News

UMaine faculty talk about assistive tech on national podcast

autonomous transporterUniversity of Maine researchers and faculty members, Nicholas Giudice and Richard Corey were recent guests on Assistive Technology Update, “a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.” The host of the show, Josh Anderson, is with the INDATA project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Giudice and Corey are co-founders of the  Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction Laboratory (VEMI Lab) at the University of Maine and recently were awarded a $300,000 grant from US Department of Transportation.  VEMI plans to develop a smartphone app that will provide the navigational assistance needed for people with disabilities and seniors to enjoy ride-sharing and ride-hailing, collectively termed mobility-as-a-service. The app, known as the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant (AVA), can also be used for standard vehicles operated by human drivers and enjoyed by everyone.

On the podcast, broadcast on March 26, 2021, Giudice and Corey discuss the grant competition and how the AVA app could  allow people with disabilities and seniors to achieve greater independent in transportation. Some of the challenges of the autonomous vehicle technology are also discussed.

 

April 2021 Webinars

Person engaged in video conferenceThe following list of April 2021 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.

AAC Talk (Using AAC Devices to Access Environmental Controls) from SETC
April 8, 2021 at 6:30pm Eastern

Communication Options for People With ALS from the ALS Assn.
April 19, 2021 at 2pm Eastern

Accessibility for Web Content Authors from ATAP
April 28, 2021 at 2:30pm Eastern

Diversity in AAC Apps from ISAAC
April 28, 2021 at 7pm Eastern

AT Chatter: Reading & Writing Support for Low Incidence from SETC
April 7, 2021 at 6:30pm Eastern

Proactive Interventions and Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders from AbleNet
April 8, 2021 at 12pm Eastern

Tools to Support Decoding, Word Identification and Spelling from SETC
April 13, 2021 at 3pm Eastern

Let’s Explore Writing Resources for All Students from SETC
April 14, 2021 at 6:30pm Eastern

Alternative Access For iPads and Computers from SETC
April 19, 2021 at 6:30pm Eastern

Google Chrome for Students : Part 3: Tools for Notetaking and Writing from PACER
April 27, 2021 at 3pm Eastern

Making Worksheets Accessible from SETC
April 28, 2021 at 6:30pm Eastern

Consideration: Resources to find AT Answers from AbleNet
April 29, 2021 at 12pm Eastern

Decision-making & Students Who Need Accessible Formats from AEM Center
April 29, 2021 at 3pm Eastern

Tech for Teens Club : Intro to Coding & Video Games from PACER
April 3, 2021 at 11am Eastern (90 min.)

 

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by mohamed mahmoud hassan

FEMA Provides Vaccine Resources and Information for People with Disabilities

Tablet showing the definition of the word "access"The Biden Administration has tasked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with managing set-up and operations for Community Vaccination Centers across the country. With other federal agencies, FEMA established a Civil Rights Advisory Group that developed a Civil Rights Checklist – PDF and Best Practice Information – PDF resource to provide states, territories, and tribes a list of civil rights considerations and resources to ensure equitable vaccine access.

“It is essential that people with disabilities have equitable vaccine access,” U.S. Access Board Executive Director Sachin Dev Pavithran remarked. “This means ensuring that strategies are developed and implemented with the integration of the needs of people with disabilities into the design of accessibility to the vaccine. I commend FEMA for making the necessary efforts in continuing to make the vaccine more accessible for people with disabilities.”

FEMA provides live on-demand American Sign Language interpreters at all federally supported community vaccination centers during each center’s hours of operation. FEMA also has civil rights and disability integration advisors in each of its 10 regions to advise state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and other partners, ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are integrated in all facets of vaccination center operations.  For further details on your region’s Disability Integration Specialist, contact FEMA at FEMA-Disability-Integration-Coordination@fema.dhs.gov

More information about vaccine supportequitable vaccine access, and ASL videos can be found on FEMA’s website. Find vaccine updates in your community and more information from your local health department. You can also find a list of places where adults can get a vaccine.

