Update of Accessibility Guidelines for Rail Cars

From the U.S. Access Board

US Access Board logoPublic Hearing on the Advance Notice on Updating the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Rail Vehicles
March 10, 2020, 2:00 – 4:00 (ET)
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Access Board is initiating rulemaking to update its accessibility guidelines for rail cars covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeks public comment on this effort. As indicated in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking it published on 2-14-2020, the Board plans to update provisions in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles that apply to vehicles used in fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, and intercity rail. The Board requests information from the public for its use in developing a proposed rule.

The Board intends to update these guidelines, which were published in 1991, according to an advisory panel it organized. The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee, which included representatives from advocacy organizations, transit operators, rail car manufacturers, and other stakeholders, reviewed the existing guidelines for rail vehicles and recommended how they should be updated to address accessibility issues, advances in technology, changes in car design, and other factors. The Committee’s report provides recommendations on provisions for vehicle communications, boarding and alighting, on-board circulation, seating, and rooms and spaces.

The advance notice discusses the committee’s report and includes questions posed by the Board. The Board seeks comment on both the substance of the recommendations from the committee as well as related questions about the feasibility or potential impacts on vehicle design, operations, and cost. It is also interested in research, data, and technologies on improved accessibility to rail vehicles.

Questions raised in the notice address coverage of new and remanufactured vehicles, variable message signs, hearing induction loops, vehicle ramps and lifts, car doors, between-car barriers, handrails and stanchions, wheelchair spaces, and vertical access in bi-level cars. The Board will use the information collected to draft a proposed rule which also will be made available for public comment.

The advance notice, which includes Instructions for submitting comments, is posted at www.regulations.gov (Docket ATBCB-2020-0002). Comments are due May 14, 2020.

In addition, the Board will hold a public hearing on March 10 from 2:00 – 4:00 (ET) that will provide an opportunity to submit comments either in person or by phone. Those who wish to provide testimony should contact Rose Marie Bunales at (202) 272-0006 or bunales@access-board.gov .

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Juliet Shoultz at (202) 272-0045 or shoultz@access-board.gov for technical questions or Wendy Marshall at (202) 272-0043 or marshall@access-board.gov for legal questions.

 

State provides guidance on new Hearing Aid mandate

Regarding the recently passed and enacted legislation related to 24-A M.R.S. § 2762, a law which requires health insurance carriers in Maine to provide hearing aid coverage in all individual and group health plans, the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulations has published the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documentation:

New Hearing Aid Mandate, Effective January 1, 2020

Q: I have insurance and I need hearing aids. Does this new law mean my insurance will cover the cost now?

A: It depends on several factors:

Type of Insurance

The following types are required to provide the benefit:

      • Fully funded major medical policies, including ACA coverage;
      • Short-term limited duration policies

These types are exempt from all State health insurance benefit mandates:

      • Medicare products, including Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans (federally exempted by Social Security/Medicare);
      • Self-insured plans, except state or municipal governmental and multiple-employer welfare association (MEWA) plans;
      • Plans other than comprehensive major medical or short-term limited duration: accidental injury; specified disease; hospital indemnity; dental; vision; disability income; long-term care; other limited benefit health insurance.

Benefit Details, Deductibles, Cost, Networks, and Renewal Dates

Coverage amount:

      • Up to $3,000 per hearing aid for each hearing-impaired ear; and
      • Available every 36 months.

Deductibles: You should be aware that you could still be responsible for all or part of the cost if you have not yet met your annual deductible at the time you purchase a hearing aid.

Cost:  If you purchase a hearing aid that costs more than $3,000, you should assume you will need to pay the amount over the $3,000 out of your own pocket, even if you have met your deductible – unless your policy specifically provides a greater benefit.

Network:  You could also be responsible for all or part of the cost if you use a provider who is not part of your plan’s network.

Renewal dates:  If you have a group plan that is required to provide this benefit, but it renews later in the year, the benefit will not be included in your coverage until that time.

