ATIA Offers More Free Webinars

ATIA, the Assistive Technology Industry Association, has announced that because of the COVID-19 outbreak they will be offering an additional series of free webinars:

At Home Instruction with Boardmaker Activities-to-Go

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
12:00 pm EDT

with Ashlyn Hudson, M.ED, MOT

Looking for activities to maximize student learning at home? Dive into Boardmaker Activities-to-Go, a collection of free, printable, thematic activities that support K-12 students, build world knowledge, and teach functional life skills. In this course, we will explore the ease of using Boardmaker Activities-to-Go to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Enabling Telespeech Therapy with Avaz Live

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
2:30 pm EDT

with Narayanan Ramakrishnan and Arbaaz Gowher

This presentation will be a demo of how Avaz Live, a feature inbuilt on the Avaz AAC app can enable remote speech therapy between an SLP/SPED teacher and a child. With this, a therapist is able to practice sentences, add vocabulary & modify settings of the child’s iPad with a remote connection, along with a video interface that allows the therapist to see if the child is practicing the sentences after them.

COVID-19 Communication Supports and Resources

Thursday, May 7, 2020
12:00 pm EDT

with Karen Rodgers, MS CCC-SLP

Join us as we showcase specific tools to support communication about the COVID-19 virus and the unique circumstances involved. Tools and resources vary and include how to support a communicator with COVID-19 to resources to how to support new circumstances from learning at home.

Supporting Communication in the Home Setting: Language & Literacy

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
12:00 pm EDT

with Lisa Geary M.S., CCC-SLP

In this session, we will explore language and literacy strategies, tools, and resources that can be used in the home setting. This training will focus on supporting communication and literacy using a core vocabulary approach, and will cover specific ideas for targeting core words through functional, motivating activities. In addition, free, downloadable resources from Tobii Dynavox will be featured including the Core First Learning book series and core vocabulary boards.

Innovative Approaches to Providing AT Services During COVID-19

Thursday, May 14, 2020
12:00 pm EDT

with Therese Willkomm, PhD

Explore innovative ways to provide remote assistive technology devices and services to individuals with disabilities. This webinar will discuss and demonstrate at least 10 different ways of providing virtual services including hands-free tablet and phone holders; services for blind and low vision; hands-on Virtual Makers Workshops and more.


Audio Description Project Announces Call for Nominations

This announcement comes from the American Council of the Blind:

The Audio Description Project (ADP) is a wide-ranging audio description promotion and production initiative with goals that include:

  • building advocacy on behalf of audio description;
  • offering a range of educational resources and working to establish nationally acknowledged user-focused guidelines for quality description in its various genres as well as a professionally recognized certification program for audio describers;
  • encouraging growth of audio description with an emphasis on the involvement of AD users/consumers, especially youth;
  • disseminating information on audio description and provide general support for regional, state, and local forums;
  • encouraging studies on audio description particularly with respect to its efficacy as a technique for conveying visual images and its impact on literacy for children and others.

One part of the project involves the recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of audio description.

The call for nominations ends on Friday, May 29, 2020, with winners announced during a plenary general session of the American Council of the Blind Conference and Convention Tuesday morning, July 7, 2020 (the 2020 Conference and Convention sessions will be held virtually this year via ZOOM and also broadcast on ACB Radio).

Nomination material, criteria and more information follows and is also available on the American Council of the Blind’s website.


Corona Virus Statistics Website Accessible for the Blind and Partially Sighted

From Cool Blind Tech:

A Boston-based software developer wanted to make COVID-19 stats accessible

He created a website that would be easily readable by electronic braille readers and other assistive devices used by the blind and partially sighted.

Tyler Littlefield, a software developer based in Boston, has created a database of COVID-19 statistics meant to be accessible to the visually impaired.

Called, the site organizes up-to-date COVID-19 data in simple charts specifically designed to be legible to a range of aid devices the visually impaired use to access websites.

For Littlefield, and many other people with visual impairments, trying to stay updated during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge because many of the commonly shared charts and graphs are inaccessible, including those from the CDC and Department of Public Health.