Maine Partners with T-Mobile to Provide Increased Internet Access to Maine Students

From the Maine Department of Education

HelpThe Maine Department of Education has partnered with T-Mobile to expand efforts to provide internet access and devices to Maine students through their Project 10Million initiative. If they choose to participate, the program provides mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices directly to school districts for student use.

“We are thrilled to partner with T-Mobile to continue providing opportunities that allow Maine students to stay connected to their teachers, peers, and school communities,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “The partnership helps to expand our own Connect Kids Now! initiative which supports Maine schools by providing internet connectivity through the pandemic.”

The Connect Kids Now! initiative began in the spring of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic when it became abundantly clear that technology resources were critical in closing the equity of access gap for continued learning for Maine students. In line with this these efforts, T-Mobile’s Project 10Million initiative provides the opportunity for districts in Maine to participate by signing up and choosing from three tiers of service which they can pass on to students at no cost: up to 100GB per year per device for free, or low-cost options for 100GB per month or unlimited data. Part of the commitment of the partnership will be to provide additional devices from T-Mobile over the next five years. T-Mobile will distribute these devices directly to districts and all student households with at least one student participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible for the program. The Maine DOE will look to include districts based on economic factors such as Title 1 schools, National School Lunch Program eligibility rates, and distressed county designations. Districts can complete an online interest form to participate in the program.

“Partnering with the Maine DOE helps us identify districts and students that will benefit most from Project 10Million and get them the devices and connectivity required to fully participate in school,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business. “We are grateful to be a part of the solution that Commissioner Makin and her team have put in place to make sure ALL students can access the resources they need to succeed.”

 

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Available to Eligible Families in April

From the Maine Department of Education

Neon sign with the words Hi Speed InternetThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted a “Report and Order” that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Benefits of the program include:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband services;
  • Up to $75/month discount for broadband services for households on Tribal lands; and
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per eligible household.

A household is eligible if one member of the household:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019- 2020 school year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The FCC expects the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to be open to eligible households before the end of April, 2021. Please check the FCC’s website regularly for the latest information. Once up and running, eligible households will be able to enroll through participating broadband providers or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

Many types of broadband providers can qualify to provide service in this program. The FCC is currently setting up the systems needed for providers to participate. Contact information for the providers participating in the program will be posted on USAC’s website.

For more information, the Report and Order along with the rules governing this program can be found at this link…

Making gaming accessible to visually impaired gamers

From Cool Blind Tech...

What is the software called and how does it work?

This new software is called Mars Vision (currently in beta) and it offers a technological solution to let all players who have low-vision or are visually impaired enjoy computer games. The application monitors gameplay in real-time and assists the player in navigating the game’s environment and menus. Using a neural network, Mars Vision doesn’t change the gameplay present in a game; rather, it translates gameplay so that the player has the information they need to immerse themselves fully in the world. The technology has been developed in partnership with visually impaired end users to ensure that pain points that are present in similar software are not experienced with Mars Vision.”

When is Mars Vision available?

Mars Vision is currently in closed beta and players who are interested in taking part can sign up here…

Read the whole blog entry – Super.com announces partnership to make gaming accessible to visually impaired gamers

Affordable computer equipment program in Maine

Android TabletsAccording to a news release, the National Digital Equity Center (NDEC) wants to help close Maine’s digital divide. In an effort to do so, the center is offering eligible Mainers free tablets for a year.

In addition to the tablets, free one-on-one tutoring to help users connect to the internet, and interactive online classes will be available to folks who want them. Classes range in topics from devices, internet safety, and using Google-based tools.

According to their website, the National Digital Equity Center has an Affordable Equipment Program that provides no cost or low cost devices to Maine Residents 18 years of age and older who are of low to moderate income. The “Maine Digital Inclusion Initiative” program promotes and advocates for Digital Inclusion. Included is the expansion of digital literacy services to traditionally underserved populations to provide job training/employment-related education as well as technology training to older adults. The program has engaged and trained digital literacy instructors to provide computer skills/digital literacy instruction to adult learners throughout Maine.

Program participants receive personalized support along a scaffolded learning path that leads to life-long learning and the skills and resources to continue growth along their individual trajectories. They also experience far-reaching meaningful impacts through use of internet resources.

