ABLE ME Launches in Maine

ABLE Act -National Resource Center logoBangor, ME (October 18, 2021):  Bangor Savings Bank introduced its newest product, the first of its kind in the nation, Maine ABLE Benefit Checking. The account was created for people with disabilities to allow greater access to financial products and services, while protecting eligibility for federal and State of Maine means-tested benefits. Historically, individuals receiving benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are limited to $2,000 in resources. ABLE Accounts provide new avenues for financial health, planning, and empowerment for individuals with disabilities and their families.

ABLE Account can change the way individuals with disabilities and their families participate in the community, build financial wellness and plan for the future by empowering them to save and invest for the added expenses that come with having a disability without losing access to federal means-tested benefits. ABLE account holders can use these funds to make purchased of things like assistive technology that are not covered by other funders.

The federal “Achieving a Better Life Experience” Act of 2014 (ABLE Act) created a new option for qualified individuals living with disabilities and their families. Most ABLE programs follow an assets-under-management model. Maine has chosen a different approach and account structure to meet the more immediate needs of participants for whom longer term investment and saving is not a primary goal.

ABLE accounts originate from the federal ABLE Act and are established and managed at the state level. In partnership with the Office of the Maine State Treasurer, which oversees and maintains the program locally, Bangor Savings Bank is proud to serve as the administrator of the ABLE ME program.

ABLE ME, with Bangor Savings Bank’s Maine ABLE Benefit Checking account as the sole deposit instrument, was announced last month by Maine State Treasurer Henry E. M. Beck, Esq., and is the first of its kind in Maine and the nation.

“The State is grateful to partner with Bangor Savings Bank to offer this first-in-the-nation, simple ABLE checking account product,” said Beck. “When we first began developing this program, we listened to Mainers who live with disabilities who told us having access to a respected brick-and-mortar Maine-based financial institution was paramount. I encourage Mainers to take advantage of the protections and dignity an ABLE account can provide.”

“Our partnership with the Office of the State Treasurer is a unique public-private collaboration that allows us to increase access to banking.” said Bob Montgomery-Rice, President and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank. “Creating and offering this program supports the financial independence and well-being of Maine’s residents with disabilities and reflects our ongoing commitment to provide better banking experiences for all community members.”

“Partnering with the State Treasurer’s Office to innovate this first-in-the-nation Bank-administered ABLE Program has been incredibly rewarding. It wouldn’t have come to fruition without the vision and commitment of former State Treasurer Terry Hayes and current State Treasurer Henry Beck, as well as the unshakable support of our President and CEO Bob Montgomery-Rice,” said Joyce Clark Sarnacki, Bangor Savings Bank Foundation Chair and a member of the ABLE ME development team.

The Maine ABLE Benefit Checking can be opened at any Bangor Savings Bank branch and is available to qualifying Maine residents. For more information about ABLE Programs across the country, visit the National Association of State Treasurers.

About Bangor Savings Bank

Bangor Savings Bank, with more than $6 billion in assets, offers retail banking to consumers as well as comprehensive commercial, corporate, payroll administration, merchant services, and small business banking services to businesses. The Bank, founded in 1852, is in its 169th year with more than 60 branches in Maine and New Hampshire and business and/or loan production offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Bangor Savings Bank and The Bangor Savings Bank Foundation have invested more than $3.4 million into the community in the form of sponsorships, grants, and partnership initiatives last year. Bangor Savings Bank is an equal opportunity employer and can be found on the Web at www.bangor.com. Member FDIC.

New access features coming to YouTube

Audio DescriptionCool Blind Tech, a Canadian company who sources news about new assistive technology for blind and low vision users reported this week that YouTube is coming out with several access improvements that will make the service my accessible to people with disabilities.

Quoting from their blog

YouTube is improving video accessibility for both viewers with vision loss and other languages. The company is testing the option of adding multiple audio tracks to videos. This will help with international viewers, of course, but it should also enable descriptive audio for people with some vision to no vision. This arrives sometime in the “coming quarters,” YouTube said.

