Blind and low vision individuals needed for research study

UNAR Labs,Person reading Braille an early stage Maine-based startup with a mission to empower people with vision impairment via multisensory information access using touchscreen-based smartphones and tablets. UNAR Labs researchers are seeking individuals for paid participation in a study to understand and identify the best tactile guidelines, conversion/translation parameters, and embossing strategies used in traditional tactile graphics generation processes. The researchers believe that insights from experts in the field will guide them in designing a meaningful prototype software system for enabling blind and visually-impaired users with access to digital graphical materials.

The commitment is an interview (zoom or phone) with field experts involved in the process of generating braille and tactile graphics. The interviewee may be tactile artists, braille transcribers, braille proofreaders, tactile graphic prepress support staff, and braille/tactile graphics transcribers. Researchers are also interested in shadowing staff at work to better understand workflow, recognize steps used in information down-sampling and the overall conversion/production process; this, of course, will need to take into consideration health and safety during this time of the spread of the coronavirus.

Each interview will take approximately 30-60 minutes. Qualified participants will be compensated $20/hour (Amazon gift card) for their participation (prorated at $5 per 15 minutes). Researchers would like to conduct interviews in the next 2-3 weeks so please don’t delay your response.

To participate, please send an email to Hari Palani at hari.palani@unarlabs.com

Learn more about UNAR Labs…

 

December 2020 Webinars

Maine CITE is offering the following webinar in December 2020:

Webinar: Assistive Technology for Age-Friendly Communities

Date: December 2, 2020
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 pm

woman using digital magnifierIn recent years, AARP has promoted the development of Age Friendly Communities (AFC) to encourage local officials and citizens to implement changes that make their communities more livable for people of all ages, especially older adults. As the state with the largest percent of older adults in the country, the efforts in Maine are noteworthy.

Join us for a presentation on Assistive Technology (AT) devices and services in Maine. AT can be essential to making your home, community and public spaces accessible and impact the health, safety and independence of older adults who want to continue to live at home. The presenters will share a variety of AT devices, smart home tech and home modifications that help to make your home more age-friendly. AT Resources and information about paying for AT will also be explored.

Presenters: Ketra Crosson and John Brandt

Use this link for more information and to register for the “Webinar: Assistive Technology for Age-Friendly Communities”


The following list of December 2020 webinars on the topic of assistive technology and accessibility is generated by the Accessible Technology Consortia funded by the Center for Accessible Technology. Thank you.

Time for a Change: Case Study Illustrating a Complex Child Who Has Plateaued in AT Use from AbleNet
December 15, 2020 at 12:00 pm Eastern

Social Media Management: Accessibility Basics from Great Lakes ADA
December 15, 2020 at 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern   (90 min.)

Making SEL Accessible for Students with Learning Differences from edWeb
December 15, 2020 at 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern
 

U.S. Access Board Launches New Website

From the U.S. Access Board

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board has redesigned and updated its website at access-board.gov. The new site features a streamlined design to make information easier to find. New menus and cross links enhance navigation of key resources, including the ADA Accessibility Standards and the Section 508 Standards.  In addition, the site updates information on Board programs and services, including training and filing of complaints under the ABA.

The Board updated its site based on the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS). Developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and U.S. Digital Service, the USWDS helps federal agencies create websites that are accessible, fast, and easy to use on mobile devices. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act requires agencies to aims to update their websites using the USWDS to improve the digital experience for government customers.

Now published on GSA’s Federalist platform, the Board’s website continues to serve as a leading resource on accessible design and federal accessibility guidelines and standards. Through this site, the Board provides updates to the public on initiatives in rulemaking, research, ABA enforcement, and other programs. The Board’s guidelines and standards, published guidance, animations, and other resources, are also available on the site.

Send questions or comments on the site to webmaster@access-board.gov 

 

 

Maine State Library finds temporary new quarters down the street

Maine State CapitolAccording to a report in Mainebiz…

“The Maine State Library will be the sole tenant of 242 State St., Augusta which has approximately 25,760 square feet over two floors. The public-facing component will take up almost all of the first floor, save for some private library offices, said Kelsey Goldsmith, director of communications for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees state government real estate. The entrance is off the parking lot, on Manley Street.

“The library and archives, which shares space with the Maine State Museum, has been closed to the public since July, 2020 so the 53-year-old Maine State Cultural Building can undergo extensive asbestos removal and an electrical, cooling and heating overhaul. While it remains closed, the museum is offering  online exhibits and events. The library has had curbside pickup since it closed.”

