Audio Description Project Announces Call for Nominations

This announcement comes from the American Council of the Blind:

The Audio Description Project (ADP) is a wide-ranging audio description promotion and production initiative with goals that include:

  • building advocacy on behalf of audio description;
  • offering a range of educational resources and working to establish nationally acknowledged user-focused guidelines for quality description in its various genres as well as a professionally recognized certification program for audio describers;
  • encouraging growth of audio description with an emphasis on the involvement of AD users/consumers, especially youth;
  • disseminating information on audio description and provide general support for regional, state, and local forums;
  • encouraging studies on audio description particularly with respect to its efficacy as a technique for conveying visual images and its impact on literacy for children and others.

One part of the project involves the recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of audio description.

The call for nominations ends on Friday, May 29, 2020, with winners announced during a plenary general session of the American Council of the Blind Conference and Convention Tuesday morning, July 7, 2020 (the 2020 Conference and Convention sessions will be held virtually this year via ZOOM and also broadcast on ACB Radio).

Nomination material, criteria and more information follows and is also available on the American Council of the Blind’s website.


Corona Virus Statistics Website Accessible for the Blind and Partially Sighted

From Cool Blind Tech:

A Boston-based software developer wanted to make COVID-19 stats accessible

He created a website that would be easily readable by electronic braille readers and other assistive devices used by the blind and partially sighted.

Tyler Littlefield, a software developer based in Boston, has created a database of COVID-19 statistics meant to be accessible to the visually impaired.

Called, the site organizes up-to-date COVID-19 data in simple charts specifically designed to be legible to a range of aid devices the visually impaired use to access websites.

For Littlefield, and many other people with visual impairments, trying to stay updated during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge because many of the commonly shared charts and graphs are inaccessible, including those from the CDC and Department of Public Health.

“For many people with various types of disabilities, graphics and the information conveyed in them is hard to read and understand,” Littlefield told Vice.

“I believe in the idea of open data, data that everyone can access to help make informed decisions. Finding this lack, I created CVStats to present the data to users in a straightforward way, free of ads, click-through news articles and graphics.”

One of the main obstacles in making COVID-19 information more accessible are the conventions of modern web design. With a profusion of autoplay videos, pop-up windows, and animated inserts, many modern websites make it difficult for braille embossers to scan a webpage and convert its content into a braille printout.

“Clutter is the enemy of tactical legibility,” Naomi Rosenberg of the accessibility firm Lighthouse told Vice.

“For each of these, a blind reader is at the mercy of the designer, writer, or educator to produce quality graphics, concise image descriptions, or properly formatted tables,” Rosenberg said.

One possible alternative to visual graphs are ‘sonification curves,’ which translate graph lines into rising and falling sounds to try and convey a similar sense of magnitude, something that an aid device won’t be able to do without simple and accessible data.

Another challenge, according to Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, is that many healthcare facilities don’t post clear or accessible information about their policies.

For instance, some drive through testing sites only allow private vehicles, not taxis or other commercial vehicles, which would be important for a visually impaired person who can’t drive themselves to know before planning a visit.

“The moment that I heard everything was going drive-thru I kind of had a cringe moment because, other than in the hospital, there’s really no other way to access that testing, and for many in our community, including myself, who are immunocompromised, that puts us at a much higher risk,” Outwater-Wright said.

“We don’t get the benefit of staying in our car, we don’t get the benefit of trying to continue to social distance. We have to go in.”

For more information see Motherboard on…

ZoomBombing and What You can Do to Make Your Zoom Meeting Safer

I was asked to talk about recent security concerns regarding the videoconferencing application Zoom and prepared the following. – John Brandt

Take a Deep Breath

The new term, ZoomBombing, was coined just a few weeks ago and the concern and social media rant about the security of the world’s most popular videoconferencing application has since, pardon the expression, gone viral.

My reaction to the news has been to slowly and carefully tell everyone who has asked to take a deep breath and try not to overreact.

Here’s what happened.

