Aging in Place and CES

Senior using ATThe CES – Consumer Electronics Show – the annual technology event that features all the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets took place this year as a virtual conference. Billed as “the most influential tech event in the world — the proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators…” CES generally makes lots of news as new, and emerging technologies begin to hit the consumer electronics market. As we have mentioned many time during our Maine CITE webinars, increasingly, consumer electronics are being used as assistive technology and/or include accessibility features “burned in” that support people with disabilities allowing all users to have an equivalent experience.

Aging in Place Technology Watch, a great blog site and newsletter dedicated to technology related to allowing seniors to live at home safely and healthfully, is published by Laurie M. Orlov, a tech industry veteran, writer, speaker and elder care advocate. This week Laurie has a review of the CES as it relates to this population. Below we have included some of the highlights, but make sure you read the whole edition.

AbsoluteAudio’s PYOUR Audio Hearing 2.0. This comprehensive software suite is built up from a range of proprietary algorithms, destined at restoring speech understanding and best music experience for people suffering from hearing damage or hearing loss. It consists of AAL’s unique and unbeaten Advanced Noise Suppression, directionality algorithms, Instantaneous Wide Band Compression and Acoustic Feedback Cancellation. It is the only solution in the market that can support building hearing aids from premium consumer audio components, by pairing high quality hearing performance with extremely low power consumption and low memory usage. Learn more at Absolute Audio.

Aladin Smart Lamp. A smart lamp that hangs on the wall and anticipates and prevents falls of residents in assisted living and nursing facilities, Aladin uses artificial intelligence (not sensors) to detect changes in motion, temperature, and more. Its automatic lighting, built-in fall detector, and integrated monitoring system not only reduces falls but can decrease the stress on caregivers, allowing high-risk individuals to be independent again. Learn more at Domalys.

CarePredict TouchPoint. This product is a remote activity monitoring app for seniors. It provides caregivers with continuous insight and increased visibility into their loved one’s well-being. TouchPoint is the companion of another CarePredict product called Tempo, which is a wearable device, similar to a watch or wristband, designed to track subtle changes in a senior’s daily activities and behavior. Learn more at CarePredict.

FallCall Detect.  “FallCall Detect’s breakthrough technology distinguishes between falls with greater force that are more likely to cause injury and falls that occur from a sitting position. If a high-impact all is detected, FallCall’s US-based medical monitoring service is automatically contacted* and will send emergency services if needed. If a low-impact fall is detected, only a user’s pre-designated support community is contacted. For Apple Watch.”  Learn more at FallCall – PDF.

WellBe Medical Alert.  “HandsFree Health, rovider of WellBe®, a secure, HIPAA compliant, voice-enabled virtual health assistant platform, is offering the first fully integrated home health system for seniors to help them age-in-place. WellBe Medical Alert PLUS is an AI-powered system that includes both a voice assistant as well as a sleek smartwatch, connecting users with emergency services with their voice at home or via a watch button when on-the-go.” Learn more at HandsFreeHealth. 

 

Where can I get an inexpensive computer?

fingers on computer keyboardThis has been perhaps the most popular question received at Maine CITE over the past 10 months. A byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic has been high demand for information technology (IT) particularly free and low-cost options. From students learning from home, to patients visiting their doctors via Zoom, to isolated seniors looking to connect with friends and family, the need for computers and IT has become phenomenal.

While for many, personal technology at home is commonplace, for many others, including seniors on fixed incomes and people with disabilities, the costs are prohibitive. Fortunately, there are several options for getting Maine people low-cost, recycling technology.

As part of our Maine CITE Equipment Reuse resource webpage, we have listed numerous programs and organizations that may be able to help Maine citizens get inexpensive, used assistive technology (AT). Here is a summary of programs that specialize in the recycling of computers and information technology equipment:

Give IT Get IT

Probably the best resource in Maine is Give IT Get IT a nonprofit organization that helps eligible individuals and nonprofit organizations get access to fast, high-quality computers – and outstanding user support – at the lowest cost possible.

The Waterville-based nonprofit formed last year out of a merger between PCs for Maine and eWaste Alternatives and has increasing its capacity to recycle retired technology devices from Maine businesses, refurbish them, and distribute them to “technologically isolated” Mainers.

Give IT Get IT can provide information technology equipment to eligible individuals or non-profit organizations including schools and libraries at costs well below market-value. Eligibility to purchase equipment is based upon family size and household income – see/download this link for details – PDF

Give IT Get IT does have a Sponsorship program which will provide computers to needy individuals for free, but the waiting list for these is quite long.

Qualified persons with disabilities may be able to get funding for this equipment through a MaineCARE assistive technology waiver, through vocational rehabilitation, or other insurance. Please check with your funder before contacting Give IT Get IT.

