Update of Accessibility Guidelines for Rail Cars

From the U.S. Access Board

US Access Board logoPublic Hearing on the Advance Notice on Updating the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Rail Vehicles
March 10, 2020, 2:00 – 4:00 (ET)
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Access Board is initiating rulemaking to update its accessibility guidelines for rail cars covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeks public comment on this effort. As indicated in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking it published on 2-14-2020, the Board plans to update provisions in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles that apply to vehicles used in fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, and intercity rail. The Board requests information from the public for its use in developing a proposed rule.

The Board intends to update these guidelines, which were published in 1991, according to an advisory panel it organized. The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee, which included representatives from advocacy organizations, transit operators, rail car manufacturers, and other stakeholders, reviewed the existing guidelines for rail vehicles and recommended how they should be updated to address accessibility issues, advances in technology, changes in car design, and other factors. The Committee’s report provides recommendations on provisions for vehicle communications, boarding and alighting, on-board circulation, seating, and rooms and spaces.

The advance notice discusses the committee’s report and includes questions posed by the Board. The Board seeks comment on both the substance of the recommendations from the committee as well as related questions about the feasibility or potential impacts on vehicle design, operations, and cost. It is also interested in research, data, and technologies on improved accessibility to rail vehicles.

Questions raised in the notice address coverage of new and remanufactured vehicles, variable message signs, hearing induction loops, vehicle ramps and lifts, car doors, between-car barriers, handrails and stanchions, wheelchair spaces, and vertical access in bi-level cars. The Board will use the information collected to draft a proposed rule which also will be made available for public comment.

The advance notice, which includes Instructions for submitting comments, is posted at (Docket ATBCB-2020-0002). Comments are due May 14, 2020.

In addition, the Board will hold a public hearing on March 10 from 2:00 – 4:00 (ET) that will provide an opportunity to submit comments either in person or by phone. Those who wish to provide testimony should contact Rose Marie Bunales at (202) 272-0006 or .

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Juliet Shoultz at (202) 272-0045 or for technical questions or Wendy Marshall at (202) 272-0043 or for legal questions.


State provides guidance on new Hearing Aid mandate

Regarding the recently passed and enacted legislation related to 24-A M.R.S. § 2762, a law which requires health insurance carriers in Maine to provide hearing aid coverage in all individual and group health plans, the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulations has published the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documentation:

New Hearing Aid Mandate, Effective January 1, 2020

Q: I have insurance and I need hearing aids. Does this new law mean my insurance will cover the cost now?

A: It depends on several factors:

Type of Insurance

The following types are required to provide the benefit:

      • Fully funded major medical policies, including ACA coverage;
      • Short-term limited duration policies

These types are exempt from all State health insurance benefit mandates:

      • Medicare products, including Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans (federally exempted by Social Security/Medicare);
      • Self-insured plans, except state or municipal governmental and multiple-employer welfare association (MEWA) plans;
      • Plans other than comprehensive major medical or short-term limited duration: accidental injury; specified disease; hospital indemnity; dental; vision; disability income; long-term care; other limited benefit health insurance.

Benefit Details, Deductibles, Cost, Networks, and Renewal Dates

Coverage amount:

      • Up to $3,000 per hearing aid for each hearing-impaired ear; and
      • Available every 36 months.

Deductibles: You should be aware that you could still be responsible for all or part of the cost if you have not yet met your annual deductible at the time you purchase a hearing aid.

Cost:  If you purchase a hearing aid that costs more than $3,000, you should assume you will need to pay the amount over the $3,000 out of your own pocket, even if you have met your deductible – unless your policy specifically provides a greater benefit.

Network:  You could also be responsible for all or part of the cost if you use a provider who is not part of your plan’s network.

Renewal dates:  If you have a group plan that is required to provide this benefit, but it renews later in the year, the benefit will not be included in your coverage until that time.

Q: I know I have hearing issues. Do I need to go to my primary care office before going to see a hearing specialist and getting a prescription for hearing aids?

A:  Whether you are able to self-refer to a specialist and whether pre-authorization is required to purchase a hearing aid would depend on your policy contract.  Check with your insurer and/or your employer’s benefits department.