Someone reported on social media that during one of their Zoom Meetings someone “uninvited” came in and “took” over the room. Within minutes numerous other reports were made on other social media platforms, and within hours the term ZoomBombing was born. The term is an adaptation from the term PhotoBombing in which someone intentionally or unintentionally appears in one of your photographs. While that term appears to have its origins in the late 2000s, someone correctly stated in one description that photobombing has probably been around as long as photography.

Within days, concerns were raised by writers of technology news, as well as journalists that resulted in folks digging deeper. These sources soon found other “security issues” and on March 30th the FBI was making announcements and sending out warnings. Apparently, things were getting out of hand; emphasis “apparently.” Within a few more days editorials and articles with headlines like “‘Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort” appeared in the New York Times.

Zoom Technologies Reacts

I’m reminded of the scene in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, when there’s are run on the bank and one of the characters asks, “How does something like this happen…?” Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, gravely concerned that his fragile “Building and Loan” will teether as well, wisely replies, “How does anything like this ever happen…?”

How this security nightmare happened is not important. What is important is the response.

Let us remember that in early February 2020, Zoom was a widely popular videoconference platform deftly designed to allow businesses and organizations to communicate with their staff and employees in an open and easy-to-use desktop application. It was the digital/virtual equivalent of the office meeting room allowing folks at distance locations to “sit around the table” take turns discussing the topic, share slides and demonstrations on the office “whiteboard,” and even allow for side discussions and breakout rooms. The pricing was reasonable (including a free trial version) and Zoom had made sure it was accessible to people with disabilities including adding the capacity to offer live captioning by anyone in the room or by a professional CART transcriptionist. Thus, in the relatively short history of the company, Zoom had managed to beat out the competition and by December 2019 was serving up online meetings to approximately 10 million users.

Then, when Coronavirus COVID-19 hit America hard, and businesses, schools and organizations were forced to close their doors and move operations to kitchen tables and living room couches, this perfect virtual tool suddenly became the answer to everyone prayers.

And then things got interesting real fast.

According to Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan, in March 2020, Zoom was serving up online meetings to 200 million participants each day including to over 90,000 schools in 20 countries. Within hours of the first reported ZoomBombing incident (on or about March 17th) there were tech articles published describing what had happened and telling folks what easy steps they could take to “secure” their Zoom meeting. The most obvious recommendation was to NOT publish the link to your Zoom meeting on social media. BTW, the first case of ZoomBombing appears to have happened to some people who were holding an online WFH Happy Hour which had been advertised widely on social media. But the buzz saw of social media probably facilitated hundreds of copycat bombings.

On March 20th Zoom published their first blog post to users addressing the issue and again instructing users how “protect” their meetings.

But the idea for ZoomBombing spread much faster than the advice on how to prevent it. Lots of false information was spread and hysteria followed.

Soon there were reports that whole institutions had shut down Zoom and at least one state’s IT department chose to block all traffic to Zoom on state-own devices.

This will all shake out and we will no doubt forget about it in a few weeks. But if you are going to be using Zoom, or ANY video conferencing platform to operate your business, teach/train or facilitate meetings, you need to do your homework and make sure you know how the system works and what you need to do to “stay safe, stay healthy.”

Here are five recommended actions:

  1. Learn how to check and change your account settings. Non-enterprise accounts were all recently locked down by Zoom to require passwords for all meetings and add a “waiting room” before participants can enter. If you have an enterprise account, you need to check with your IT folks. Note that some additional security features were recently added but you need to have the latest version of the Zoom client. Check to make sure you have the latest version.
  2. Use Passwords for all meetings/webinars. The need for the waiting room is probably overkill for most meeting but might be appropriate for webinars.
  3. Have a staff person who serves as a Producer. This is a person in the meeting whose only job is to make sure everything is working correctly and can address any problems that arise. Whoever schedules the meeting is automatically the Host of the meeting and only the Host can change the settings for the meeting room. Understand that many of these setting need to be made before the meeting starts. The Host can also assign someone else as the Alternative Host. Note that in Zoom Webinar, the Host has some special privileges that are needed to run the meeting. The Host can also control microphones and who can access the Share Screen functions.
  4. Avoid using Personal Meeting ID (PMI). This a special feature in Zoom where you can use the same meeting credentials for all your meetings. Zoom suggests using your office phone number as the meeting ID this way everyone attending knows what the login information will be. Don’t do this.
  5. Don’t have “open” meetings. As described, the first case of ZoomBombing was for an online office Happy Hour for employees working from home. The link to the Zoom Meeting was shared widely, it was literally an invitation for “party crashers.” Also don’t use the same Meeting ID and let Zoom chose a random number as the password.

