CRANE, Ind. – Fred Seitz, a Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) electrical engineer, often contends with communication barriers with his hearing colleagues. Emails would fly back and forth, but calls from colleagues had to be ignored.
“I think people would get frustrated because they would try to call me, but I wouldn’t be able to answer,” said Seitz. Seitz learned of a videophone relay service from a friend and contacted NSWC Crane’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office to see what could be done.
A Video Relay Service (VRS) is a Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) that allows American Sign Language (ASL) users to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment instead of typed text, allowing for a quicker call. Video equipment links the VRS user with a communications assistant, so the VRS user and the communications assistance can see and use ASL with each other.
“We wanted to make it work, but we kept running into walls with our usual procedures,” said Theresa Magnus, EEO Specialist. “Our team worked hard to explore all avenues available to us and came up with a solution.”
After hitting obstacles due to security, Information Technology (IT) compatibility, and physically obtaining the phone, the team was able to work together with NSWC Crane employees from those divisions to come up with a solution. Seitz now has a working videophone at his desk.
“Having a videophone not only makes calls quicker, but it also enables me to communicate more naturally,” said Seitz. “The conversations I have over the videophone flow more effectively.”
NSWC Crane’s EEO Office has been working hard to increase its offerings, expanding lactation areas for new mothers and implementing the Diversity Leadership Council (DLC).
“We’re meeting on a regular basis to address Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) concerns,” said Alphonso Cook, the Special Emphasis Program Lead at NSWC Crane. “We have representation from each department, and most members are employees that are on the floors, shops, and cube farms – it’s not just leadership.”
Cook said diversity in ensuring everyone is at the table, but inclusion is making sure everyone at the table has a voice. He stressed that representation becomes an empty placeholder if no one makes an effort to listen.
“The purpose of this council is to noticeably improve Crane,” said Cook. “We want to make sure employees feel included early in their careers and make sure they know they can speak up.”
Cook cited reasonable accommodations, like Seitz’s videophone, as one way to ensure employees have the tools they need to contribute fully to workforce. He said employees need to have every chance to provide their talents, and the DLC should become another avenue for people to voice concerns.
Manda Hayden, an EEO Specialist, echoed his sentiments.
“No one should be secretly struggling,” said Hayden. “The program does work, and we can find solutions for you – so please reach out.”
About NSWC Crane
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.
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