Among the programs affected by the closure has been the Talking Books program, a service for people with print disabilities. The Talking Book Program is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and provides free library services for eligible patrons, including digital books via smartphone app, NFB-Newsline newspaper services, and free matter mailings.

Much of the Talking Books Program in Maine has been functioning fully as much of the resources are on-line, however staff have been working from home.

According to Mainebiz:

“In a normal year, the Maine State Library gets about 75,000 in-person visitors; 17,500 patrons used its computers. In partnership with the Portland and Bangor public libraries, it answered more than 59,000 reference questions in 2018. The library also has a Book by Mail service for rural communities, sending out an average 6,500 books a year to people in areas that don’t have access to a library. It’s talking books program for people who are vision or reading-impaired lent 103,800 items.

Once the majority of the library’s collection is moved to the Winthrop site, it will be available to the public through the library’s delivery service. The public can pick up requested materials at 242 State St., or have them delivered to the appropriate library across the state. For instance, if a patron of the Portland Public Library requested a book, library staff would send it to Portland.”

Webinar on ADA/ABA and Recreation Facilities

From the US Access Board…

Upcoming Webinar on Recreation Facilities

US Access Board logoDecember 3, 2020
2:30 – 4:00 pm ET

The final webinar of 2020 in the Board’s free monthly series will take place December 3 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will review scoping and technical provisions for recreation facilities in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards (Chapter 10).

This session will address the requirements for:

  • amusement rides,
  • recreational boating facilities
  • exercise machines and equipment
  • fishing piers and platforms
  • golf facilities and miniature golf facilities
  • play areas
  • swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
  • shooting facilities with fixed firing positions
  • sports facilities.

Presenters will address common sources of confusion and frequently asked questions about these provisions. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board.

Visit accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register.

All webinars include video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits.

Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site. 

 

Remembering Travis Roy

Photos of Travis RoyThe news of the untimely passing of Maine Sports Hall of Fame legend Travis Roy was met this past weekend with accolades coming from all parts of the sports world. All Mainers know the story of the promising 20-year-old hockey star from Yarmouth whose life was forever changed in October 1995 when eleven seconds into his first Boston University men’s ice hockey match he slid into the boards and suffered a spinal cord injury. The injury was permanent, ending his dreams of a NHL career and leaving the young man with quadriplegia.

Most Mainers also know that two years later, Roy would start the Travis Roy Foundation and rally to become one of the country’s best philanthropists, advocates and motivational speakers.

Since 1997, the Travis Roy Foundation has distributed more than $9 million in grants to people with spinal cord injuries and to research projects and rehabilitation institutions. The individual grant funds have been used to modify vans and to purchase wheelchairs, computers, ramps, shower chairs, and other adaptive equipment to help people with spinal cord injuries live their lives.

Called the Travis Roy Foundation Quality of Life Grant Program, the program funds adaptive equipment and assistive technology, as well as home modifications for people paralyzed from a physical spinal cord injury. While there are some restrictions to the grant program, there is no age requirement and grants are available up to $5,000. Applicants must have financial need and may be asked to provide supporting financial documentation.

Thank you, Travis.

Use this link to learn more about the Travis Roy Foundation Quality of Life Grant Program

Use this link to learn more about Travis Roy – Boston Globe

 

Photo credit: Images of Travis Roy from the TR Foundation

Website collects educational resources for teachers, families

As reported in the Kennebec Journal...

University of Maine logoPreK–12 schools in Maine and around the country reopened for in-person instruction this fall after abruptly closing in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. But with many now operating on a hybrid schedule to limit the spread of the disease, educators and families continue to face uncertainty, and demand for reliable resources related to remote learning and other issues raised by COVID-19 has increased, according to a news release from the University of Maine.

To meet this need, the UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development has created a website to help address questions and provide research-backed information for teachers and parents.

The PreK-12 Resources for Educators and Families site, includes links to materials on topics such as social-emotional learning, trauma-informed teaching, special education, literacy and more.

Faculty experts and graduate students in the college vetted all of the resources and provided short descriptions to make it easy for members of the public to understand how each one can be used. In addition, the different topic areas are organized into resources for educators and resources for families to make it easier for users to find the most relevant information.

Read the article on the Kennebec Journal news site

Visit U Maine’s PreK-12 Resources for Educators and Families

Zoom joins forces with Otter.AI to improve accessibility

Closed Captioning logoFirst reported in summer of 2019, a partnership between videoconference giant Zoom and accessibility company Otter.ai to provide live captioning to Zoom meeting has finally been completed.