Remember – Take a Deep Breath.

UPDATE: I learned of an additional security feature after I posted this article. There is a setting in both Zoom Meeting and Zoom Webinar that prevents any HTML code written into the Zoom Chat from being executed from the Chat. This “locking” feature blocks all code including malicious, executable code or links to “bad” websites. The posted links will still appear in the Chat (as text) and can be copied and pasted into your browser, but they cannot be executed from within Zoom. For the time being, it is probably wise to keep this security feature turned on and to discourage participants from posting links in the Chat. Any important links/resources can be provided to participants from another source such as a digital “handout” or from your website after they have been vetted.

For more information

How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event

A Message to Our Users from Zoom CEO Eric Yuan 


rev: 4/10/2020

Relay Conference Captioning

The following information is provided by Debra Bare-Rogers, Advocate, from the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS).

Attending virtual event, is a great opportunity to connect. For attendees with hearing loss, this can bring challenges. Free resources are available to make online meeting participation more accessible. In Maine, deaf and hard of hearing individuals can use Relay Conference Captioning.

What is Relay Conference Captioning?

RCC (also called Sprint Teleconference Captioning) offers live and high quality captioning for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals to participate in meetings (in-person or remote), phone calls, videoconferences and multi-party teleconference calls. There is no cost to use this service.

Please use this link to see a demonstration of how RCC works

How to use RCC

Schedule an RCC event at least 12 hours before the meeting time.

  1. Use this link to go to the Maine Relay Conference Captioning Event Request form. Complete the form and submit the form.
  2. You will receive an email from Relay Conference Captioning confirming your request along with a link to the captioning.
  3. At the start time of the event, (using a computer, laptop or smartphone) login by clicking on the link provided in the confirmation email. Captioning will appear in real time during the call.
  4. NOTE: During the event, if you have a question or comment you can use the text box in the bottom right corner and the captioner will speak into the call on your behalf.

If you have additional questions about RCC and other relay resources available in Maine. Debra is available via Zoom to provide 1:1 virtual appointments, staff presentations and webinars. Contact her to schedule a meeting.

Debra Bare-Rogers 

Disability Rights Maine
1 Mackworth Island, Bldg. C
Falmouth, Maine 04105

Phone: 207-797-7656 x 113 (V/TTY)
Toll Free: 800-639-3884 (V/TTY)
Fax: 207-797-9791

TRS includes Maine Relay Services, captioned telephone services (CapTel or CTS), and 711.

EWDS Webinar 9 – The Maine AgrAbility Program

The following event is offered by The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine Department of Labor and Syntiro as part of the 2020 series of monthly webinars for the Maine’s workforce community.

AgrAbility logo

Cultivating Accessible Agriculture

May 14, 2020
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

with Leilani Carlson and Kelley Spencer – Maine AgrAbility Program, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Program Description

Maine AgrAbility’s mission is to provide education, assistance, and support to farmers with disabilities engaged in production agriculture, helping them and their families maintain optimal production and experience an enhanced quality of life.

Maine AgrAbility reaches its goals through direct service, education, and networking. We provide consultative services and technical assistance, such as suggestions for modifying or adapting the agricultural operation, buildings, equipment, and/or tools. We work with rural agriculture, rehabilitation, and health care professionals to support Maine farmers with disabilities and their families.