Both laptop and desktop computers are available and come with MS Windows 10 installed (Note: Laptops are more expensive than desktops). Prices start at $95.00 for a basic desktop and range up to $330 for an advance laptop.

All the computers recycled by Give IT Get IT are commercial grade and three years old or newer. There are three pricing levels based upon the device specifications. All devices also come with preinstalled basic software; the advanced devices come with more memory, processor speed, to accommodate advanced software needs. Some of the latest equipment come with web cameras and are ready for video conferencing or on-line learning.

In addition to computers, Give IT Get IT also sells refurbished, low-cost monitors, surge protectors, ethernet cable, headsets, and laptop docking stations. Devices may be shipped to your location for a fee: $38 for desktops, $22 for laptops. Devices may also be picked up for free from their Waterville location.

All devices come with a six-month warranty by Give IT Get IT and all devices can be returned within 15 days for a complete refund.

Free phone support and online training is also available. Call (207) 338-4233 if you have any questions.

Give IT Get IT
60 Industrial St.
Waterville, ME

Phone: (207) 338-4233

Website: giveitgetit.org/

Email: info@giveitgetit.org

PCs for People

Founded in 1998, PCs for People is a national leader in digital inclusion. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, every project, program, and initiative at PCs for People is centered on getting low-cost computers and affordable broadband internet into the homes of low-income individuals.

PCs for People provides services to both individuals and businesses looking to acquire or dispose of technology. Any family or individual receiving government benefits or living below 200% of the federal poverty line is eligible for services (please see website for specific eligibility criteria and documentation requirements). In addition to the services offered directly to families, PCs for People offer free recycling and data sanitization services to corporations. PCs for People’s corporate recycling services are extremely simple, cost efficient, helps those in need, and is a better alternative to traditional recycling.

PC for People operates from seven locations in six states (unfortunately, none in Maine) but all their devices, including desktop computers, laptop computers, and internet “hotspots” may be purchased online and delivered with free shipping. All computers are MS Windows 10, come with a 90-day warranty and may be returned or exchanged within 30 days (note: restocking fee may be charged for returns).

PCs for People
1481 Marshall Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104

Phone: (654)354-2552

Website: pcsforpeople.org/

Email: info@pcsforpeople.org

Other Resources

In addition to these two programs, there are numerous businesses and organizations that provide similar recycling programs around the country. The following is a partial list of similar programs that resell refurbished information technology equipment:

 

 

Rules Proposed to Improve Access to Vehicles for People with Disabilities

automobile with hand controlsThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released for public comment a proposed rule to improve access to motor vehicles, including rental cars, for people with disabilities. The rule proposes changes to NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard to facilitate the use of adaptive equipment in rental cars and to simplify vehicle transport of wheelchairs and scooters.

Federal law generally prohibits making a vehicle’s safety features inoperable. One proposed change would permit rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver’s air bag to install hand controls. In an accident, the deployment of the knee bolster air bag can result in the hand controls hitting and injuring the driver. A second proposed change would allow installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and scooters. These transporters may obstruct the view of a vehicle’s backup camera.

Public comments are due January 27, 2021. For further information, visit DOT’s website or contact Gunyoung Lee of NHTSA Office of Crash Avoidance Standards at (202) 366-6005, Daniel Koblenz of NHTSA Office of Chief Counsel at (202) 366-5329, or David Jasinski at (202) 366-5552.

 

US Access Board Announces Schedule for Public Forum on Autonomous Vehicles

From the U.S. Access Board...

autonomous transporterDecember 17, 2020 – In partnership with other federal agencies, the U.S. Access Board will host a series of virtual meetings in March and April on making autonomous vehicles (AVs) accessible to all passengers, including those with disabilities. The sessions will be free and open to the public via a virtual platform (Zoom). Attendees will be able to pose questions and share comments, suggestions, and information.

The four-part series will feature presentations by agency representatives and invited speakers who will discuss considerations, challenges, and solutions in designing AVs that are inclusive of everyone. Presenters will also review findings and recommendations, identify areas for further study, and recommend next steps. An open dialogue with attendees will follow. In addition, an online crowdsourcing platform (ePolicyWorks) will provide a forum for continued discussion after each live session.

Further details will be provided and posted on the Board’s AV webpage in the coming weeks. Direct questions to Randall Duchesneau III at duchesneau@access-board.gov or (202) 272-0044.

Inclusive Design of Autonomous Vehicles: A Public Forum

Accessibility for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities: Entering and Exiting Vehicles
March 10, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET)

Accessibility for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities: Maneuvering and Securement in Vehicles
March 24, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET)

Communication Accessibility for Passengers with Sensory or Cognitive Disabilities
April 7, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET)

Findings, Recommendations, Future Research, and Suggested Next Steps
April 21, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET)

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Pixabay

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…

 

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.”

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