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

 

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 

Aphasia Caregiver Support Group Research Project

The University of Maine Communication Sciences and Disorders Program is seeking participants in an online aphasia caregiver support group as part of a research project. The purpose of the research project is to determine if caregivers of people with aphasia can benefit from participation in a telepractice aphasia caregiver support group.

People will meet with the group facilitator, guest speakers and other caregivers of people with aphasia from their home computers once a week for 12 weeks. Each meeting will last approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Participants will also be asked to complete online questionnaires before the meetings begin, after the meetings have been completed and 3 months later.

For inclusion in this study, participants must:

  • be (at least) 21 years of age
  • be the primary caregiver and communication partner of person with aphasia
    for at least 1 year
  • have normal or corrected hearing and vision
  • have computer, laptop and/or tablet
  • have high-speed Internet access

For more information, please call Dr. Judy Walker at 581-2003 or email: judy.p.walker@maine.edu

 

UMF unveils special ed master’s program with workforce needs in mind

Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center on the UMF campus.FARMINGTON, ME  (October 31, 2019)—The University of Maine at Farmington, a leader in teacher education, is proud to announce that it is offering a Master of Science in Special Education beginning spring 2020. This program offers pathways for undergraduate students, graduate students and adults working in the field to become certified special education teachers and help alleviate the serious workforce need in schools throughout Maine.

“Farmington has long been a leader in preparing well-qualified teachers for the classroom,” said Edward Serna, UMF president. “Deep-rooted in that leadership is UMF’s ongoing pursuit of how to best serve our students, local schools and the State of Maine, now and in the future. This new special education master’s program is a valuable next step in being responsive to the higher education needs of Maine citizens while helping meet the state’s significant workforce needs.”

The UMF program offers undergraduate students an accelerated 4+1 program, in which they can obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree in special education in five years instead of six. The program is open to undergraduate students enrolled in UMF’s bachelors in special education program or pursuing a 20-credit minor in special education at UMF. This gives students with a wide array of majors a pathway to certification as special education teachers.

For graduate students, many of whom are in the workforce already, the new UMF master’s degree program features a blended delivery model, offering course work that is 70 percent online and 30 percent face-to-face with in-the-classroom work on the UMF campus three Saturdays per semester. Unique in Maine, this flexible model provides working adults with the benefits of both online and in-classroom learning.

“While students acquire knowledge and skills through online learning, it is still important for them to have the interpersonal learning experience that a classroom offers in order to discuss, evaluate and synthesize what they’ve learned,” said Brian Cavanaugh, UMF assistant professor of special education. “This widely accepted best-practice model has students in the program interacting with faculty and course participants to personalize and enrich their learning.”

For adult learners who have already earned a bachelor’s degree, are working in schools, and are seeking Special Education 282 Certification in Maine, UMF offers access to the new M.S.Ed. in Special Education through its longstanding Special Education Alternate Route to Certification (SPARC) program.

Especially popular among people who hold a bachelor’s degree and are working in special education settings as Educational Technicians, SPARC offers a set of online courses taught by experienced Special Education faculty and professionals that leads to state certification.

UMF’s SPARC program includes 13 online graduate courses offered on a rotating schedule. Participants in SPARC must have access to students with disabilities in order to complete online course assignments and can elect to take only the number of courses they need to meet the 24-credit requirement for Special Education 282 Certification in Maine. Students who have successfully completed nine credits through UMF’s SPARC program are eligible for admission to the M.S.Ed. in Special Education program.

“Students in the SPARC courses have asked persistently for a master’s degree in special education,” says Erin Connor, associate dean for Graduate and Continuing Education at UMF. “When your students push you to develop their next educational experience, you know you are on the right track. SPARC has taught us about the strong need for continuing education at Farmington. I hope the community will continue to inform our thinking about what programming we can offer that will help them achieve their professional goals.”

The new Master of Science in Special Education program is also designed to provide students with the opportunity to specialize in areas of need within special education, such as assistive technology, inclusive education and leadership, low incidence disabilities or special education administration. This additional course work will be available through UMF or through collaborative options at other UMaine System campuses.

For more information on the new Master of Science in Special Education degree program, For more information on the new Master of Science in Special Education degree program, please contact the UMF Office of Graduate Studies 207-778-7502.