Maine AgrAbility is a non-profit collaboration between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Alpha One in addition to independent contractors and is funded through a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Leilani Carlson – is the project coordinator for the Maine. She has a BS in engineering and more than 15 years of experience in the environmental engineering and consulting industry, focusing on health and safety and regulations. She and her family live on a small farm in central Maine. Learning from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, books, farm visits and local master gardeners, she and her husband began farming and providing food for their family. Leilani joined the Maine AgrAbility program in August 2012 as the project coordinator working for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This opportunity allows her to utilize both her engineering and health and safety background with her passion for farming in Maine.

Kelley S. Spencer, COTA/L, ATP, DSP – Kelley Spencer is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant who is also a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Practitioner. She has served people with disabilities all her life. She grew up farming in central Maine. Her family home was also a foster home and day program for adults with intellectual disabilities. She worked as an independent living specialist and regional manager for Alpha One’s Bangor and Presque Isle offices for 17 years. She oversaw the AgrAbility project which worked with farmers with disabilities to continue to farm, in part through the use of assistive technologies. She led her team in the Homeward Bound project assisting so many to move from nursing facilities back into their communities.

Kelley chaired and co-chaired the State of Maine’s Acquired Brain Injury Advisory Council for 8 years. She served on the AgrAbility advisory board. She developed Goodwill’s Assistive Technology Program for 3 years before leaving to open her own business. She now owns and operates Maine Assistive Technology Solutions.

Registration fee:

Individual registrations for the webinar are $5.00 per person. There is no fee if you have purchased an agency subscription.

Important: Your confirmation email will contain call in and log in information so make sure you have received a confirmation email. If you do not receive your confirmation email shortly after completing your online registration form please contact

Participants will earn 1 hour of continuing education after completing an online evaluation following the webinar. After completing the webinar you will receive a link to the session evaluation. Once you complete the evaluation, a certification of participation will be emailed to you.

Please use this link to register for this event


Survey to collect data around learning from home

The following request/announcement comes from colleague and fellow Maine educator, Jim Moulton:

COVID-19 has dramatically altered school and learning around the world. In an effort to capture, reflect, and share the unique perspectives of students and parents as they experience learning from home in Spring 2020, two brief surveys have been created. Again – our intention is to capture, reflect, and share the unique perspectives of students and parents as they experience learning from home in Spring 2020.

The stories and experiences, collected anonymously through the surveys, will help to inform and improve current and future learning-from-home strategies. Furthermore, it is our hope that students and parents may appreciate having a place and opportunity to anonymously reflect and share their experiences during this unprecedented time.

Please share broadly with learners and families involved in learning from home due to COVID-19.

Schools and districts are encouraged to use these reflective surveys system-wide, but should contact us for best options for capturing and using the data with their local community.

If you have questions about the surveys or would like to reach out to discuss, please use the following contact information:

Jim Moulton –

Jim Moulton is a former elementary educator who has been working in the field of educational technology since the mid-1990s. He has worked with educators around the world, contributed to Edutopia’s Spiral Notebook blog, and spent a decade as part of Apple’s Education Team.

Dr. Damian Bebell –

Dr. Bebell is an educational researcher at Boston Colleges’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. An example of his research can be seen at Drawing On Math and a current article Beyond Academics: Success and the Purpose of School.

eLearning Teaching Tips webinar from edWeb

The following announcement comes from edWeb  who is sponsoring this free webinar…

e-Learning Teaching Tips: Support for Educators During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday, April 9, 2020
3:00 pm ET


Candice Dodson, Executive Director, State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
Ashley Webb, Graphic Design Teacher and Instructional Coach, Mountain Heights Academy, UT

Program Description

In support of the SETDA Coalition for eLearning, SETDA will collaborate with teachers that have extensive experience teaching online to share tips for best practices for online learning. Teachers are being asked to transform the way they teach and to meet diverse learning needs, and they need support. Join this edWebinar to hear from experienced teachers, ask questions, and share your examples as we all work to support students in this time of need.