Q: Will my insurance cost more because of this mandate?

A:  The cost of providing the new benefit is built into the premium and should be very minimal (the Bureau’s 2014 report estimated that the cost per policyholder could be $.47 per month).

If you have questions beyond this FAQ, please contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland’s Critical Home Repair

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland logoHabitat for Humanity of Greater Portland’s Critical Home Repair service helps low-income homeowners make needed repairs so they can live in a safe, healthy, and affordable home. This program is part of a Habitat for Humanity’s nation-wide effort to serve homeowners who are affected by age, disability or family circumstances and struggle to maintain the integrity of their homes.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland recognizes that new home construction is only a part of the solution for quality, affordable housing. The Critical Home Repair program is part of our broader community development strategy to transform and strengthen communities. It not only addresses the health, safety and affordability of the individual residences in neighborhoods, it also strengthens connections within the community and helps preserve affordable housing stock.

How it Works

The Critical Home Repair program requires an affordable payment from the homeowner for a portion of the repair costs. Applicants will be scored and ranked by level of need. Not all applications will be approved. This program serves homeowners in Cumberland County who have a household income below 80% of HUD Area Median Income.

Examples of Work to be Done

  • Roof leaks
  • Accessibility issues, ramps, etc.
  • Stair repairs
  • Structural work, not to include foundations

Work We Will Not Do

  • Mobile or modular homes (except ramps)
  • General cosmetic repairs, including but not limited to: flooring, painting, carpentry, etc.
  • Window replacement
  • Bathroom renovations or repair (only for accessibility)

Program Outline

Homeowners will apply by a deadline, and will need to demonstrate:

  • A household incomes at or below 80% of HUD median income
  • A Tax Assessment Building Value less than $200,000. They have paid their property taxes on time
  • They are current on their mortgage
  • They must own (name on title) and occupy the home and have lived in the home for over three years
  • Willingness for Habitat to conduct a credit check and background check on all residents over age 18

Scope, Costs, and Payments

Habitat will review the home for needed repairs and prepare a scope of work and price recommendation. Families will pay only a portion of the actual costs of materials and sub-contracted in-kind labor, based on their income. For example, if the materials and contracted labor are $6000, the family’s income as a percentage of Area Median Income will be the percentage of costs they pay. For example, a family of four making 30% of AMI ($23,000) will repay only 30% of repairs, or $1800. A family making $46,000 will repay 60% of repairs. Habitat will donate the balance of the project costs. Payment terms may be available.

For More Information and to Apply

Contact Molly Brake at / 207-772-2151 ext. 104 or visit the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland’s Critical Home Repair website 



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…

February 2020 Webinars

Maine CITE is offering TWO free webinars in February:

Webinar: Getting into the Drivers’ Seat – Driver Assessment Services in Maine

Date: February 12, 2020
1:00 to 2:00 pm ET

automobile with hand controlsEveryone in Maine recognizes the importance of having the ability to drive as it increases independence and gives people more freedom. For people with disabilities of all ages (adolescents, adults and seniors) driving can present many challenges.

In this webinar participants learn about the importance of driving for a person with a disability, the adaptive driving evaluation process, adaptive/assistive technology options, and information on installation and funding.


  • Heather Shields, OTR/L, CDRS
  • Ketra Crosson, OTR/L

Use this link for more information and to register for the webinar: Getting into the Drivers’ Seat – Driver Assessment Services in Maine

Webinar: Assistive Technology Resources for Case Managers in Maine

Date: February 18, 2020
Time: 1:00 PM ET

Join the presenters for an update and overview of Assistive Technology (AT) services and resources in Maine. Learn how AT can be effective in keeping people with disabilities safe and independent in their communities and about the Maine Medicaid AT funding opportunities. Case managers and other providers will learn how to best support clients in identifying the need for AT and how to initiate the referral process.

Attendees will learn about Maine’s AT providers, resources and funding: about common AT solutions to enhance functional independence in the community.


  • Christine Martin, MS, OTR/L
  • Kathy Adams, OT/L, ATP

Use this link for more information and to register for the webinar, Assistive Technology Resources for Case Managers in Maine

The following list of February 2020 (and a couple of March 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.

