Defense Logistics Agency Information Operations is working to make electronic and information technology tools more accessible to employees with disabilities.
"Given DLA's commitment to improving accessibility in the workplace so that everyone, regardless of whether they have a disability or not, can contribute equally without barriers in supporting the agency's mission, we have adjusted our process to ensure electronic and information technology is perceivable, operable, understandable and robust enough for all employees to use," DLA Information Operations Director
A new team has been created to identify accessibility issues with items ranging from printers and government-issued iPads to the Enterprise Business System and PDF files. The team will develop and test solutions that bring DLA closer into compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The agency provides several assistive technologies to help disabled employees interact with technology. Examples include Job Access with Speech, known as JAWS, and Dragon Naturally Speaking. JAWS is a screen reading program for blind and visually impaired users who generally cannot use a mouse because they cannot see where to click. They use their keyboard almost exclusively. In addition, some individuals with low vision may use a keyboard for improved interactions if the page is enlarged and the contrast is too high or low. Dragon Naturally Speaking turns speech into text for individuals with motor disabilities who cannot use a mouse or may have difficulty using a mouse. DLA has also taken steps to make systems such as Enterprise Business System accessible, but more work is needed, said
DLA Information Operations' objective is to make sure all of DLA systems are compliant and that any employee needing assistive technology can do their jobs successfully, Ellison said.
"Our focus will be to work closely with project leads and program managers to acquire and develop 508 accessible tools," she added.
"As we rolled out the Enterprise Business System, we put the proper tools and assistive technology in place to help employees that we knew had a physical disability. The next step is for us to make sure all of our systems are compliant enough that a new employee could come in and do their job successfully without us needing to make additional changes to our systems," Ellison said.
A recent meeting focused on 508 issues dealing with EBS, the technology backbone of DLA's business transactions.
"The purpose of the summit was to bring users together to discuss 508 issues and challenges relating to EBS," Ellison said. "During the summit, members from both the DLA Equal Employment Office and J6 were tasked to document users' issues and concerns."
She explained that some of these issues are now being addressed by the DLA Information Operations Sustainment Team. For issues that are not immediately fixable, a plan of action will be submitted to the DLA chief information officer for approval.
The team is continually consolidating and addressing accessibility concerns from employees throughout the agency with the help of the Section 508 coordinators located at DLA field activities. DLA Information Operations has also established a 508 Compliance Branch under the Test Directorate Office, which will work with the DLA Enterprise Help Desk to identify accessibility issues with hardware and software, Ellison added. The Compliance Branch will monitor 508 tickets and track them to resolution.
"Before we buy new technology, for example, we need to make sure we're getting 508 compliant equipment or systems. That consideration needs to be put into the beginning of the process rather than thinking about it later," she said.
Making electronic and information technology accessible to all DLA employees is more than just a requirement, Fulk added.
"We have a lot of vets with disabilities, and they need jobs to support their families. People are also working longer and may have mobility issues. It's just the right thing to do," she said.
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