This edWebinar will be of interest to preK through high school teachers and school leaders. There will be time for questions at the end of the presentation.

Use this link to learn more about this event and to register…

AgrAbility Webinar: Smart technology in agriculture & the home

AgrAbility logo

Smart technology in agriculture & the home: what is it and what is its impact on safety and efficiency?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. EDT

Program Description

“Smart technology” is an umbrella term that encompasses many devices designed to make life easier for the user. Common types of smart technologies include watches, televisions, and a wide variety of other home devices (some that even respond to their own names). While marketed to the masses as the “next big thing,” for some individuals these devices can restore their independence and, in certain cases, even be life-saving. Whether the smart technologies are worn on the body or remain stationary, they can help prevent accidents from happening or assist in contacting emergency services if a crisis should occur. This webinar will discuss how smart technologies can benefit agricultural workers in the workplace and in the home.

Webinar topics include:

  • Types of smart technologies
  • Wearable devices
  • Home devices
  • Implications for agriculture
  • Implications for individuals with disabilities


Luke Cain is a student from Indiana Wesleyan University’s occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) program. He is currently completing his residency project with AgrAbility with a focus on advocacy for the program and for agriculture workers with disabilities. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and will be graduating from OTD school in April 2020. Luke is passionate about helping individuals with disabilities receive the therapy, education, and any other services they may need to help them meet their goals and be as independent as possible.

A question & answer period will follow the presentation.


To participate in this free webinar, click here to access the online registration form by Friday, April 3. Instructions for accessing the session will be sent to registrants by Monday, April 6. Please pass on this invitation to others you believe may be interested. Contact AgrAbility at 800-825-4264 or email if you have questions.


Maine AgrAbility video highlights students’ learning on the farm

Buxton, Maine — Over the past year, Maine AgrAbility and partner Alpha One integrated agriculture into the curriculum of a peer mentoring program at Massabesic High School in York county. The program, funded by the Maine Department of Labor Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and supplemented with hands-on opportunities, culminated with summer work experiences on a local farm.

Sally Farrell, owner of Rummler Run farm in Buxton and former University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H professional in York County, agreed to introduce three of the students to daily life on her farm in summer 2019. The stories and experiences of those three students — practicing problem-solving, handling small livestock, helping ensure biosecurity practices — are told in the video “On the Farm.”

Maine AgrAbility, a collaborative project of UMaine Extension and Alpha One, is dedicated to helping farmers, fishermen and forest workers work safely and more productively. For more information, contact Leilani Carlson at 207.944.1533;

More information also is available on the UMaine Extension AgrAbility website.

About University of Maine Cooperative Extension:

As a trusted resource for over 100 years, University of Maine Cooperative Extension has supported UMaine’s land and sea grant public education role by conducting community-driven, research-based programs in every Maine county. UMaine Extension helps support, sustain and grow the food-based economy. It is the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition, and food security and safety are integral and interrelated. UMaine Extension also conducts the most successful out-of-school youth educational program in Maine through 4-H.

Survey on Wireless Device User Experiences for People with Disabilities

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies (Wireless RERC) announces the launch of its 2020 Survey of User Needs (SUN). The SUN is the Wireless RERC’s cornerstone survey on wireless technology use by people with disabilities. Over 8,000 consumers have completed it with disabilities since it was first launched in 2001.

This latest version has been updated in response to changes in technology. In addition to questions about cell phone and tablet use, this latest version of the SUN collects information about wearables, “smart” home technologies, and other next-generation wirelessly connected devices. User responses will help designers and engineers make new wireless devices and services for people with disabilities. Data from the SUN also provides important information to the wireless industry, government regulators, and other researchers to help them make wireless technology more accessible and more useful to people with all types of disabilities.

If you have a disability, please consider taking this survey. If you know someone who has a disability, please forward the survey to them. Thank you!

Select this link to take the 2020 Survey of User Needs