The announcement of the inclusion of the additional audio track will allow users to add Audio/Video Description to their YouTube videos. The terms Audio Description and Video Description are sometimes used interchangeably although the FCC has recently stated Audio Description to be the preferred term. The term, used in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, is the agreed upon international terminology for audibly describing the visual elements of videos, on-stage performances, and subjects at museum and art galleries.

Although Audio Description has been around for many years, it only recently became part of Section 508 requirements. Content creators have struggled to meet the requirement as an open source video playback solution that allows for multiple audio tracks has not be available. While not open source, the announcement from YouTube will give video content developers a new – and free – tool to meet the requirement. Currently, the only solution on YouTube was to create two videos, one with Audio Description, and one without.

 

Closed Captioning from Space

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national association for Amateur (Ham) Radio in the US. Founded in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim as The American Radio Relay League, ARRL is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. Little know Maine fact: Hiram Percy Maxim was the son of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim a Sangerville, Maine born inventor best known as the creator of the first automatic machine gun, the Maxim gun. Maxim, the father, held patents on numerous mechanical devices such as hair-curling irons, a mousetrap, and steam pumps. 

The following article was published in the ARRL newsletter…

Students at UK School for Deaf Youngsters Enjoy Space Chat

Students in UK talk with astronauts at the ISS
Mary Hare School student Jacob asks his question during the Mary Hare School contact with astronaut Mark Vande Hei, KG5GNP, on the ISS

Ten students at the Mary Hare School for deaf children in the UK took part in what appears to have been a world-first event for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). Facilitating the late-morning direct contact with astronaut Mark Vande Hei (Ham Call Sign: KG5GNP) at NA1SS (the Call Sign for the radio station on the International Space Station – ISS) were Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) volunteers and members of the Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society (NADARS).

The ground station used the call sign GB4MHN. ARISS volunteers handled the technical aspects, while NADARS members provided students with the “amateur radio experience” through events and activities.

Students asked their questions orally, and the astronaut’s replies — as well as questions and answers posed by the audience before the contact began — were displayed in closed caption format beneath a huge video screen.

Students wanted to know if the astronauts used sign language in space in case something goes wrong, how the ISS would be evacuated in the event of a fire, and whether mobile devices such as cell phones work in space.

Read more about this on the Mary Hare School website…

Learning Strategies for Children with Vision Impairment and Deafness/Hard of Hearing

The New England Consortium for Deafblind Technical Assistance and Training (NEC)The New England Consortium on Deafblindness (NEC) announces the Fall 2021 on-line learning cohort is about to begin.

The online modules are an exciting opportunity to learn more about Deafblindness and engage with a consortium of service providers in CT, ME, MA, NH and VT. Upon completion of each group of modules, you will receive a certificate of completion and Professional Development Points (6 PDPs per module)

Description of the Modules

Each module is designed to increase knowledge related to intervention for students who have combined vision and hearing loss or at risk (ages 3 through 21). The module content was created by a diverse group of experts in the field of Deafblindness including state and national deafblind project staff, parents of children who are deaf-blind, higher education faculty, teachers, educational
interpreters, and interveners. Also each module takes about 6 hours to complete and includes accessible videos, photographs, slide presentations, and learning activities.

Target Audience

Paraprofessionals, Teachers, Related Service Providers, Parents, Agency Personnel

  • NEC will also host NCDB On-Line Modules to support continuing groups of service providers
    working with child(ren) who have combined vision and hearing loss or who are at-risk.
  • NEC will host NCDB On-Line Modules to support a new group of service providers working
    with child(ren) who have combined hearing loss or who are at-risk.
  • We encourage teams to participate (i.e., one classroom teacher and one paraprofessional/aide)
    but parents and individual service providers are also welcome!
  • Modules are hosted by a Facilitator and participants will be provided support and feedback in
    completion of each module. The modules can be completed at a time most convenient for you
    and at your own pace.

NOTE: Each Individual module takes 6-8 hours to complete so there is a time commitment. Many
participants report that it’s a fun and convenient opportunity to share ideas and expertise!

For More Information, visit: www.nec4db.org, email: nec@perkins.org  or call: 617-972-7515.

