Disabled veterans utilize program to pursue careers

Anna Riggenbach

A program that allows disabled veterans to obtain a college degree and further their careers is being fine-tuned at Kent State.

Joseph Drew, an associate professor in the political science department, created the program three years ago to help disabled veterans overcome challenges they may face when looking to complete their careers.

“I had developed the online program with the purpose of providing access to education to many students,” he said. “In so doing, I realized access for persons with disabilities was even more critical.”

Ronald Franklin, a graduate student at Kent State, has been helping Drew with his program for about a year. Franklin also has a spinal cord injury.

The program, which uses Dragon Naturally Speaking software, is voice activated and allows the user to be hands-free while using a computer.

“I’m what you call the resident spinal cord analyst,” Franklin said. “I wished I had (the program) when I was an undergrad.”

Franklin said if he had the program it would have saved him a lot of time and money spent on note takers.

“If you learn to use it well enough, it’s better than using your hands,” Franklin said. “The program is not meant to segregate, it is meant to include.”

The Wade Park veteran’s hospital in Cleveland uses the program for its veterans.

“With that equipment, they can keep their career going,” he said. “It’s not secondary to their life, it’s essential to it.”

The military will often buy the equipment used with this program for the veterans, Franklin said. All of the equipment is expensive with the computer, mouse, microphones and everything else included, he said.

While the program is made to help those who are disabled, it can also benefit others. Doctors and lawyers often buy the equipment to do hands-free presentations, and it is also useful for people who have carpal tunnel, he said.

Right now, the program is catching on, Franklin said.

“We are letting people know we are here to help them,” he said. “The program is very user-friendly.”

The program is currently being fine-tuned to be used by the visually impaired.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Anna Riggenbach at [email protected].