News

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…

Tech4Good Awards 2018

From E-Access Bulletin, July 2018…

From smartwatch wayfinders to robot farmers…

Tablet showing the definition of the word "access"Earlier in July, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards took place in London, showcasing everything from tiny farming robots to an innovative new way of contacting emergency services.

Now in its eighth year, the event was created by technology access charity AbilityNet to celebrate digital technology projects designed to improve people’s lives and benefit society. Entries can be new or existing ideas, and can come from anyone, such as a charity, business or individual.

In 2016, for example, nine-year-old Arnav Sharma won the Tech4Good People’s Award for his asthma-managing digital device, the AsthmaPi, while in this year’s event, projects from Microsoft and Facebook both made the finals.

Awards are split into nine categories, each highlighting a different strand of digital innovation: accessibility; connected society; young pioneer; ‘Tech4Good for Africa’; community impact; digital health; digital skills; digital volunteer of the year, and; community impact.

A panel of 23 judges from across the technology and charity sectors selected 28 finalists chosen from over 250 entries, while the final category – the People’s Award – was chosen by the public.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s winners.

The AbilityNet Accessibility Award was won by Be My Eyes, a free app for iOS and Android designed to help people with sight loss live more independently by assisting them in completing everyday tasks.

The app works by connecting visually impaired users to sighted volunteers via video link. The volunteers then answer questions from the user, who might want to know, for example, whether the date on a food expiry label has passed, or what a nearby road sign says.

An additional feature is ‘Specialized Help’, which lets companies use Be My Eyes to provide tailored customer service to users with a visual impairment. Users can contact the Microsoft Disability Desk directly through the app to ask for help with Microsoft products.

As reported in e-Access Bulletin earlier this year, Be My Eyes has announced a partnership with transportation app Moovit, to help people with sight loss use public transport around cities.

The winner of the Digital Health Award was TapSOS, a non-verbal method of contacting emergency services through an app. Designed primarily for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, or in a situation where it’s difficult to speak, TapSOS lets users set up a profile with their medical history, which gets shared with emergency services when the user contacts them. GPS provides a caller’s exact location to emergency services, making it easier to send out a response vehicle.

Small Robot Company won the Connected Society Award for their miniature farm robots, designed to automate elements of the planting, feeding, watering and weeding process on a farm in a lightweight, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.

The Water Watcher was the winner of the BT Young Pioneer Award. The device fits on to a tap and uses an alarm and timer system to alert users if the tap has been left on too long. Powered by a simple BBC Micro:bit computer (a winner in the 2016 Tech4Good Awards), the Water Watcher is particularly useful for people with dementia or dyslexia.

The Unlocking Talent Through Technology scheme, which provides solar-powered tablet computers and literacy apps for schools in Malawi, won the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award. Led by international development organisation VSO, the Unlocking Talent programme has reached 90,000 schoolchildren so far, and has been integrated into Malawi’s National Education Policy framework.

The Community Impact Award was won by MOMO (Mind of My Own), an app to help keep children and young people safe. MOMO encourages users to record thoughts, feelings and observations, which can help them communicate about difficult or dangerous situations which they might not feel able to discuss elsewhere.

A ‘wayfinding’ app for people with learning impairments was voted for by the public to win the Tech4Good People’s Award. WaytoB helps guide users who may not be able to fully operate other navigation or mapping systems. The app works through a smartwatch, giving users clear directions on a specified journey, and letting them know when to cross a road or which bus to catch, for example.

Crucially, WaytoB is used in harmony by a ‘navigator’ and ‘partner’, such as a family member or friend. Journeys are pre-programmed by the ‘partner’, who can track where the navigator is through the app.

The Digital Skills Award was won by Generation Code, a national scheme to help develop coding skills in young people around the UK. People aged 16-25 who already have coding knowledge are trained to become ‘Code Champions’, who then provide coding activities to people aged 11-19 in their local area.

The importance of coding was also recognised in the Digital Volunteer of the Year Award, presented to Anna Holland Smith. Anna is involved with a number of inclusive coding initiatives, including Manchester’s Codebar, which provides programming opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Read more about all of this year’s winners and other projects at the Tech4Good Awards website…


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Photo Credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by The Blue Diamond

Maine DOE Announces Award for Management of Assistive Technology

From the Maine DOE…

Maine CITE Coordinating Center logoAUGUSTA July 17, 2018 – The Maine Department of Education is pleased to announce that Maine CITE Coordinating Center has been awarded a grant to provide management of assistive technology (AT) services under the federal Assistive Technology Act of 2004 (ATA).