 

 

Maine Celebrating National ABLE to Save Month By Announcing Program

From the Office of the State Treasurer

ABLE Act -National Resource Center logoAugusta, ME – August 17, 2021: August marks the nationally celebrated ABLE to Save Month, based on the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act). The Act created a new option for qualified individuals living with disabilities and their families to save for the future, while protecting eligibility for public benefits. Although ABLE accounts come from the federal ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act, they are established and managed on a state level. ABLE Savings Plan programs across the country will highlight the value and importance these plans bring to those living with disabilities this month.

In honor of the month, Maine Treasurer, Henry Beck, announced that Maine’s program, which is expected to launch by year end, will be the first of its kind in the country. ABLE ME is a new program of the State of Maine Office of the State Treasurer, and Bangor Savings Bank has been named the administrator of the program.

Beck said, “Nationally, ABLE accounts have gained traction and the structure of those accounts closely mirrors a 529 college savings account, with invested assets. Through our collaboration with Bangor Savings Bank and community advocates, we concluded that a transactional, FDIC-insured, checking account would best serve the needs of both young and adult Mainers with disabilities, and their families.”

“Creating greater financial empowerment in our communities is central to our You Matter More Promise,” said Bob Montgomery-Rice, President and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank. “We’re honored to step forward in partnership with the State Treasurer’s Office to create this innovative and beneficial program for Maine’s people with disabilities. Collaboration between the public and private sector is an integral part of Maine’s economy, and we are proud to contribute to greater economic mobility for those who qualify for this program.”

Bangor Savings Bank is currently developing the Maine ABLE Benefit Checking SM account. Until account development is complete and available, please direct all questions to The Office of the Maine State Treasurer.

About ABLE

ABLE plans can change the way individuals with disabilities and their families participate in the community, build financial wellness, and plan for the future by empowering them to save for the added expenses that come with having a disability without losing access to federal means-tested benefits.

ABLE accounts foster person-centered independence, build self-reliance, encourage employment, and improve quality of life. Without an ABLE account, individuals currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are limited to savings in the amount of $2,000. This creates a real barrier to financial independence and limits a person’s economic mobility.

For more information about ABLE Savings Plans across the country, visit the National Association of State Treasurers.

The Office of the Maine State Treasurer will update its website as plans for ABLE ME rollout get closer. www.maine.gov/treasurer

About the Treasurer’s Office

The Office of the Treasurer of State is established in Article V, Part Third of the Constitution of the State of Maine. The core duties of the Treasurer’s Office are debt management, cash management, trust fund administration and unclaimed property administration. Other major tasks assigned to the Treasurer are directorships on many of Maine’s quasi-governmental debt issuing agencies and distributions under the Municipal Revenue Sharing Program.

About Bangor Savings Bank

Bangor Savings Bank, with more than $6 billion in assets, offers retail banking to consumers as well as comprehensive commercial, corporate, payroll administration, merchant services, and small business banking services to businesses. The Bank, founded in 1852, is in its 169th year with more than 60 branches in Maine and New Hampshire and business and/or loan production offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Bangor Savings Bank and The Bangor Savings Bank Foundation have invested more than $3.4 million into the community in the form of sponsorships, grants, and partnership initiatives last year. Bangor Savings Bank is an equal opportunity employer and Member FDIC.

 

DCMP Helps Bring Audio Described Content to YouTube

From the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP)

Audio DescriptionDCMP is involved with a new YouTube pilot program designed to give participating content creators the ability to add audio description to their videos through a secondary audio track. We’ve been partnering with science communicator Emily Graslie to help bring Art Lab to YouTube as the very first educational series with native audio description! DCMP was a pioneer in bringing audio description to streaming media, and we’re thrilled to be working with Emily and YouTube in expanding accessibility to people with disabilities on a global scale.

You may know Emily Graslie as the host of The Field Museum’s Brain Scoop series, which is available with audio description at DCMP, or from her recent broadcast television debut on PBS in Prehistoric Road Trip. Her new series, Art Lab, celebrates art and science, how they come together, and how the skills used by artists help teach scientific concepts to a general audience. Art Lab will also be available to families and educators at dcmp.org.

Not only does Art Lab have audio description, but DCMP serves as technical advisor and accessibility provider to help make the series accessible from concept to completion.