As reported by the trade publication, ZD Net, Otter.ai will now provide live captioning for Zoom meetings and webinars for Zoom Pro customers. Otter.ai has provided live captioning for meetings through the use of a smartphone app or web-based application for several years and recently introduced Live Notes, “a new feature that enables users to open a live transcript of the call during a video conference, in a separate shared file, which transcribes what is being said in real time” according to ZD Net reporter Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. She goes on to note that with the new service built into Zoom meetings, “captions will appear directly within the call, with a couple of seconds of lag, and presumably will be accurate enough for key information to consistently come out in the form of plain text.”

“Based on a sophisticated algorithm, Live Notes can separate human voices to identify different speakers and includes their name in the transcript to indicate that a given participant has started intervening,” the article also reports.

The rush to provide live captioning has been accelerated in recent months as COVID-19 restrictions have forced nearly all business meetings and academic activities to virtual space. Workers and students with disabilities who need the accessibility accommodation of live captioning have had limited options. Google‘s suite of free office suite applications have provided live captions using the system’s Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) for some time. But the quality of Google’s ASR has generally been below par and lacks the accuracy of CART transcription provided by a trained CART professional.

Microsoft has also incorporating live captioning into its Office 365 suite of services including MS Teams, their direct competitor for Zoom Meeting. Accessibility professionals around the country have commented that Microsoft’s solution, which uses ASR and artificial intelligence (AI), is generally better than Google, but still not as good as CART.

With the including of Otter.ai into the Zoom Meeting solution, the competition to improve auto captioning has been ratcheted up a notch. One can only hope people with disabilities are the beneficiaries of this partnership.

In Zoom, live captions are available now for Otter customers paying for a Business plan, as well as for Zoom Pro customers.

Read the ZD Net article…

Zoom Meeting website

Otter.ai website

Voice-Enabled Innovations for Older Adults

Amazon Echo SpotLaurie Orlov has published another great blog about Voice-Enabled/Voice First innovations in the past year. If you don’t know Laurie, her website, Aging in Place Technology Watch, is a great source of information and news about everyday electronics and technology that help seniors live safely at home.

Published on October 6th, Five Recent Voice-Enabled Innovations for Older Adults 2020 cover some recent changes and new products. Here is a short part of her blog:

Voice-enabled innovation softly races ahead. Technology innovation announcements whiz by at what seems to be a breakneck pace. Consider Amazon’s Whisper Mode – “I think you just whispered to me – Sau ‘turn on’ Whisper Mode.” Not just for insomniacs, imagine its utility for the faint-voiced older adult wanting to ask a question. Or consider Apple Family Setup, which enables an Apple Watch to be set up and used without an iPhone, enabling texts, calls and GPS location. Or in-Car voice technology like Garmin Speak-Plus for directions without a screen (that’s a plus).

Here are five from recent times:

Amazon Care Hub. “Care Hub represents the next iteration of smart speakers, which have evolved from just playing music or providing the weather forecast, to enabling home security services and now supporting senior citizens at home. With Amazon’s Care Hub, users can receive notifications of their loved ones’ own Alexa interactions to monitor their activity throughout the day or ensure they have been reminded to take their medication, for example. A user can also “drop in” on a loved one by video calling them within the app. And most importantly, if a loved one uses their voice to call for help, Alexa will notify the user. (Alexa cannot call 911, but will notify the designated emergency contact.)” Learn more at Care Hub. Not yet released.

Amazon Guard Plus. “Guard Plus will add a more robust ‘sounds of activity’ detector, which will listen for doors opening or closing and other sounds associated with unwanted visitors. Second, Guard Plus will bring deterrence features, for instance triggering Alexa to play a recording of dogs barking if a security camera catches someone sneaking around the back of the house while you’re away. Finally, the Guard Plus will add a new hands-free emergency help line, run by a third-party company, to connect users to emergency services like police, the fire department or emergency contacts.” Learn more at CNET…

Read the whole blog, Five Recent Voice-Enabled Innovations for Older Adults 2020…

 

 

“Captioning Video” resources revised and expanded

Closed Captioning logoUpdated: 10/16/2020

Captioning video is a very hot topic so we are regularly updating this resource. Please check out all the new stuff and let us know if you have any other resources to add!

 

For many years, Maine CITE had provided a resource about captioning video content. The information was very popular and bookmarked by many. As the accessibility guidelines have expanded in recent times, we have expanded the “captioning video” resource as well and have updated information about resources where you can find software and services to help you make your content accessible.

Audio DescriptionWhere we initially discussed only the need to caption video, we have expanded the Captioning Video page to also include information about “description,” an accessibility requirement that makes video content accessible to people with blindness or low vision. We have also added information about how to create accessible audio-only content (e.g., “podcasts”).

Visit the newly revised Captioning Video (and more) resource…