Social Media Accessibility from AT3
February 12, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Tools for Living: How Technology is Transforming the Experience of Independence from GrandCare Systems
February 21, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET (75 min.)

AT Accommodations & Assessment from SETC
February 3, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

AAC Considerations for English/Spanish Bilingual Users from SETC
February 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Consideration of Assistive Technology for Young Braille Learners from TSBVI
February 4, 2020 at 4:00 pm Eastern

Chrome Accessibility from SETC
February 5, 2020 at 6:30 pm ET

How to Use Speech Recognition as AT for Writing from DonJohnston
February 6 2020 at 2:00 pm Eastern

AT/AAC in the IEP from SETC
February 6, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

Empowering Writers with WordQ 5 Support from SETC
February 10, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

AT for your Child with Complex Cognitive Needs: Communication Supports from AbleNet
February 11, 2020 at 1:00 pm Eastern

Integrating AAC into the Classroom from SETC
February 11, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Advancing AT Processes AT Assessment from SETC
February 12, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

ATIA Recap from SETC
February 12, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Beyond Switch Training Activities from SETC
February 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

Using AAC to meet Literacy Goals in Elementary and Secondary Classrooms from SETC
February 18, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Exploration of AAC Devices and Tools from PACER
February 18, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

AT in Minutes: New, Cool, and Awesome Solutions for Students with Severe Disabilities (Session 1 of 3) from Idaho State DoE
February 18, 2020 at 6:00 pm Eastern (2 hours)

‘Appy Hour’ : Apps that Support Independence for Vision Loss from PACER
February 19, 2020 at 4:00 pm Eastern

Executive Function Series : Part 2: Executing the Plan – Time & Focus from PACER
February 20, 2020 at 5:30 pm Eastern (90 min.)

AT for your Child with Complex Cognitive Needs: Behavior Supports from AbleNet
February 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm Eastern

AT Chatter- AAC Implementation Strategies for the Classroom from SETC
February 25, 2020 at 2:30 pm Eastern

Creating Low Cost AT Solutions for Physical Disabilities from Idaho State DoE
February 25, 2020 at 6:00 pm Eastern (2 hours)

Aided Language Input: How to! from SETC
February 27, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

Assistive Technology for Vision Loss from SETC
March 2, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

Creating Low cost Assistive Technology Solutions for Reading, Writing, Learning and Demonstrating Skill Acquisition from Idaho Training Clearinghouse
March 3, 2020 at 6:00 pm Eastern (2 hours)

AT to Support Social-Emotional Development for Young Children from PACER
March 3, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

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


Tools for Living: How Technology is Transforming the Experience of Independence.

The following free webinar is sponsored by GrandCare Systems

Date And Time

Fri, February 21, 2020
1:00 PM – 2:15 PM ET

Program Description

woman using digital magnifierEvery day, 10,000 baby boomers are eligible for Medicare. Not only do 90% of today’s seniors wish to stay home for longer, we simply don’t have the physical capability nor can we afford to push the same traditional caregiving models. This is why professional caregivers and senior housing providers are turning to smart technologies to save on the costs of personal caregivers, enable independence, offset caregiver shortages and connect residents with family members.


  • Laura Mitchell, CEO of GrandCare, Principal at Laura Mitchell Consulting
  • Laurie Orlov, Analyst & Founder, Age in Place Technology Watch
  • Dr. Bill Thomas, Founder, the Greenhouse Project, Eden Alternative and Minka
  • Ryan Frederick, Founder & CEO, SmartLiving 360

This webinar will cover the technology ecosystem, housing models, technology in long term care vs. private homes, challenging caregiving norms and implementation best practices.


Use this link to register for the meeting and then,

Use this link to Join the online meeting:

Dial-in number (US): (425) 436-6399 Access code: 155680#

Online meeting ID: media644

Access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs

From the U.S. Access Board

Study Initiated on Equipping Passenger Aircraft with Wheelchair Restraint Systems

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board is undertaking a study that has the potential to advance access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs. As directed by Congress, this project will assess the feasibility of equipping passenger planes with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Having to transfer out of wheelchairs makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities.

