The following blog post was written by Ellen Kampel, Public Relations Manager for Accessibility at Microsoft. Ellen holds a Masters in Social Work (MSW) and works on technology issues related to aging and people with disabilities.

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One great way on Veterans Day to show our support for the men and women who serve our country is to help with their transitions to civilian life. In Western Washington one group in particular, RallyPoint/6, is grabbing our attention as it builds a state-of-the art resource center for veterans.

 
RallyPoint/6's Veteran and Military Family Outreach and Resource Center is expected to be ready by the end of year. RallyPoint/6 Co-Chair and retired colonel Larry Saunders helps paint the Veteran and Military Family Outreach and Resource Center.

Microsoft recently awarded RallyPoint/6 a grant to equip its Veteran and Military Family Outreach and Resource Center with the latest accessible technology, including the Surface. These tablets will be loaded with Windows 8, including its speech recognition technology that will allow users to command devices with their voices. With the Surface, veterans with mobility issues will be able to search for jobs, housing and services and navigate the mountains of paperwork they often confront. When the Resource Center opens at the end of December, it also will feature an accessible computer platform designed for veterans who are in wheelchairs or who have other disabilities.

“I don’t want to have anybody come and feel like they are not equipped to be able to take advantage of the Resource Center,” said Doug Pfeffer, the organization’s chief operating officer.

There is a large and growing demand for veterans services in Pierce County, which is home to the third largest population of veterans in the country. In the coming months, their ranks likely will grow as the Defense Department brings troops back from Afghanistan. The unemployment rate among veterans in Pierce County is three times the national rate, 28 percent and 7 percent respectively.

The center is one of the ways RallyPoint/6 is teaming up with Microsoft and other corporations to help veterans find jobs, housing and other services.

“The resource center is there to ensure that we are taking care of the people who have taken care of everybody else,” said Anne Sprute, RallyPoint/Six’s founder and chief executive officer. “They don’t come home to the DOD (Department of Defense). They don’t come home to the Army. They come home to their community.”

New Regulations Help Veterans:

Microsoft also supports the federal government’s recent efforts to help veterans with two new federal regulations.
One regulation calls on federal contractors to set benchmarks for hiring veterans. The other rule updates Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act to encourage federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure that people with disabilities make up at least seven percent of their workforce.

Check out more on the new benchmark rule and the Section 503 update.