“For many people with various types of disabilities, graphics and the information conveyed in them is hard to read and understand,” Littlefield told Vice.

“I believe in the idea of open data, data that everyone can access to help make informed decisions. Finding this lack, I created CVStats to present the data to users in a straightforward way, free of ads, click-through news articles and graphics.”

One of the main obstacles in making COVID-19 information more accessible are the conventions of modern web design. With a profusion of autoplay videos, pop-up windows, and animated inserts, many modern websites make it difficult for braille embossers to scan a webpage and convert its content into a braille printout.

“Clutter is the enemy of tactical legibility,” Naomi Rosenberg of the accessibility firm Lighthouse told Vice.

“For each of these, a blind reader is at the mercy of the designer, writer, or educator to produce quality graphics, concise image descriptions, or properly formatted tables,” Rosenberg said.

One possible alternative to visual graphs are ‘sonification curves,’ which translate graph lines into rising and falling sounds to try and convey a similar sense of magnitude, something that an aid device won’t be able to do without simple and accessible data.

Another challenge, according to Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, is that many healthcare facilities don’t post clear or accessible information about their policies.

For instance, some drive through testing sites only allow private vehicles, not taxis or other commercial vehicles, which would be important for a visually impaired person who can’t drive themselves to know before planning a visit.

“The moment that I heard everything was going drive-thru I kind of had a cringe moment because, other than in the hospital, there’s really no other way to access that testing, and for many in our community, including myself, who are immunocompromised, that puts us at a much higher risk,” Outwater-Wright said.

“We don’t get the benefit of staying in our car, we don’t get the benefit of trying to continue to social distance. We have to go in.”

For more information see Motherboard on…

ZoomBombing and What You can Do to Make Your Zoom Meeting Safer

I was asked to talk about recent security concerns regarding the videoconferencing application Zoom and prepared the following. – John Brandt

Take a Deep Breath

The new term, ZoomBombing, was coined just a few weeks ago and the concern and social media rant about the security of the world’s most popular videoconferencing application has since, pardon the expression, gone viral.

My reaction to the news has been to slowly and carefully tell everyone who has asked to take a deep breath and try not to overreact.

Here’s what happened.

Someone reported on social media that during one of their Zoom Meetings someone “uninvited” came in and “took” over the room. Within minutes numerous other reports were made on other social media platforms, and within hours the term ZoomBombing was born. The term is an adaptation from the term PhotoBombing in which someone intentionally or unintentionally appears in one of your photographs. While that term appears to have its origins in the late 2000s, someone correctly stated in one description that photobombing has probably been around as long as photography.

Within days, concerns were raised by writers of technology news, as well as journalists that resulted in folks digging deeper. These sources soon found other “security issues” and on March 30th the FBI was making announcements and sending out warnings. Apparently, things were getting out of hand; emphasis “apparently.” Within a few more days editorials and articles with headlines like “‘Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort” appeared in the New York Times.

Zoom Technologies Reacts

I’m reminded of the scene in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, when there’s are run on the bank and one of the characters asks, “How does something like this happen…?” Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, gravely concerned that his fragile “Building and Loan” will teether as well, wisely replies, “How does anything like this ever happen…?”

How this security nightmare happened is not important. What is important is the response.

Let us remember that in early February 2020, Zoom was a widely popular videoconference platform deftly designed to allow businesses and organizations to communicate with their staff and employees in an open and easy-to-use desktop application. It was the digital/virtual equivalent of the office meeting room allowing folks at distance locations to “sit around the table” take turns discussing the topic, share slides and demonstrations on the office “whiteboard,” and even allow for side discussions and breakout rooms. The pricing was reasonable (including a free trial version) and Zoom had made sure it was accessible to people with disabilities including adding the capacity to offer live captioning by anyone in the room or by a professional CART transcriptionist. Thus, in the relatively short history of the company, Zoom had managed to beat out the competition and by December 2019 was serving up online meetings to approximately 10 million users.

Then, when Coronavirus COVID-19 hit America hard, and businesses, schools and organizations were forced to close their doors and move operations to kitchen tables and living room couches, this perfect virtual tool suddenly became the answer to everyone prayers.