Q: I know I have hearing issues. Do I need to go to my primary care office before going to see a hearing specialist and getting a prescription for hearing aids?

A:  Whether you are able to self-refer to a specialist and whether pre-authorization is required to purchase a hearing aid would depend on your policy contract.  Check with your insurer and/or your employer’s benefits department.

Q: Will my insurance cost more because of this mandate?

A:  The cost of providing the new benefit is built into the premium and should be very minimal (the Bureau’s 2014 report estimated that the cost per policyholder could be $.47 per month).

If you have questions beyond this FAQ, please contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland’s Critical Home Repair

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland logoHabitat for Humanity of Greater Portland’s Critical Home Repair service helps low-income homeowners make needed repairs so they can live in a safe, healthy, and affordable home. This program is part of a Habitat for Humanity’s nation-wide effort to serve homeowners who are affected by age, disability or family circumstances and struggle to maintain the integrity of their homes.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland recognizes that new home construction is only a part of the solution for quality, affordable housing. The Critical Home Repair program is part of our broader community development strategy to transform and strengthen communities. It not only addresses the health, safety and affordability of the individual residences in neighborhoods, it also strengthens connections within the community and helps preserve affordable housing stock.

How it Works

The Critical Home Repair program requires an affordable payment from the homeowner for a portion of the repair costs. Applicants will be scored and ranked by level of need. Not all applications will be approved. This program serves homeowners in Cumberland County who have a household income below 80% of HUD Area Median Income.

Examples of Work to be Done

  • Roof leaks
  • Accessibility issues, ramps, etc.
  • Stair repairs
  • Structural work, not to include foundations

Work We Will Not Do

  • Mobile or modular homes (except ramps)
  • General cosmetic repairs, including but not limited to: flooring, painting, carpentry, etc.
  • Window replacement
  • Bathroom renovations or repair (only for accessibility)

Program Outline

Homeowners will apply by a deadline, and will need to demonstrate:

  • A household incomes at or below 80% of HUD median income
  • A Tax Assessment Building Value less than $200,000. They have paid their property taxes on time
  • They are current on their mortgage
  • They must own (name on title) and occupy the home and have lived in the home for over three years
  • Willingness for Habitat to conduct a credit check and background check on all residents over age 18

Scope, Costs, and Payments

Habitat will review the home for needed repairs and prepare a scope of work and price recommendation. Families will pay only a portion of the actual costs of materials and sub-contracted in-kind labor, based on their income. For example, if the materials and contracted labor are $6000, the family’s income as a percentage of Area Median Income will be the percentage of costs they pay. For example, a family of four making 30% of AMI ($23,000) will repay only 30% of repairs, or $1800. A family making $46,000 will repay 60% of repairs. Habitat will donate the balance of the project costs. Payment terms may be available.

For More Information and to Apply

Contact Molly Brake at molly@habitatme.org / 207-772-2151 ext. 104 or visit the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland’s Critical Home Repair website 

 

 

Maine SILC conducts needs assessment survey

Maine SILC logoIndependent Living philosophy emphasizes that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs. Individuals should have the ability to decide how to live, work, and take part in their communities.

The Maine Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) supports these efforts by influencing public policy and promoting opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live independently in all facets of their lives. The Maine SILC is an independent nonprofit organization that is not contained within any State agency.

Maine SILC is conducting a survey to gather information about services that provide support to people with disabilities. The information you provide in the survey will help set goals for the next three years.

The Survey seeks information from a person with a disability, parents or guardians of a person with a disability, or representatives of a person with a disability.

The deadline to complete the survey is March 31, 2020.

Please use this link to go directly to the survey…

AT4Maine “Features” recycled equipment for sale

Spurwink-ALLTECH logoThe Spurwick ALLTECH Recycle and Reuse Program is now listing and featuring “gently used” assistive technology devices and products available for purchase by the public on the AT4Maine website.

Located at 892 Riverside Street in Portland, the “ALLTECH Store” is open for business four days a week and has dozens of items available for sale.