We hope you take the time to be involved in this project yourself by viewing Art Lab with the audio description turned on! To activate the description, look for the Settings icon (a gear shape) at the bottom of the YouTube player, click “Audio Track,” and then choose “English Descriptive” to turn on audio description. Keep in mind that only a small number of content creators currently have access to this feature—but you can always find thousands of videos with audio description at DCMP!

ArtLab on YouTube

 

Wheelchair securement on airlines – Briefing

From the U.S Access Board

U.S. Access Board to Host Public Briefing on Study on the Feasibility of Wheelchair Securement Systems in Passenger Aircraft

WASHINGTON, August 11, 2021 – The inability to use one’s wheelchair on airplanes makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities. Among other challenges, it requires multiple transfers between boarding chairs and aircraft seats, posing injury risks. To address these challenges, the U.S. Access Board commissioned a study to assess the feasibility of equipping aircraft with securement systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, will release its final report mid-September.

The U.S. Access Board will host a public briefing on the final report on September 22 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm (ET).

The briefing will feature a presentation by the TRB Study Committee Members, including Committee Chair Dr. Alan M. Jette, on the two-year research study that focused on the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with securement wheelchairs. The event is free, but registration is required. Members of the public will be able to pose questions during the event.

For further information on registration, visit the Access Board’s website or contact Rose Marie Bunales at events@access-board.gov. Note that the briefing will include video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on the project. 

Travis Roy Foundation to wind down operation

As reported by MaineBiz

Photos of Travis RoyThe Travis Roy Foundation, a national nonprofit created by the Augusta native and North Yarmouth Academy hockey star who died last fall, will permanently wind down its work early next year.

The foundation will end its fundraising sometime after April 2022 in accordance with Roy’s wishes, according to a news release Friday.

He had requested that the foundation cease operation following his death, which occurred Oct. 29, 2020, after complications from surgery. Roy was 45.

In 1996, Roy launched the foundation, which grew to become the largest spinal cord injury charity program of its kind in the country, the release said. The foundation has raised over $20 million for research and for grants to thousands of individuals and their families dealing with paralysis after a spinal cord injury, and awarded more than $5.6 million in grants toward finding a cure.

Travis Roy Foundation trustees are currently in discussions with other nonprofits to establish programs that will continue Roy’s mission for years to come, according to the release.

Read the complete MaineBiz article

Read the press release from the Travis Roy Foundation

 

U.S. Access Board Launches New Site for the ICT Testing Accessibility Baseline

From the U.S. Access Board

US Access Board logoWASHINGTON – August 4, 2021 – Testing information and communication technology (ICT), including websites, for accessibility is essential to ensure conformance with the Section 508 Standards that apply to ICT in the federal sector. However, there are two ways to test webpages for conformance: manual review and fully automated tools. Often a mix of manual and automated testing is needed to fully evaluate most websites.  The results, however, may vary according to the test methods used. It is important that test procedures align to an established framework or “baseline” to ensure that the results accurately evaluate conformance with the standards.

In partnership with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the ICT Baseline Working Group in coordination with the CIO Council Accessibility Community of Practice (CIOC ACOP), the U.S. Access Board has released a baseline for testing web content. The ICT Testing Baseline for Web Accessibility sets minimum testing criteria and evaluation guidance to determine if web content meets the 508 Standards that incorporate by reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA. Issued by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, WCAG 2.0 is a globally recognized, technology-neutral standard for web content.

The ICT Testing Baseline describes how to evaluate conformance and is organized by categories to help users easily identify applicable requirements. The Baseline itself is not a test process and does not include testing tools, but it can be used to create an accessibility test process. It can also be used to assess how well an existing test process evaluates conformance with the Section 508 requirements.

For more information:

Read the entire news release

ICT Testing Baseline for Web Accessibility

U.S. Access Board Releases Report on Autonomous Vehicles

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board has released a summary report on its four-part series of virtual meetings on making autonomous vehicles (AVs) accessible to passengers with disabilities. The sessions featured presentations by invited speakers who shared information and research results on design considerations and solutions for making AVs accessible to passengers with mobility, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. They also provided an opportunity for members of the public to pose questions and to share information and ideas during the session or through an online discussion platform.

Use this link to read more about the summary report