The Maine CITE Coordinating Center has served as the ATA Grant Manager since the federal law was enacted in 1989. Maine CITE oversees a statewide effort to get assistive technology (AT) to people of all ages with disabilities who need it through device demonstrations, device loans and AT reuse. Maine CITE also provides public awareness, information and referral, and training and technical assistance on AT.

Kathy Adams OTL, ATP the Director of the Maine CITE Coordinating Center said, “we are very pleased to be awarded this grant. AT can be essential in education, employment, community living and telecommunications. We renew our commitment to assisting Maine citizens with disabilities to learn about and get the AT they need and want to lead productive independent lives.”

Under this grant, Maine CITE will continue to support the needs of Maine students with print disabilities through the Maine Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Program as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004. The statewide Maine AEM Program works to improve students’ access to AEM and to facilitate the use of AT.

Jan Breton, Director of Special Services Birth – 20 said, “we are very pleased to continue working with Maine CITE which has demonstrated over many years its commitment to expanding and supporting the use of technology to assist people with disabilities.”

For details about Assistive Technology (AT) and the Maine Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Program visit mainecite.org or maine-aem.org.

For information on AT demonstrations and loans visit at4maine.org.

Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology in Post-Secondary Education

Accessibility pictogramFrom the Great Lakes ADA Center…

The Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology in Post-Secondary Education (QIAT-PS) project created a set of indicators to describe the characteristics of high quality AT services provided to students in Post-Secondary educational environments.

The indicators are divided into five general areas:

  1. Awareness and Eligibility -The Awareness and Eligibility area describes the steps programs take to make sure that students with disabilities are aware of AT services on the campus and know how to get access to them.
  2. Planning and Implementation -The Planning and Implementation area describes the things that programs do to make sure that students are able to use their AT devices as accommodations in classrooms and other campus settings.
  3. Evaluation of Effectiveness – Evaluation of effectiveness addresses activities that programs engage in to help ensure that their AT services are effective and as efficient as possible.
  4. Administrative Support -The administrative supports that are necessary in order to ensure continuity of program improvement efforts are described in this area. The indicators address the development of policies, procedures and other supports needed in order to maintain and improve AT programs at the Post-Secondary level.
  5. Professional Development and Training – Professional development and training describes critical features of AT training efforts for all staff and other key players in the AT program.

One of the primary interactive tools developed by QIAT-PS project is the Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix. The Matrix is a descriptive rating scale for each quality indicator. It is intended to be used for internal program evaluation and goal setting to improve AT services and supports. An individual or team using the tool chooses the indicator variation from 1 to 5 which most closely matches their program, 1 being a novice and 5 being expert or advanced. There is a notes section to add details about the matrix the score. With QIAT-PS, you can create a free institutional account that will allow you to keep multiple versions of your Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix results, create comparison reports, and generate an action plans to set goals and receive goal activity reminders.

Emily Hinton, Access Center for Disability Resources Manager at Waubonsee Community College in Illinois shared how her school has used the Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix:

“In the world of social service professionals, many of us are not numbers people, myself included. Much of our data is subjective and comes in the form of anecdotes and perceived trends. So, when I first became aware of QIAT-PS in December, 2015, I was intrigued by the possibility of a tool that could provide quantitative data. The tool also happened to coincide nicely with a newly developed team on campus that I was charged with leading, the Digital/Technology Accessibility Team of the the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). The AAC is a cross-functional committee that includes employees from a variety of areas on campus including Business, Operations, Student Development and Instruction.

“The committee first met December, 2013 and primarily focused on physical accessibility needs for our institution’s four campuses. In Fall 2015, the AAC identified that there were additional areas requiring accessibility review and the Digital/Technology Accessibility Team was formed as well a Policy, Procedures and Guidelines Team and Physical Accessibility.

“The development of teams allowed for participation from even more departments. The Digital/Technology Team includes representation from Information Technology, Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (training), Library, Bookstore, Educational Television and Marketing and Communications. This team worked to develop a three-year plan to address digital and technology needs for the institution and provided a framework of projects and tasks to be completed to improve accessibility. It is to this team that I proposed completing the QIAT-PS Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix. The team completed the matrix in Spring 2016, creating baseline data that showed what areas were the most lacking in assistive technology and accessibility and what areas we could easily move the needle. We were able to develop an Action Plan and incorporate it into our three-year plan.