The two items featured this month are:

View more items for Resale/Reuse on the AT4Maine website

For more information and to arrange to purchase these or any items in the ALLTECH Store, visit their website or call 207-535-2017

 

Access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs

From the U.S. Access Board

Study Initiated on Equipping Passenger Aircraft with Wheelchair Restraint Systems

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board is undertaking a study that has the potential to advance access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs. As directed by Congress, this project will assess the feasibility of equipping passenger planes with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Having to transfer out of wheelchairs makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities.

The Board is conducting this study through the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). TRB has organized a committee of experts to evaluate the feasibility of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. Members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines. Committee members will evaluate the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the committee will then assess the wheelchair restraint systems that can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning.

The committee will hold its first meeting February 5 – 6, 2020 at the Access Board’s conference center. Most sessions will be open to the public and available by web conference. Those attending in person do not need to register in advance, but registration is required (free) to attend online.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on this project, the meeting agenda, and the committee.

Questions about the study can be directed to Mario Damiani of the Access Board at damiani@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0050 (v), or (202) 272-0066 (TTY). Inquiries about attending the committee meeting or registering for the web conference should be addressed to Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at AJayasinghe@nas.edu or (202) 334-2401

 

State Independent Living Council (SILC) Listening Sessions

From the Maine Statewide Independent Living Council

Do you have a disability?
We want to hear from you!

The Maine Statewide Independent Living Council is seeking your opinion on the needs of people with disabilities throughout the State.

Not able to attend in person?

Sessions will be held at the following locations (see below) and also available by phone. There will be two videoconference sessions for anyone unable to join meetings in person. Please note, if the location is closed due to weather, it will not be rescheduled.

Special needs?

If you need an interpreter or any other accommodation, call or email Maine SILC, no later than one week prior to the meeting you plan to attend at execdirector@mainesilc.org or (207) 219-0391.

Public Listening Sessions Schedule

LOCATION DATE TIME (pm) ADDRESS ACCESS INFO
University of Maine – Machias 2/4/20 1:00-3:00 Science Building
116 O’Brien Avenue
Machias, ME 04654
Call: 1-646-876-9923
Enter code: 348 603 620#
Bangor Public Library 2/6/20 1:00-3:00 145 Harlow Street Bangor, ME 04401 Call: 1-646-876-9923 Enter code: 676 319 161#
City of Presque Isle Recreation & Parks Department 2/12/20 2:00-4:00 24 Chapman Road
Presque Isle, ME 04769
Call: 1-646-876-9923
Enter code: 216 930 675#
University of Maine – Farmington 2/19/20 1:00-3:00 Olsen Student Center 111 South Street Farmington, ME 04938 Call: 1-646-876-9923 Enter code: 909 317 998#
Bangor Savings Bank – Augusta 2/20/20 1:00-3:00 Community Room
5 Senator Way
Augusta, ME 04330
Call: 1-646-876-9923
Enter code: 398 195 242#
Alpha One – South Portland 2/25/20 1:00-3:00 127 Maine Street So. Portland, ME 04106 Call: 1-646-876-9923 Enter code: 806 437 996#
Videoconference 3/3/20 6:00-7:30 You need to download Zoom software prior to meeting https://zoom.us/j/318734592 For calendar invite contact execdirector@mainesilc.org
Videoconference 3/7/20 2:00-3:30 You need to download Zoom software prior to meeting https://zoom.us/j/716113287 For calendar invite contact execdirector@mainesilc.org

Questions?

Please contact

Beth Mogan, Executive Director
Maine Statewide Independent Living Council

execdirector@mainesilc.org or (207) 219-0391.

 

National Assistive Technology Makers Fair – looking for planners

Parametric Ring Pen HolderAssistive Technology in New Hampshire, ATinNH, will be holding the 3rd Annual National Assistive Technology Makers Fair: Make AT for All on October 24, 2020 in Concord, NH.

All are inviting to participate on the planning committee. Since this is a national event, your ideas, input and suggestions are greatly valued.