Service Animal Resource Hub

Man in wheelchair with dogThe ADA National Network has created a Service Animal Resource Hub that many of you may find helpful. All of the information provided is specific to either the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other federal laws.  Some states may have laws the expand the definition of a service animal and the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Multiple related resources can be found at Service Animal Resource Hub website…

 

AT Beta Testers Wanted – CaptionMate

Person holding smartphoneCaptionMate is a free app for your iOS or android device that allows individuals with hearing loss to read both sides of the conversation in real time. CaptionMate is the next generation IPCTS (Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service). It uses ASR (Automated Speech Recognition) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) providing unmatched speed and accuracy. CaptionMate also provides the first truly private IPCTS experience by removing the need for CAs (Captioning Assistant) & Transcriptionists allowing you to speak freely and openly without any awkward third-party operator on the call.  CaptionMate technology also stands out by providing captioning in 25 languages and a multi-platform system allowing you to view captions on several devices (smart TVs, mobile phones, computers, tablets) simultaneously.

CaptionMate is currently looking to recruit Beta Testers to use the app. Having individuals with hearing loss in real life situations allows us to gain feedback and make any needed improvements before the official public launch. If you are interested in becoming a Beta tester, please contact support@captionmate.com and mention the referral code (AT3Tester).

One last item, to ensure the accuracy & security of the beta trails we need to request that any testers do not work for, have not worked for, nor have any relations with people who work for the following companies:

  • CapTel
  • ClearCaptions
  • Innocaptions
  • CaptionCall
  • Sorenson
  • Sprint

For information about the product, please visit CaptionMate at:  captionmate.com

JAN Spring Newsletter published

Job Accommodations Network - JAN - logoThe Job Accommodations Network (JAN) has published their latest JAN ENews to their website.

Topics include:

  • The Path to Reassignment as an Accommodation
  • Giving Hiring Preference to People with Disabilities
  • Cognitive Impairment and the Interactive Process
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Not So Forgettable to Some
  • Can’t Ban Fragrances? Consider a Fragrance Free Zone

Other articles include events “E-Vents” and information from the JAN Blog and the Consultants’ Corner

Use this link to access the latest JAN ENews...

Partnership helps students with access

From the Franklin County, Daily Bulldog...Posted by Ben Hanstein

Robots connect UMF interns with K-12 students

Kevin Good and Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles with robotFARMINGTON – Interns at the University of Maine at Farmington have been working with students in Regional School Unit 21 this year, utilizing robots equipped with two-way communication devices in order to interact with their younger counterparts in Kennebunk.

Project Circuit is a new program supported by the Department of Education’s Maine CITE, an initiative aimed at improving access to assistive technologies for Maine students, residents and the elderly. Assistive technology is anything designed to remove barriers for a person with a disability – for students, this means improving their accessibility to programming. The UMF program is working with RSU 21 as that district is the first in the state to employ a certified assistive technology specialist, Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles. UMF interns are in instructor Kevin Good’s Assistive and Instructional Technology course, offered through the college’s Special Education program.

Good said that his course was designed to get future educators comfortable with technology like the telepresence robots. He tells his students that they are designers and makers, not just users of the technology.

“I’m pushing students to think through the process,” Good said. “I watch my students grow and change how they approach [new technology].”

The obvious use of the robot, which includes a two-way communication screen mounted on top of a wheel assembly, is to accommodate students that are unable to physically attend a class or event, Goldthwait-Fowles said. Students that are hospitalized or home-bound by an illness can continue to participate in their classes. However, there are potential uses for other disabilities as well. Students on the autism spectrum, for example, may not be able to attend a crowded event due to sensory overload. Educators may start by showing the student a copy of a class’ whiteboard, then move on to using the robot to allow the student to attend a class.

Beyond student-to-class usage, Good and Goldthwait-Fowles said, the robots also can allow others, such as the UMF interns, to work with K-12 students across the state. The system is on a secured network, Good said, but one that is globally accessible. This allows the UMF interns an earlier opportunity to work directly with K-12 students. At this point, Good likes to say, UMF can be anyplace it can send a robot.

“Anyone can access this and use this,” Goldthwait-Fowles said. While only RSU 21 has a full-time, on-site robot, others can be made available on a temporary basis for specific students.

Read the entire article at the Daily Bulldog…

UMF AT Program on Facebook…

Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”