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Deaf Cartographer Garners DoD Rocognition

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 9, 2002 – Not only is Debra L. Moose an outstanding cartographer, she's an outstanding person who believes in taking time to help others.

Those admirable traits earned her the respect and appreciation of co-workers and supervisors and garnered her a secretary of defense certificate for outstanding DoD employees with disabilities.

Moose, 44, was among 16 DoD employees with disabilities honored Dec. 3 for outstanding contributions to the defense work force during the 22nd Annual Department of Defense Disability Awards Ceremony in Bethesda, Md.

A deaf cartographer in the Digital Nautical Chart area at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in Bethesda, Moose was recognized for being "one of the few individuals who understand all of the process steps for DNC maintenance. She helped teach a class on this topic for her co-workers, many of whom had little previous contact with this system or the requirements for working with digital data," according to the award citation.

She was also cited for being a crucial link between instructors and sign language interpreters for other types of courses. Because of her expertise in DNC, NIMA is considering hosting deaf-only classes and having her facilitate. Moose said she would conduct classes for new workers, and noted that her classes would also benefit nondeaf students.

Being selected to receive the secretary of defense certificate was a complete surprise to Moose. "I wasn't expecting to get this award," she said. "My team chief nominated me and thought I deserved it. I've been helping other deaf employees as an assistant. I've just been going around helping and I didn't think it was that big of a deal."

Her advice to people with disabilities who are reluctant to venture out into the workplace is, "They can do it. If they feel there are any barriers, get out there and do it. Don't be afraid of having a disability. Just go for it!"

Moose said she gained her knowledge of DNC through on-the- job training, working on different DNC assignment.

The expert chart-maker said naval and Coast Guard navigators depend on digital nautical charts to do their jobs. "The Navy is transitioning from the use of paper nautical charts to digital nautical charts," Moose pointed out. "The Maritime Safety Information Division of NIMA is responsible for providing digital charts for the whole world to the Navy and Coast Guard. NIMA also provides data for safe navigation, mission planning and operational awareness for all ships above and below the surface of the ocean.

"Individual cartographers, marine analysts and regional analysts are integral parts of the plan, analyzing source materials, updating datasets, directing commercial contractors working on DNC and ensuring that DNCs is high quality," she said.

Moose, who uses sign language to communicate, has also been a photocomposition typist and an offset photographer. Her supervisor knows basic sign language and she has access to sign language interpreters for training and meetings.

A 1978 graduate of the North Carolina School for the Deaf at Morganton, Moose earned a bachelor's degree here at Gallaudet University in 1983. She started out majoring in home economics, but went "a little off track" and earned a degree in geography. In 1998, she earned a diploma in cartography and geographical information systems at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., through a cartography internship.

The Statesville, N.C., native comes from a family with 12 siblings; four were born deaf. "We don't know why," said Moose, adding that neither of her parents is deaf.

In honor of her last name, Moose is an avid moose memorabilia collector, everything from paper moose to stuffed animals to figurines and calendars. In addition to making a variety of crafts, she also enjoys such outdoor activities as hiking, camping, skiing, and spending time with her dogs.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCharles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, left, poses with Debra Moose, a deaf cartographer with the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, after presenting her the secretary of defense certificate for outstanding employees with disabilities. Joanne O. Isham, right, the agency's deputy director, assisted with the presentation. The award was presented during the 22nd Annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony and 15th Annual DoD Disability Forum at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Md., on Dec. 3, 2002. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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