March 27, 2019 is National Assistive Technology Awareness Day, a day to celebrate and recognize assistive technology (AT) specialists for their dedication to serving people with disabilities who need AT to meet their individual need.
AT enables people with disabilities of all ages to be included in their communities, in school and at work. AT devices and services are necessities for millions of people with disabilities. The availability of AT in the workplace supports self-sufficiency, work productivity and is critical to the employment of people with disabilities and older adults.
Serving the citizens of Maine since 1989, the Maine CITE Program offers services which help get AT into the hands of Maine people with disabilities, seniors, families, caregivers, educators, rehab professionals and therapists. Maine CITE also supports a large inventory with hundreds of AT devices available to explore and borrow. Maine CITE works with service providers including Spurwink ALLTECH, UMaine Farmington, CARES Inc and Pine Tree Society to manage the state AT inventory. For details go to AT4Maine.org
Across the country State AT programs, like the Maine CITE Program, support a wide range of services that include AT device recycling/reuse, device demonstration and loan programs that inform decision making and provide short-term loans of AT devices to individuals, employers, and public agencies. Maine CITE also provides information about AT funding, providers and training events.
Every day, new innovations help make life a little easier for older Americans, whether it’s video chatting with family or monitoring their heart rate with a smart watch. Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous transportation systems, the internet of things, and next-generation wireless networks hold significant promise for enhancing independence, safety, overall mental and physical well-being, and health of older generations. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is growing rapidly and may reach nearly a quarter of the population in the next forty years. With an aging population, the Nation must proactively develop strategies, tools, and recommendations to enable older adults to live healthy, independent lives for as long as possible. Accordingly, the Trump Administration has made finding and assessing potential solutions for an aging population a research and development (R&D) priority.
Today, the Trump Administration released a new report, Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population, identifying innovations that have the potential to improve quality of life for all Americans, particularly those who live with physical or cognitive burdens due to aging or disability. Importantly, the report also identifies the R&D needed to bring these innovations to fruition.
Drafted by experts convened from across the Federal Government by the National Science and Technology Council, the report highlights six key ways technology has the potential to help Americans live longer, healthier, and more independent lives. These include:
Key Activities of Daily Living. Technology could help older Americans perform many of the activities that comprise independent living, such as eating well, maintaining good hygiene, and managing medications. The report recommends key R&D to advance smart home technology and innovations that promote faster healing and safer, more accurate medication delivery.
Cognitive Skills. Cognitive changes are common during aging and can eventually affect one’s ability to live independently and safely. Further R&D holds the promise of advancing technology to help older adults monitor changes in their cognition, provide mental training to reduce the impact of these changes, and create systems that help individuals and families maintain financial security.
Communication and Social Connectivity. Older adults may face communication challenges as a result of hearing loss, social isolation, and loneliness, especially in economically distressed and rural areas. Technology has the potential to improve hearing abilities, and strengthen connections to family, loved ones, and communities.
Personal Mobility. To live independently, older Americans must be able to move around their homes and throughout the larger community with comfort and ease. Technology could help older adults stay mobile and safely continue to perform key activities necessary for day-to-day life.
Access to Transportation. True independence requires mobility outside of one’s home and immediate neighborhood. Transportation needs and limitations vary depending on how a person’s physical and cognitive abilities change with age. For example, some older adults may be able to drive but require vehicle modification and/or advanced technologies to assist them. New technology could also help older adults more safely and easily use public transportation. Additional R&D into assistive systems that help keep drivers safe and technologies that support easy access to public transportation will allow older Americans to remain connected to social, health, and business facilities.
Access to Healthcare. Routine access to healthcare plays a critical role in helping older adults stay active and independent as they age. The report highlights the need for enhanced R&D into technology that could help align and coordinate care, and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services.
In addition to the six primary areas listed above, the report recommends cross-cutting themes that are critical to the widespread adoption of new technologies among older Americans, including intuitive, user-friendly designs as well as addressing privacy and security considerations.
Getting these cutting-edge innovations into homes and communities will require R&D across a wide range of disciplines, spanning the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. But the potential is profound; Resilient, cost-effective materials could keep surfaces free of bacteria, innovative sensor and actuator systems could keep people comfortable during long periods in bed, new household robots could assist with food preparation, and much more. The Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population report not only identifies areas of technology that can significantly impact Americans’ quality of life as they age, but also recommends areas of R&D where public and private sector efforts can help bring those innovations to life.