Some areas of impact are education, financial stability, improved health, reduced isolation and increased communication, improved access to information, and increased civic participation. In addition to gaining digital literacy, formerly socially isolated participants often develop relationships with other peers they can rely on for assistance. Among older adults, this reduces the occurrence of depression, and negative health affects over time.

Through digital literacy efforts, communities benefit from a more highly skilled workforce that help grow the local economy and perpetuate creation of economic opportunity. Innovation and technology throughout the state will be leveraged to significantly improve the lives of Mainers. The project is one of the first statewide Digital Inclusion programs in the country.

Visit the National Digital Equity Center’s website for more information and to request an Affordable Device. The website also has information about Affordable Broadband Internet

 

FCC announces new program to help households struggling during the pandemic

The Emergency Broadband Benefit

Neon sign with the words Hi Speed InternetThe Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help households struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms.

About the Emergency Broadband Benefit

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?

A household is eligible if one member of the household:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

When Can I Sign Up for the Benefit?

More Information for Broadband Providers

The program is open to all broadband providers, not just those currently offering Lifeline services.  Participating providers will receive reimbursement from the program for delivering qualifying broadband services or devices to eligible households. Broadband providers can find more information about how to participate here.

Use this link to go to the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit page for more information…

Alpha One Driver Evaluation Services open for business again starting in March

Alpha One logoAlpha One Adaptive Driver Evaluation Services is currently accepting applications for driver evaluations and will start scheduling evaluations in March of 2021. However, as the situation is constantly changing, this is subject to change.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed how society interacts and daily work is accomplished.  To facilitate driver evaluation services and minimize exposure for the evaluators and students, we are adhering to the following protocols that were established by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles effective June 15, 2020:

At this time, we ask that only the student enter the building unless there is a medical or personal care assistance need. We will be limiting evaluations to one student per day.

Clinical Evaluation

  • Before coming to Alpha One, self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms 
  • Students and evaluators will maintain a 6-foot physical distance where able.
  • Students and evaluators will wash hands before and after the clinical evaluation. Hand sanitizer will also be available.
  • During the evaluation, students and evaluators will be required to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth. Alpha One will provide masks.
  • If a student is not able to wear a mask, we will be happy to schedule at a later date when this is no longer a requirement.
  • Alpha One will clean and disinfect evaluation space and tools before and after the clinical evaluation (per CDC guidelines).

Behind the Wheel Evaluation

  • Students and evaluators will wash hands before and after the behind the wheel evaluation. Hand sanitizer will be available in the vehicle.
  • Students and evaluators will be required to wear masks in the vehicle.
  • We are advised to keep windows open and use the vehicle’s vents to circulate air to the best extent practical.
  • Alpha One will clean and disinfect the vehicle before and after the behind the wheel evaluation (per CDC guidelines).

For more information or to make an appointment, please contact Alpha One Adaptive Driver Evaluation Services

Captioned Telephone Service Study

FCC logoThe following announcement come from the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA):

Many members of HLAA use a captioned telephone service, also known as Internet Protocol (IP)-based Captioned Telephone Services (IP-CTS). The Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) is seeking participants for an important study to assess current IP-CTS Telephone Services applications. This study is sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

IP-CTS allows a person with hearing loss to speak and listen to another party while simultaneously reading captions of what the other party is saying. The study will provide information to help determine the requirements for future captioned phone services. This study will assess the captioned phone services from the user’s perspective. Data collected will include captioned service performance and usability feedback from users. Participation in this study will be online.

QUALIFICATIONS:

To qualify for participation, one must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Be able to read English fluently
  • Have a hearing loss and use a hearing aid or cochlear implant
  • Have a computer with a web camera and an Internet connection
  • Are familiar with Zoom technology

AND

  • Use a standard telephone or a cell phone

OR

  • Have used a captioned telephone.

COMPENSATION:

$50 Amazon eGift Card sent by email

CONTACT:

If you are interested in participating or have questions about the study, please contact: Donna Easton: dlencr@rit.edu by email and add “Phone Captioning” in the email subject line.