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”

UMF Educator Preparation Program receives national and state accreditation

Loraine Spenciner
The late Lorraine Spenciner for whom the AT Library is named, shown her holding a modified keyboard.

FARMINGTON, ME —The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) educator preparation program is proud to announce that it has received national accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). UMF is the first institution in the state of Maine to meet the new, rigorous national accreditation standards. UMF has also received full approval for state accreditation, including several commendations, from the Maine State Board of Education.

A longtime leader in Maine and one of the premier teacher education programs in New England, the UMF program has been noted for providing pre-service teachers with a unique educational experience that maximizes career preparation and post-graduation success.

The CAEP review recognized the UMF program for providing students with effective learning opportunities in and out of the classroom that help prepare them for a career in teaching. The UMF program passed the rigorous peer review on all five CAEP standards, which are based on the principles that its graduates are competent, caring educators and its faculty have the capacity to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs.

CAEP is the sole nationally recognized accrediting body for educator preparation. UMF’s accreditation runs from 2018 to 2025.

Notably, CAEP recognized UMF for its strong relationship with the community and how this mutual commitment enriches the student experience through activities, resources and support for educational improvement. In addition, the review applauded the UMF teacher preparation program for the quality of its candidates from recruitment through certification.

UMF’s teacher preparation program provides students with field experience, early and often, with student teaching, practicum and internships boasting an average of 329 students in formal placements in schools around the state annually.

These experiences prepare educators for the real classroom and create a statewide demand for UMF graduates while helping to support educational partnerships at more than 130 Maine schools annually, not including early childhood and infant centers.

According to UMF’s 2018 teacher education unit alumni survey, 84 percent of respondents indicate being employed as a teacher in the field and a majority being hired within one year of graduation. In addition, 98.9 percent of graduates responding to the survey said they were very satisfied or satisfied with the UMF program.

In its overall approval of the UMF program, the Maine State Board of Education also commended UMF for its commitment to staff its educator preparation program with full time faculty. It observed that UMF is unique in the fact that all field supervisors who mentor and oversee pre-service teachers in schools around the state are full time faculty that can model the best in professional practices.

The Maine review also commended UMF for its dedication to assistive technology within the Spenciner Curriculum Materials Center. The center, connected to the Maine Department of Education’s Maine CITE Program, houses an extensive collection of assistive technology devices such as adaptive gaming controllers and 3-D printers that are available to loan to students, educators and the general public.

These resources can help all children, including those with disabilities, succeed in the classroom. The report noted the facility is “a remarkable resource for the students, faculty, and the larger community encouraging inclusive practice with state of the art materials and equipment.”

More on University of Maine at Farmington

A nationally recognized public liberal arts college, UMF enjoys a 150-year tradition of providing a quality academic experience combined with the personal attention and close student / faculty collaboration that help prepare all students to be successful. Rooted in a tradition of teacher preparation, UMF offers top quality programs in the arts and sciences, teacher preparation, and business and pre-professional studies. UMF is located in the heart of Maine’s four-season outdoor recreational region and is a welcoming, close-knit academic community that prepares students for engaged citizenship, enriching professional careers and an enduring love of learning.

JAN’s 2018-2019 Monthly Webcast Series

Job Accommodations Network - JAN - logoIt’s free! It’s from JAN! And you are among the first to know!

It’s time for you to register for JAN’s 2018-2019 Monthly Webcast Series. Huddle up with the experts and refine the way you resolve accommodation situations. You wanted more information on job accommodations for motor, sensory, psychiatric, and cognitive issues. We are bringing this to you and more. Topics will also address disability inclusion, assistive technology basics, third-party vendors and accommodations, executive functioning accommodations in self-employment, wearable technology, and current events. You also don’t want to miss an annual update on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Join JAM for an hour each month, receive a certificate of participation, and get your questions answered.