The Board is conducting this study through the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). TRB has organized a committee of experts to evaluate the feasibility of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. Members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines. Committee members will evaluate the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the committee will then assess the wheelchair restraint systems that can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning.

The committee will hold its first meeting February 5 – 6, 2020 at the Access Board’s conference center. Most sessions will be open to the public and available by web conference. Those attending in person do not need to register in advance, but registration is required (free) to attend online.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on this project, the meeting agenda, and the committee.

Questions about the study can be directed to Mario Damiani of the Access Board at, (202) 272-0050 (v), or (202) 272-0066 (TTY). Inquiries about attending the committee meeting or registering for the web conference should be addressed to Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at or (202) 334-2401


State Independent Living Council (SILC) Listening Sessions

From the Maine Statewide Independent Living Council

Do you have a disability?
We want to hear from you!

The Maine Statewide Independent Living Council is seeking your opinion on the needs of people with disabilities throughout the State.

Not able to attend in person?

Sessions will be held at the following locations (see below) and also available by phone. There will be two videoconference sessions for anyone unable to join meetings in person. Please note, if the location is closed due to weather, it will not be rescheduled.

Special needs?

If you need an interpreter or any other accommodation, call or email Maine SILC, no later than one week prior to the meeting you plan to attend at or (207) 219-0391.

Public Listening Sessions Schedule

University of Maine – Machias 2/4/20 1:00-3:00 Science Building
116 O’Brien Avenue
Machias, ME 04654
Call: 1-646-876-9923
Enter code: 348 603 620#
Bangor Public Library 2/6/20 1:00-3:00 145 Harlow Street Bangor, ME 04401 Call: 1-646-876-9923 Enter code: 676 319 161#
City of Presque Isle Recreation & Parks Department 2/12/20 2:00-4:00 24 Chapman Road
Presque Isle, ME 04769
Call: 1-646-876-9923
Enter code: 216 930 675#
University of Maine – Farmington 2/19/20 1:00-3:00 Olsen Student Center 111 South Street Farmington, ME 04938 Call: 1-646-876-9923 Enter code: 909 317 998#
Bangor Savings Bank – Augusta 2/20/20 1:00-3:00 Community Room
5 Senator Way
Augusta, ME 04330
Call: 1-646-876-9923
Enter code: 398 195 242#
Alpha One – South Portland 2/25/20 1:00-3:00 127 Maine Street So. Portland, ME 04106 Call: 1-646-876-9923 Enter code: 806 437 996#
Videoconference 3/3/20 6:00-7:30 You need to download Zoom software prior to meeting For calendar invite contact
Videoconference 3/7/20 2:00-3:30 You need to download Zoom software prior to meeting For calendar invite contact


Please contact

Beth Mogan, Executive Director
Maine Statewide Independent Living Council or (207) 219-0391.


Assistive Technology Mini-maker Fair

Autism AwarenessDate: March 11, 2020
Time: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm ET
Location: Jeff’s Catering, Brewer, ME

This FREE event hosted by the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) is designed specifically for parents and caregivers, and includes a FREE Spaghetti dinner beginning at 5:00 pm, with the workshop to begin at 5:30 pm.

Workshop Description

This workshop is a bonus after-hours opportunity for families to learn about ways that everyday objects can be transformed into Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology (AT) solutions “on-the-fly.” Aiming to support caregiver recognition that high technology solutions for communication are not the only (or always the best) option families will be invited to participate in a make and take activity using everyday materials to support aided language modeling and to promote social interaction opportunities (e.g., recreation, literacy). Additionally, a brief overview of important things to consider in decision-making related to AAC systems will be offered.


Jennifer M. Seale, Ph.D., CCC-SLP,  is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maine. Her academic, research and clinical interests are focused on AAC science and practice. Dr. Seale has expertise providing AAC services to a diverse population, including individuals with Autism. Her research aims to inform AAC public policy, service delivery and product design using human computer interaction, interaction analysis and mixed-methodologies. She has presented her work in regional, national and international venues.


Jeff’s Catering
15 Littlefield Road
Brewer, ME


Use this link for more information…

Registration for this event is required,>> sign up today using our online form 

or by contacting Donna at MAIER: or 207-581-2468.