Our Nation stands on the verge of truly transformational breakthroughs in technology that will shape all aspects of our daily lives for years to come. President Donald J. Trump has led his Cabinet in the expansion of rural broadband so older Americans in all parts of our Nation can benefit from these technologies. The Trump Administration understands that targeted R&D combined with the removal of regulatory barriers can lead to untold innovation and discovery. This report serves as a guide to the public and private sector to ensure aging Americans reap all the benefits of emerging technologies on the horizon. The rising tide of 21st century innovation should lift up Americans of all generations and all walks of life.
The RESNA ATP Fundamentals Course will continue offering public, private on-site courses, and online, instructor-led courses designed as a convenient, cost-efficient and effective way for busy AT professionals to participate.
Register for the courses in March of 2019 or use your remaining training budget to purchase training vouchers today for a seat.
This training course will help candidates review and refresh their assistive technology knowledge and help identify areas they need to study for the ATP exam.
Official RESNA course materials
Taught by a RESNA-authorized instructor and ATP
Collaborate with classmates
Real-world learning activities and scenarios
Access to online practice exam – complete with diagnostic scoring
Copy of “Fundamentals of Assistive Technology, Vol. 4”
The 16-hour curriculum will be covered over four weeks, consisting of eight 2-hour online evening class sessions. All class sessions will be recorded for easy viewing/reviewing over the duration of the class and for 90 days after the completion of the course.
March 11 – April 3, 2019
$650 – RESNA Member
$800 – RESNA Non-Member
Class size is capped at 45 students to allow for maximum interaction and knowledge transfer, so seating is very limited.
This new law requires federal agencies to modernize the websites and digital services they offer, according to eight specific criteria, including accessibility for people with disabilities. All federal agencies in the Executive Branch must already meet the accessibility standards of Rehabilitation Act Section 508, as codified in the Section 508 Rule published by the U.S. Access Board. However, 21C-IDEA is noteworthy for several reasons, including its emphasis on increasing agencies’ compliance with Section 508.
Within 180 days of the law’s passage, all new and redesigned federal websites must comply with the new criteria, and agencies must submit plans to Congress for how they will accelerate the use of electronic signatures.
21C-IDEA also requires federal chief information officers (CIOs) to coordinate with other executives and ensure that departments plan adequate funding and resources to execute these requirements.
The provisions include several significant requirements to make federal websites more user friendly, usable, and robust for all users, including a requirement that digital formats of all paper-based forms be available within two years. Under the requirements of 21C-IDEA, federal websites must:
provide a customized digital experience to individual users
maintain a consistent appearance
be fully functional and usable on common mobile devices
use an industry-standard secure connection
contain a search function that allows users to easily search content intended for public use
These user-friendly requirements overlap substantially with principles of Universal Design, and their use by federal agencies should help make federal websites easier to use for everyone, including people with disabilities.
On March 27, 2019 at 3:15 pm ET, John Brandt and Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles will present Assistive Technology and AEM: What School Psychologists Need to Know.
School psychologists play and important role in the IEP Team process, helping to identify students’ strengths and challenges based upon their clinical observations and psychoeducational assessment tools. In this presentation, designed for school psychologists, participants learn about the common forms of Assistive Technology (AT) used in schools and well as the how Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) is important to students with disabilities. Use this link for more information and to register for the March 27th webinar
Section 508 Best Practices Webinar: Accessible Content Shared Through Social Media
March 26, 2019, 1:00- 2:30 (ET)
Jennifer Dorsey, Social Media Coordinator, NIH National Cancer Institute
Gary Morin, Program Analyst, NIH Office of the Chief Information Officer
The use of social media by federal agencies has become widespread across the federal government. Agencies use social media to promote their mission and to engage members of the public. The next webinar in the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series will take place March 26 from 1:00 to 2:30 (ET) and cover how federal agencies can implement social media in an accessible manner. Representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will share their experiences in ensuring access to various social media sites and platforms. NIH maintains over 60 Facebook pages, 40 YouTube channels, 13 Flickr pages, and numerous Twitter accounts.
The presenters will provide an overview of social media techniques, address common questions, review access issues and solutions, and offer best practices and techniques for making content accessible on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube. They will also cover internal guidance that NIH has developed and other resources on the subject that are available. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the live webinar.
The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series provides helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to information and communication technology in the federal sector. This webinar series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the U.S. Access Board.
