News

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.”

Webinar on ADA/ABA and Recreation Facilities

From the US Access Board…

Upcoming Webinar on Recreation Facilities

US Access Board logoDecember 3, 2020
2:30 – 4:00 pm ET

The final webinar of 2020 in the Board’s free monthly series will take place December 3 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will review scoping and technical provisions for recreation facilities in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards (Chapter 10).

This session will address the requirements for:

  • amusement rides,
  • recreational boating facilities
  • exercise machines and equipment
  • fishing piers and platforms
  • golf facilities and miniature golf facilities
  • play areas
  • swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
  • shooting facilities with fixed firing positions
  • sports facilities.

Presenters will address common sources of confusion and frequently asked questions about these provisions. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board.

Visit accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register.

All webinars include video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits.

Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site. 

 

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

November 2020 Webinars

Maine CITE is offering the following webinar in November 2020:

Webinar: Automating Independence: Make your Smart Home Smarter!

Date: November 19, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm ET

Smart door locksIn this follow-up to last year’s webinar Smart Homes as Assistive Technology 101, Ben Jacobs returns with more information about the use of Smart Home technology as a way of improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Smart Home technology has made living independently easier for many people over the past few years. Being able to control your environment through smart speakers and smart phones has uncovered a new world of independence for so many people. However, through the use of sensors, button, schedules, and other smart home integrations we can make it even easier, almost to the point that your environment anticipates your needs as opposed to having to ask it to adjust all of the time. Join Ben Jacobs , Founder and CEO of RebelTech Consulting, as he shares information about how to set up various automations for existing smart home technologies to unlock the true power of the smart home.

Presenter: Ben Jacobs

Use this link for more information and to register for “Webinar: Automating Independence: Make your Smart Home Smarter!…”


The following list of November 2020 webinars on the topic of assistive technology and accessibility is generated by the Accessible Technology Consortia funded by the Center for Accessible Technology. Thank you.

Technology to Provide Services to People Living with Dementia and Their Caregivers during COVID-19 from NACRC
November 2, 2020 at 2:00 pm Eastern

Advancing Technology Keeps Pace with Changing Seating and Mobility Needs from ALSA (ALS Assn.)
November 16, 2020 at 12:00 pm Eastern

Maintaining Services and Supports for People Living with Dementia and their Caregivers during COVID-19 from NACRC
Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 2:00 pm Eastern

Personal Narrative Writing with Low and High Tech AAC from SETC
November 2, 2020 at 6:15pm Eastern

Administrators as Allies in Improving AT Services-Part 1 from AbleNet
November 3, 2020 at 1:00 pm Eastern

Testing Accommodations in the Age of eLearning from DJI
November 5, 2020 at 1:00 pm Eastern

Reading for All, Part 3: Creating Accessible Content with EPUB from NCAEM
November 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm Eastern

Administrators as Allies in Improving AT Services-Part 2 from AbleNet
November 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm Eastern

Switch Access to Literacy for Emergent Readers from SETC
November 17, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Bookshare from SETC
November 18, 2020 at 6:15 pm Eastern

AAC & AT Chatter: Shared reading and AAC from SETC
November 24, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

 

Voice-Enabled Innovations for Older Adults

Amazon Echo SpotLaurie Orlov has published another great blog about Voice-Enabled/Voice First innovations in the past year. If you don’t know Laurie, her website, Aging in Place Technology Watch, is a great source of information and news about everyday electronics and technology that help seniors live safely at home.

Published on October 6th, Five Recent Voice-Enabled Innovations for Older Adults 2020 cover some recent changes and new products. Here is a short part of her blog:

Voice-enabled innovation softly races ahead. Technology innovation announcements whiz by at what seems to be a breakneck pace. Consider Amazon’s Whisper Mode – “I think you just whispered to me – Sau ‘turn on’ Whisper Mode.” Not just for insomniacs, imagine its utility for the faint-voiced older adult wanting to ask a question. Or consider Apple Family Setup, which enables an Apple Watch to be set up and used without an iPhone, enabling texts, calls and GPS location. Or in-Car voice technology like Garmin Speak-Plus for directions without a screen (that’s a plus).

Here are five from recent times:

Amazon Care Hub. “Care Hub represents the next iteration of smart speakers, which have evolved from just playing music or providing the weather forecast, to enabling home security services and now supporting senior citizens at home. With Amazon’s Care Hub, users can receive notifications of their loved ones’ own Alexa interactions to monitor their activity throughout the day or ensure they have been reminded to take their medication, for example. A user can also “drop in” on a loved one by video calling them within the app. And most importantly, if a loved one uses their voice to call for help, Alexa will notify the user. (Alexa cannot call 911, but will notify the designated emergency contact.)” Learn more at Care Hub. Not yet released.