And then things got interesting real fast.

According to Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan, in March 2020, Zoom was serving up online meetings to 200 million participants each day including to over 90,000 schools in 20 countries. Within hours of the first reported ZoomBombing incident (on or about March 17th) there were tech articles published describing what had happened and telling folks what easy steps they could take to “secure” their Zoom meeting. The most obvious recommendation was to NOT publish the link to your Zoom meeting on social media. BTW, the first case of ZoomBombing appears to have happened to some people who were holding an online WFH Happy Hour which had been advertised widely on social media. But the buzz saw of social media probably facilitated hundreds of copycat bombings.

On March 20th Zoom published their first blog post to users addressing the issue and again instructing users how “protect” their meetings.

But the idea for ZoomBombing spread much faster than the advice on how to prevent it. Lots of false information was spread and hysteria followed.

Soon there were reports that whole institutions had shut down Zoom and at least one state’s IT department chose to block all traffic to Zoom on state-own devices.

This will all shake out and we will no doubt forget about it in a few weeks. But if you are going to be using Zoom, or ANY video conferencing platform to operate your business, teach/train or facilitate meetings, you need to do your homework and make sure you know how the system works and what you need to do to “stay safe, stay healthy.”

Here are five recommended actions:

  1. Learn how to check and change your account settings. Non-enterprise accounts were all recently locked down by Zoom to require passwords for all meetings and add a “waiting room” before participants can enter. If you have an enterprise account, you need to check with your IT folks. Note that some additional security features were recently added but you need to have the latest version of the Zoom client. Check to make sure you have the latest version.
  2. Use Passwords for all meetings/webinars. The need for the waiting room is probably overkill for most meeting but might be appropriate for webinars.
  3. Have a staff person who serves as a Producer. This is a person in the meeting whose only job is to make sure everything is working correctly and can address any problems that arise. Whoever schedules the meeting is automatically the Host of the meeting and only the Host can change the settings for the meeting room. Understand that many of these setting need to be made before the meeting starts. The Host can also assign someone else as the Alternative Host. Note that in Zoom Webinar, the Host has some special privileges that are needed to run the meeting. The Host can also control microphones and who can access the Share Screen functions.
  4. Avoid using Personal Meeting ID (PMI). This a special feature in Zoom where you can use the same meeting credentials for all your meetings. Zoom suggests using your office phone number as the meeting ID this way everyone attending knows what the login information will be. Don’t do this.
  5. Don’t have “open” meetings. As described, the first case of ZoomBombing was for an online office Happy Hour for employees working from home. The link to the Zoom Meeting was shared widely, it was literally an invitation for “party crashers.” Also don’t use the same Meeting ID and let Zoom chose a random number as the password.

Remember – Take a Deep Breath.

UPDATE: I learned of an additional security feature after I posted this article. There is a setting in both Zoom Meeting and Zoom Webinar that prevents any HTML code written into the Zoom Chat from being executed from the Chat. This “locking” feature blocks all code including malicious, executable code or links to “bad” websites. The posted links will still appear in the Chat (as text) and can be copied and pasted into your browser, but they cannot be executed from within Zoom. For the time being, it is probably wise to keep this security feature turned on and to discourage participants from posting links in the Chat. Any important links/resources can be provided to participants from another source such as a digital “handout” or from your website after they have been vetted.

For more information

How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event

A Message to Our Users from Zoom CEO Eric Yuan 


rev: 4/10/2020

Relay Conference Captioning

The following information is provided by Debra Bare-Rogers, Advocate, from the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS).

Attending virtual event, is a great opportunity to connect. For attendees with hearing loss, this can bring challenges. Free resources are available to make online meeting participation more accessible. In Maine, deaf and hard of hearing individuals can use Relay Conference Captioning.

What is Relay Conference Captioning?

RCC (also called Sprint Teleconference Captioning) offers live and high quality captioning for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals to participate in meetings (in-person or remote), phone calls, videoconferences and multi-party teleconference calls. There is no cost to use this service.

Please use this link to see a demonstration of how RCC works

How to use RCC

Schedule an RCC event at least 12 hours before the meeting time.

