Helping Blind, Deaf and Paralyzed Vets in Job Training
www.OthersFirst.us, a national charity that raises money with their car donation programs nationwide for disabled and combat wounded veterans assists new charity, Veterans Workshop, in their efforts to train Blind veterans as relay operators.
by Ken Smith (excerpts from Huffington Post)
“Veteran Service Organization ” Veterans Workshop” needs the support of national charities like “Others-First” to assist with job training the Blind, Deaf and Paralyzed American veteran ”
Veterans Workshop, is a charity that provides programs for veterans with disabilities. In particular it trains blind American veterans to make phone calls for deaf American veterans deploying new Google+ technologies. The organization spread the word about its “relay system” on Memorial Day weekend by making two important phone calls. (see original story in Huffington Post here Veterans-workshop-blind-deaf-veterans-obama-romney )
Veterans Workshop, based in both Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island, called President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the phone. The organization does not have a political message but aims to increase awareness of veterans with these disabilities — specifically those who are blind. The VA reports there are about 158,000 veterans who are blind or visually impaired living in the U.S.
“Our message to Obama and Romney is that there’s such a thing as this blind-deaf relay technology, and we think they should be proud of this service using this technology developed in the U.S.,” Ken Smith, a trainer for the charity, told the HuffPost. “And we want both candidates to remember the sacrifice these men and women have made.”
Many of these injuries are a result of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or roadside bombs, which have caused a disproportionate number of eye and ear injuries, explains Smith, 60, a Vietnam War veteran himself.
With the aim of providing jobs specifically for blind, deaf and paralyzed veterans, the Veterans Workshop created the relay system to operate within a Google+ “group hangout” chartroom. Google Voice reads the deaf veteran’s online chat to the blind veteran, after which the blind veteran makes the phone call — anything from calling about VA benefits to ordering a pizza.
“We’re fairly smart on technology,” Smith said. “We’re not Bill Gates and we’re not Steve Jobs, but we’re always looking for ways that tech can help those wounded in combat.
David Darlington, spokesman for the Veterans Workshop said “The grant from OthersFirst, who operate “Cars Helping Veterans” is allowing us to train additional blind veterans and to begin the process of developing the technology to train deaf veterans as skilled digital designers”
OthersFirst operates a series of car donation sites nationwide and is extramelly generous in its support of American Veterans.
To read more about how you can help others first, visit their website at http://www.othersfirst.us
You can Donate your car, Donate your truck, Donate your Boat, Donate your RV through their programs and assist the American Veteran.
The Veterans Workshop is grateful to the organization “Others First” for their generosity and help.
For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight.
In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets.
In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship.
Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans.
Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees.
An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding.
Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs.
A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.