Note: Registration closes 24 hours before the start of the session. Instructions for accessing the webinar on the day of the session will be sent via email to registered individuals in advance of the session. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) and Video Sign Language Interpreters are available for each session and will be broadcast via the webinar platform. A telephone option (not toll-free) for receiving audio is also available.
Ben Jacobs, Accommodations Specialist at GA Tools for Life, and a gamer since childhood, doesn’t mince words about the significance of this release, “For a first-party company to acknowledge there’s a demographic they were missing and create a controller is amazing. Also, I can’t think of how to make this controller any better than it is.” In a recent article in the AT3 Center’s Monthly Blog, Jacobs goes on to explain: “The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) falls into the category of gorgeous AT. While its branding fits with other Xbox controllers, it is distinguished by two large responsive black buttons set in an elegant bone console. Jacobs stresses, however, that the central achievement of the XAC is how it works as a hub to allow for all kinds of customization.”
And, according to the touching video ad which shows a half dozen children using the Xbox Adaptive Controller, apparently it is a hit with kids. As one boy in the video says, “I love video games, my friends, my family and again video games…” The boy’s father, moved to tears, is later seen in the ad saying, “It’s his way if interacting with his friends when he can’t physically otherwise do it…”
For the AT techs and gamers, Jacobs notes the Controller houses 19 3.5 mm input jacks and two USB ports for switch accessibility to every function, a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to building a device that works within the existing AT ecosystem. He adds, “for gamers with motor disabilities, this is profound. The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s built-in buttons will work for some users (and the console is ready for mounting with three threaded holes), but the unit’s interoperability with third-party switches means individuals with an existing method of gaming on a PC can get quickly comfortable on the Xbox.”
“Whether it’s a head array or switches for use with a knee, however a gamer uses switches, they can use the Xbox controller,” Jacobs says.
Try Before You Buy
While the Xbox Adaptive Controller is reasonably priced at around $100 it is always great when you can “try it before you buy it” just to make sure a product is right for you or your family member. Fortunately, Kevin Good, Special Education faculty at the University of Maine Farmington and coordinator of the Center for Assistive Technology’s Collection of Assistive Technology (AT) at UMF anticipated this need and added TWO of the Xbox Adaptive Controller to the university’s AT collection. Supported by Maine CITE, Maine’s Assistive Technology Act program, the Adaptive Controllers are part of a statewide collection of AT that is available to all citizens of Maine. Information about these devices, and over 1,200 other assistive technology devices that are available to borrow on a short-term loan, may be found at AT4Maine.org the online repository for the UMF collection, as well as three other AT equipment loan centers in Maine.
We’ve included the video of the Xbox Adaptive Controller ad below on the chance that you haven’t seen it. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it.
As Owen, the boy in the video says, “What I like about the Adaptive Controller is that now everyone can play…”
A 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.
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.
The following appeal comes from Howard Kramer of the University of Colorado Boulder (email@example.com) and is addressed to university faculty and staff in the areas of computer science, digital media, environmental design or other technical or design-related programs…
We are contacting you because of your interest in web accessibility and Universal Design or because of your interest in teaching about these topics. As part of a grant project for Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula (UDUC), we are conducting a survey to gauge the benefits to students of taking college level courses that include accessibility and Universal Design topics.
Our goal is to have the survey sent out to current or recently graduated students by departments or colleges that have a focus on Computer Science, Digital Media, Environmental Design, or other technical or design-related programs. If possible, please ask your department or school to send out the student survey invite (see below) to current students and recent graduates (up to 3 years since graduation) from the program.
If this is not possible, please consider sending out the student invite to students who have taken and completed your courses; and passing along this email to fellow faculty (this can be any faculty within our outside of your university) who teach courses in the areas described above.
More information on the study can be found in the student invite below. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-492-8672.
Howard Kramer, PI, UDUC
[Student survey invite:]
The URL below points to a survey for students who have taken Computer Science, Digital Media, Environmental Design, or other technical or design-related courses.
The purpose of this survey is to gauge the usefulness of accessibility and Universal Design topics in college curricula. (Note: these terms are explained below and within the survey). All responses are anonymous.
Note your responses from the survey will not be shared with your school or with any other institution.
This survey is part of a project for Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula (UDUC). It is partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
If you have any questions, please contact Howard Kramer at 303-492-8672 or hkramer@colorado.
[/Student survey invite:]
Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s Assistive Technology (for example, a wheelchair or computer screen readers). [Footnote 1]
Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities. [Footnote 2]