  1. Use this link to go to the Maine Relay Conference Captioning Event Request form. Complete the form and submit the form.
  2. You will receive an email from Relay Conference Captioning confirming your request along with a link to the captioning.
  3. At the start time of the event, (using a computer, laptop or smartphone) login by clicking on the link provided in the confirmation email. Captioning will appear in real time during the call.
  4. NOTE: During the event, if you have a question or comment you can use the text box in the bottom right corner and the captioner will speak into the call on your behalf.

If you have additional questions about RCC and other relay resources available in Maine. Debra is available via Zoom to provide 1:1 virtual appointments, staff presentations and webinars. Contact her to schedule a meeting.

Debra Bare-Rogers 

Disability Rights Maine
1 Mackworth Island, Bldg. C
Falmouth, Maine 04105

Phone: 207-797-7656 x 113 (V/TTY)
Toll Free: 800-639-3884 (V/TTY)
Fax: 207-797-9791

TRS includes Maine Relay Services, captioned telephone services (CapTel or CTS), and 711.

EWDS Webinar 9 – The Maine AgrAbility Program

The following event is offered by The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine Department of Labor and Syntiro as part of the 2020 series of monthly webinars for the Maine’s workforce community.

AgrAbility logo

Cultivating Accessible Agriculture

May 14, 2020
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

with Leilani Carlson and Kelley Spencer – Maine AgrAbility Program, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Program Description

Maine AgrAbility’s mission is to provide education, assistance, and support to farmers with disabilities engaged in production agriculture, helping them and their families maintain optimal production and experience an enhanced quality of life.

Maine AgrAbility reaches its goals through direct service, education, and networking. We provide consultative services and technical assistance, such as suggestions for modifying or adapting the agricultural operation, buildings, equipment, and/or tools. We work with rural agriculture, rehabilitation, and health care professionals to support Maine farmers with disabilities and their families.

Maine AgrAbility is a non-profit collaboration between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Alpha One in addition to independent contractors and is funded through a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Leilani Carlson – is the project coordinator for the Maine. She has a BS in engineering and more than 15 years of experience in the environmental engineering and consulting industry, focusing on health and safety and regulations. She and her family live on a small farm in central Maine. Learning from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, books, farm visits and local master gardeners, she and her husband began farming and providing food for their family. Leilani joined the Maine AgrAbility program in August 2012 as the project coordinator working for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This opportunity allows her to utilize both her engineering and health and safety background with her passion for farming in Maine.

Kelley S. Spencer, COTA/L, ATP, DSP – Kelley Spencer is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant who is also a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Practitioner. She has served people with disabilities all her life. She grew up farming in central Maine. Her family home was also a foster home and day program for adults with intellectual disabilities. She worked as an independent living specialist and regional manager for Alpha One’s Bangor and Presque Isle offices for 17 years. She oversaw the AgrAbility project which worked with farmers with disabilities to continue to farm, in part through the use of assistive technologies. She led her team in the Homeward Bound project assisting so many to move from nursing facilities back into their communities.

Kelley chaired and co-chaired the State of Maine’s Acquired Brain Injury Advisory Council for 8 years. She served on the AgrAbility advisory board. She developed Goodwill’s Assistive Technology Program for 3 years before leaving to open her own business. She now owns and operates Maine Assistive Technology Solutions.

Registration fee:

Individual registrations for the webinar are $5.00 per person. There is no fee if you have purchased an agency subscription.

Important: Your confirmation email will contain call in and log in information so make sure you have received a confirmation email. If you do not receive your confirmation email shortly after completing your online registration form please contact

Participants will earn 1 hour of continuing education after completing an online evaluation following the webinar. After completing the webinar you will receive a link to the session evaluation. Once you complete the evaluation, a certification of participation will be emailed to you.