Amazon Guard Plus. “Guard Plus will add a more robust ‘sounds of activity’ detector, which will listen for doors opening or closing and other sounds associated with unwanted visitors. Second, Guard Plus will bring deterrence features, for instance triggering Alexa to play a recording of dogs barking if a security camera catches someone sneaking around the back of the house while you’re away. Finally, the Guard Plus will add a new hands-free emergency help line, run by a third-party company, to connect users to emergency services like police, the fire department or emergency contacts.” Learn more at CNET…

Read the whole blog, Five Recent Voice-Enabled Innovations for Older Adults 2020…

 

 

“Captioning Video” resources revised and expanded

Closed Captioning logoUpdated: 10/16/2020

Captioning video is a very hot topic so we are regularly updating this resource. Please check out all the new stuff and let us know if you have any other resources to add!

 

For many years, Maine CITE had provided a resource about captioning video content. The information was very popular and bookmarked by many. As the accessibility guidelines have expanded in recent times, we have expanded the “captioning video” resource as well and have updated information about resources where you can find software and services to help you make your content accessible.

Audio DescriptionWhere we initially discussed only the need to caption video, we have expanded the Captioning Video page to also include information about “description,” an accessibility requirement that makes video content accessible to people with blindness or low vision. We have also added information about how to create accessible audio-only content (e.g., “podcasts”).

Visit the newly revised Captioning Video (and more) resource…

 

CMS Announces New Federal Funding for 33 States to Support Transitioning Individuals from Nursing Homes to the Community

WASHINGTON – September 23, 2020 – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the availability of up to $165 million in supplemental funding to states currently operating Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration programs. This funding will help state Medicaid programs jump-start efforts to transition individuals with disabilities and older adults from institutions and nursing facilities to home and community-based settings of their choosing.

Today’s action delivers on the Administration’s commitment to transform Medicaid (PDF) by fostering increased state flexibility and innovation and to ensure safety and quality for beneficiaries.

“The tragic devastation wrought by the Coronavirus on nursing home residents exposes America’s over-reliance on institutional long-term care facilities,” said Administrator Seema Verma. “Residential care will always be an essential part of the care continuum, but our goal must always be to give residents options that help keep our loved ones in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.”

“Home and community-based care is not only frequently more cost effective, but is preferred by seniors and adults with disabilities seeking to maintain the dignity of independent living. This new federal investment will help states get our loved ones back home,” she added.

Today’s action is supported by new data that shows the need for this supplemental funding opportunity to accelerate states’ MFP activities.  According to a new report released by CMS today, MFP state grantees transitioned 101,540 Medicaid beneficiaries from institutional care to home-based and community services (HCBS) since the program started in 2007.  However, last year, only 4,173 Medicaid beneficiaries were transitioned under the MFP program – a 46 percent decrease from 2018.

Thirty-three states (including the District of Columbia) that operate MFP-funded transition programs and plan to continue participating in MFP after this fiscal year are eligible to participate: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Each state is eligible to receive up to $5 million in supplemental funding for planning and capacity building activities to accelerate long-term care system transformation design and implementation, and to expand HCBS capacity, such as:

  • Assessing HCBS system capacity and determining the extent to which additional providers and/or services might be needed;
  • Assessing institutional capacity and determining the extent to which the state could reduce this capacity and transition impacted individuals to more integrated settings;
  • Provider and direct service worker recruitment, education, training, technical assistance, and quality improvement activities, including training people with disabilities to become direct service workers;
    Caregiver training and education;
  • Assessing and implementing changes to reimbursement rates and payment methodologies to expand HCBS provider capacity and/or improve HCBS and/or institutional service quality;
  • Building Medicaid-housing partnerships to facilitate access to affordable and accessible housing for Medicaid beneficiaries with disabilities and older adults; and
  • Diversion strategies to prevent nursing facility admission.

In addition, states could use this funding opportunity to support HCBS planning and capacity building activities in direct response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as to plan and implement the use of telehealth for nursing facility transition activities that would normally be conducted in-person or to redesign service delivery models to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection among MFP participants.

Supplemental budget requests under this funding opportunity will be accepted on a rolling basis through June 30, 2021.  CMS will provide all eligible grantee states that currently operate a MFP-funded transition program, with additional information on this funding opportunity.

For more information, please visit Medicaid.gov