ATinNH is also looking for a host for the 4th Annual National Assistive Technology Makers Fair in 2021. Participating on this planning committee could help to prepare you for hosting the event in your state in 2021.

If you are interested in joining the planning committee, please email Stacy Driscoll at stacy.driscoll@unh.edu no later than Friday January 10, 2020. Planning meetings will occur the first Friday of the month beginning February 7, 2020 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm EST via Zoom.

If you aren’t interested, or don’t have the time to commit to the planning committee, there are other ways for you to be involved.  You are invited to be involved by presenting at the event, exhibiting, or perhaps being a sponsor and of course attending the event.

For more information contact:

Stacy Driscoll, M.Ed, ATP, Program Coordinator
Assistive Technology in New Hampshire (ATinNH)
(603) 228-2084 ext. 47
stacy.driscoll@unh.edu

 

Photo credit: Assistive Technology: Parametric Ring Pen Holder by randyrue – Thingiverse – Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute via Pinterest 

road sign with word diabetes

Smartphones, “wearables” and diabetes management

ZD Net has published an interesting article about recent advances in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices that can be used with smartphones and wearable technology like the Apple Watch.

The article, Diabetes monitoring is having a smartwatch and smartphone revolution, notes the long standing problems (and expense) associated with blood glucose management in people with diabetes costing Americans $327 billion a year.

The article states:

Technology aimed at insulin-using diabetics became mainstream a few years back with the arrival of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices. These are small readers that sit on a diabetic’s body, taking their blood sugar levels constantly and relatively unobtrusively. This technology is transforming diabetes control for its users. By giving them a better view of what their blood glucose was doing, CGMs enabled insulin-dependent diabetics to take steps to keep readings in the right range.

One manufacturer of these devices Dexcom, is “… looking to exploit the potential of wearables and smartphones. Users can get their readings sent over Bluetooth Low Energy to hardware including iOS and Android phones and watches…” the article adds and ends with, “…the future of CGM is going to be tightly tied to the development of consumer tech like smartwatches or other wearables. ‘There’s a good possibility that you’re going to have even tighter integration than we have today with those types of products…'”

Read the entire article from ZD Net…

View Maine CITE’s webinar ‘Wearables’ as Assistive Technology…

 

Making Medication Management Smarter

Pill box with days of the weekIn a new posting by Laurie Orlov, Technology Can Help Make Medication Management Smarter, she reminds us that “…medication non-adherence (not filling prescriptions or missing dosages) is a major health issue resulting in 10% of hospitalizations, 125,000 deaths, and costing the healthcare system up to $300 billion/year.”

Orlov offers the following recommendations:

First, a simple app solution can help. Setting a calendar entry (no app required) or downloading a medication reminder app can help users avoid missing their medication. Free apps, like Pill Reminder (iPhone) and PillsOnTime (Android) also track missed doses. Tracker by Medisafe (iPhone and Android), not only reminds you when it’s time for a refill but enables you to track vitals like blood pressure. Davis’ Drug Guide (iPhone) even contains detailed drug information for patients who have questions about a drug, the possible side effects, or its interactions with other medications.

Next, medication dispensing pre-packaged containers can help with complex regimens. For some individuals, a plastic 7-day pill container provides enough structure. But if problems occur as a result of not taking doses, technology-enabled containers are designed to help prevent both missing a dose or taking the wrong pill. Units are easily connected to the Internet for communication to caregivers about whether the unit was opened at the right time. They include PillPack (recently acquired by Amazon) which delivers the packaged medication doses and has an accompanying app to track information about them.  Then there is MedMinder, an automated dispensing box that can be preloaded by the pharmacy.  PillPack and MedMinder charge just the co-pay medication cost. Finally, consider Philips’ Automated Medication Dispensing Service – in which a caregiver loads up to 40 days of doses which are dispensed in small cups per dose at a cost of $59.95 per month.

For more information

Read the entire article Technology Can Help Make Medication Management Smarter by Laurie Orlov…

View our June 2019 webinar Assistive Technology (AT) for Medication Management with Christine Martin…