“Fast forward two years to Spring 2018 and we completed the QIAT-PS Campus Self Evaluation Matrix for the second time. We were easily able to compare the matrices in our QIAT-PS account and identify that we had improved in 10 out of 25 indicators (40%)! Our goal is to continue using Action Plans created through the Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix to inform our ongoing three-year plan. It is an excellent way to keep momentum moving in accessibility improvements and ultimately result in a better student experience.”

To sign up for a free account and use the Campus Self-Evaluation matrix, visit QIAT-PS. Please contact Janet Peters at jpete@uic.edu or call 312-413-5931 to request an onsite training for the QIAT-PS tools.

“Captioning Video” resources revised and expanded

Closed Captioning logoFor many years, we have 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…

 

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:

Access Board Issues Correction to ICT Refresh Final Rule

US Access Board logoFrom the US Access Board:

On January 22, the Access Board issued a correction to its updated accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) to restore provisions on TTY access that were inadvertently omitted. The action applies to the final rule the Board published last January to jointly refresh its Rehabilitation Act (Section 508) standards for ICT in the federal sector and its Communications Act (Section 255) guidelines for telecommunications equipment.

The original Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines required that devices with two-way voice communication support use of TTY devices which provide text communication across phone connections for persons with hearing or speech impairments. In its ICT refresh, the Board had proposed replacing this provision with a requirement for real-time text (RTT) functionality, a new technology with significant advantages over TTYs. RTT transmits text in virtual real-time as each character is typed, whereas TTY messages can only be sent individually in sequence. Also, RRT technology is directly compatible with wireless and Internet protocol (IP) based networks.

In finalizing its rule, however, the Board chose to reserve the RTT requirement because the Federal Communications Commission had initiated its own rulemaking to address RTT functionality over TTY compatibility in IP-based telecommunication environments. In doing so, the Board intended to add the original TTY provision back into the rule, but the necessary language was unintentionally left out. The recent correction restores the TTY requirement with minor editorial changes for consistency with the new format and terminology of the updated requirements (Section 412.8). It also corrects a couple typographical errors in other sections of the rule. The corrections become effective March 23, 2018 without further action unless adverse comments are received.

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Timothy Creagan at (202) 272-0016 (v), (202) 272-0074 (TTY) or Bruce Bailey at (202) 272-0024 (v), (202) 272-0070 (TTY); email: 508@access-board.gov

New Family Guide on AT and AEM Published

Students using Assistive TechnologyThe Maine CITE Coordinating Center is excited to announce the release of the revised parent resource entitled, “Guide for Maine Families on Assistive Technology (AT) and Accessible Educational Materials (AEM).”

The revised Guide is for Maine families of children who have disabilities ages 3 to 21 years who are eligible for services and/or programs under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This guide will assist families to get necessary assistive technology (AT) devices and services and accessible educational materials (AEM) for their children.

Here is the link to a MS-Word document version for you to download and print.

Feel free to share the link with others and to download and print out copies of the Guide if you need “hard copy.” The digital document is fully accessible.

If you find information that is no longer accurate, please contact the Maine CITE Coordinating Center – we welcome your input.

AT4Maine – A New Service for Mainers who Need Assistive Technology

AT4Maine - Assistive Technology of All Maine PeopleThe AT4Maine website is a new service being offered by Maine CITE and four statewide Assistive Technology (AT) providers. On AT4Maine, consumers will find a wide range of AT devices and products available for a demonstration or short-term loan. AT is any device, piece of equipment or product that makes it easier for someone with a disability to live more independently and safely, work at a job, learn in school, get about their community or pursue play and leisure.

The AT4Maine inventory has hundreds of AT items available to people with disabilities of all ages. It includes communication devices, devices to aid daily living, devices to accommodate vision and hearing, tablets, mobility devices, adaptive computer switches, specialized software and apps.

The four AT providers are CARES, Inc., Pine Tree Society, Spurwink ALLTECH and, the University of Maine Farmington.

AT4Maine.org will enable individuals, families and caregivers to ‘try before they buy’…” says, Kathy Adams, the Maine CITE Program Director. “In the past year, over 600 Mainers were able to borrow AT and with this new website we hope to inform and serve more consumers”

The Maine Department of Education’s Maine CITE Program’s mission is to make assistive technology more available to Maine children, adults and seniors who need them. The program is funded by the federal Administration for Community Living.

Visit AT4Maine…