on Computer Accommodations (Washington DC, 202-501-4906), is producing a tape and tactile tutorial on Microsoft Windows. The tutorial is designed to assist blind persons in the comprehension of Microsoft Windows, and its numerous screens, icons, and other graphic objects. As more companies migrate to Microsoft Windows and other graphics-based platforms, the need for specialized training materials will only increase. The tutorial is expected to be available sometime in the first quarter of 1994.
The American Library Association has published a 250-page guide describing how to adapt personal computers for persons with disabilities. _Adaptive Technologies For Learning And Work Environments_ discusses technology for persons with vision, hearing, motor, and speech impairments. The book describes how to select, install, and maintain adaptive equipment for IBM and Macintosh computer platforms. The work also describes how to integrate CD ROM, Network, and online systems with assistive technology. Training and technical support issues are also covered, as is funding for assistive equipment. The book can be ordered from the American Library Association (Chicago, 312-280-5000), or from the Special Needs Project (Santa Barbara, California, 800-333-6867).
Jobs To Be Proud Of
The American Foundation For The Blind, New York, 212-620-2000, has published a new book focusing on employment of persons with vision impairments. Written by Deborah Kendrick, the text describes numerous jobs held successfully by persons who are blind or visually impaired. The work is upbeat, and covers a wide range of job types.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a lengthy and complex series of regulations, and interpretation can sometimes be difficult. For free assistance on the ADA, the nearest technical assistance center can be contacted by calling 800-949-4232. We will attempt to publish this number every issue due to its importance for job accommodation.
Internet Gopher and Jobs
The Internet contains a wealth of resources relating to employment. However, locating these resources can sometimes be a difficult task. The goal is to locate job-related Internet resources efficiently. Fortunately, Internet tools have been developed that allow for extensive searches to be conducted. You can use the Veronica search utility found with most Gopher menus to search titles of other gophers. Veronica does not search the full text of articles found on the net, but only titles of gophers in gopherspace. Searches of keywords such as "job," "jobs," "employment," "labor," etc, will yield numerous bits of information. Because gopher is menu-driven, navigation is relatively simple. Use "help" or "?" to get assistance from the gopher menu. You can access gopher by typing "gopher" at a Unix prompt or from an Internet provider menu.
U.S. Labor Department Electronic Bulletin Board
This useful board contains a wide variety of statistical, employment, safety, health and pension information that can now be accessed with a computer and modem. Operated by the U.S. Department Of Labor, information available on the bulletin board includes consumer and producer prices, real earnings, employment and unemployment statistics, job safety and health regulations, job training and other department grants, wage-hour, pension and other enforcement actions. A nationwide listing of federal job opportunities is also available. Call the BBS at 202-219-4784.
Employment Connection BBS
The Employment Connection is a public bulletin board service for unemployed persons. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free and provides users with currently available employment opportunities. It also allows users to post their resumes online so that potential employers may view their credentials. The telephone number is 508-537-1862. the board can be called at modem speeds up to 28800 BPS.