Use this link for more information and to register for these events…

Work & Benefits Navigator Training Available

From MaineHealth Educational Services and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services…

A person receiving Social Security disability benefits or SSI has likely been told they can’t work, or if they do work that they should limit their hours. They may believe they can’t work. They may have limited work experience or education. And likely they fear losing their financial and medical safety net if they try to work.

How can a service provider encourage work for a consumer who is living this experience? What is a social service provider to do in this “Employment First” state, especially without experience in employment services?

Join a session to learn what “Work and Benefits Navigation” means, and how you can be an employment champion for your clients and your agency.

As case managers, community integration workers, DSPs, residential staff, or others with a supporting role in the life of a person with a disability, you have a critical role in the employment success of the individuals you serve.  Work and Benefits Navigation training will equip you with information, skills, and resources you need to challenge myths about work and benefits and encourage employment.

Training will be provided by Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs) from Maine Medical Center’s Department of Vocational Services.  They have many years of experience in assisting people with navigating Social Security’s return-to-work rules, and encouraging them – and those who play a supporting role in their lives – to think about earnings and work in a new way.

Use this link for more information and to register for the training programs…

Spurwink ALLTECH opens store in Portland

Website Launch and Store Opening

Spurwink-ALLTECH logoSpurwink ALLTECH has announced the re-opening of the Assistive Techology Equipment Reuse and Loan Store in Portland and the launch of the new website spurwinkalltech.org.

Equipment Reuse

The new Portland location at 892 Riverside Street, offers consumers access to gently-used recycled durable medical equipment at a much-reduced cost, as well as short-term loans of Assistive Technology equipment. Some items available for purchase or loan include scooters, wheelchairs, canes, and bath chairs.

The Assistive Techology Equipment Reuse and Loan Store, which  was previously located in Bangor, also accepts donations of gently-used durable medical equipment to be cleaned and repaired and offered to consumers.

Demonstration/Loan

The Portland store will also house ALLTECH’s assistive technology demo and loaner program. With over 140 AT devices in the inventory, the demo/loan program allows Mainer to try before they buy.

 

Store Location

892 Riverside Street
Portland, ME 04103

Store hours are:

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Friday, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Wednesday, Closed

For more information, please call at 207-535-2017 to ask any questions.

New Website

For additional information about ALLTECH’s recycle and reuse program, AT demo and loaner program, or about additional services that ALLTECH offers, please visit the new website at spurwinkalltech.org

 

AFARI Mobility Device featured in exhibit

AFARI deviceNews from the University of Maine’s Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS)…

The AFARI Mobility Device, co-invented by CCIDS professors Elizabeth DePoy and Stephen Gilson, is part of the current Access+Ability exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.

Here are links to some recent articles about the exhibit and/or AFARI:

AT helps Maine orchard grow

AgrAbility logoThe Sun Journal recently published an article about the Pietree Farm in Sweden, Maine describing how the Maine AgrAbility project helped Stephen and Tabitha King make the farm more accessible so their daughter Naomi (who has a progressive muscular disorder) could continue to work.

The article notes, “King was adamant about making the whole farm accessible — not just for herself but for anyone who might like to visit the farm. She understood, better than most, how alienating it can be for a person with limited mobility to visit businesses, even those that claim to be accessible, only to find a ramp leading to a 6-inch step, or a bathroom with a trash can blocking the way where a wheelchair might need the space to maneuver.”

Quoting from the article:

“Maine AgrAbility is a nonprofit collaboration among the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries Northern New England and Alpha One. A grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds the program that came into existence through the 1990 Farm Bill. The first eight state programs received funding in 1991. As funding increased, more state programs were added across the US.

“Maine was first funded as part of a tri-state effort with New Hampshire and Vermont in 1996. In 2010, Maine was awarded single state funding to address the needs of Maine farmers and farm workers. Lani Carlson is the Maine AgrAbility project coordinator.”

Read the whole article on the Sun Journal website…

Learn more about the Maine AgrAbility Project…