Please use this link to register for this event


AgrAbility Webinar: Smart technology in agriculture & the home

AgrAbility logo

Smart technology in agriculture & the home: what is it and what is its impact on safety and efficiency?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. EDT

Program Description

“Smart technology” is an umbrella term that encompasses many devices designed to make life easier for the user. Common types of smart technologies include watches, televisions, and a wide variety of other home devices (some that even respond to their own names). While marketed to the masses as the “next big thing,” for some individuals these devices can restore their independence and, in certain cases, even be life-saving. Whether the smart technologies are worn on the body or remain stationary, they can help prevent accidents from happening or assist in contacting emergency services if a crisis should occur. This webinar will discuss how smart technologies can benefit agricultural workers in the workplace and in the home.

Webinar topics include:

  • Types of smart technologies
  • Wearable devices
  • Home devices
  • Implications for agriculture
  • Implications for individuals with disabilities


Luke Cain is a student from Indiana Wesleyan University’s occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) program. He is currently completing his residency project with AgrAbility with a focus on advocacy for the program and for agriculture workers with disabilities. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and will be graduating from OTD school in April 2020. Luke is passionate about helping individuals with disabilities receive the therapy, education, and any other services they may need to help them meet their goals and be as independent as possible.

A question & answer period will follow the presentation.


To participate in this free webinar, click here to access the online registration form by Friday, April 3. Instructions for accessing the session will be sent to registrants by Monday, April 6. Please pass on this invitation to others you believe may be interested. Contact AgrAbility at 800-825-4264 or email if you have questions.


ATIA Offers Free Webinars

ATIA, the Assistive Technology Industry Association, has announced that because of the COVID-19 outbreak they will be offering a series of free webinars:

ATIA recognizes that you have questions regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and its implications on the assistive technology community. Below is an ongoing list of free webinars in the ATIA Learning Center and resources you can use to learn relevant information and insight from your peers.

This series is just one of the ways ATIA is sharing relevant educational content with our community. We’ll continue to update this page as new webinars are added. If you have a resource, tool or idea you would like to share as part of this webinar series, please fill out this form.

These live courses are presented by your AT community and are free for anyone and everyone. Each course will be recorded for you to access at any time.

Carefully Curating Apps and Software for Young Children-Managing Increased Screen Time
Tuesday, April 7 at 12:00pm CDT/1:00pm EDT
Beth Poss, Speech/Language Pathologist, AT Consultant
Presented by ATIA Member: LessonPix
This presentation will review popular apps and other digital resources using a checklist that outlines what makes an effective app based on research and guidance from respected authorities including the American Pediatric Association, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Supporting Remote Learning with Microsoft Learning Tools
Thursday, April 9 at 11:00am CDT/12:00pm EDT
Rachel Berger, AT Specialist
Presented by ATIA Member: Microsoft
This presentation will showcase Microsoft’s free Learning Tools that can be used to support student engagement and accessibility for users with learning differences.

Recording Online Content
Thursday, April 9 at 1:00pm CDT/2:00pm EDT
Liam Kelly, Manager of North American Sales, Note Taking Express
Presented by ATIA Member: Note Taking Express
This session explores the inbuilt features of Windows, iPhone, iPad and Macbooks that can capture the screens and audio, along with different ideas for recording content.

Supporting Students and Employees with Dyslexia at Home
Tuesday, April 14 at 11:00am CDT/12:00pm EDT
Chris Hughes, Founder, Present Pal; Cara Hunt, Head of Marketing, Present Pal; Euan Colley, Head of Product, Present Pal
Presented by ATIA Member: Present Pal
This course is an informal discussion about strategies and tools that students and employees with dyslexia can use to support themselves while working/studying from home.

AAC Language Lab Implementation Strategies
Wednesday, April 15 at 11:00am CDT/12:00pm EDT
Jane Odom, M.Ed
Presented by ATIA Member: PRC-Saltillo
The AAC Language Lab is now free. This session will dive into how to determine where to start, what is available and how to navigate all the lesson plans, activities and resources.

For more information, please visit the ATIA website…

Maine AgrAbility video highlights students’ learning on the farm

Buxton, Maine — Over the past year, Maine AgrAbility and partner Alpha One integrated agriculture into the curriculum of a peer mentoring program at Massabesic High School in York county. The program, funded by the Maine Department of Labor Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and supplemented with hands-on opportunities, culminated with summer work experiences on a local farm.

Sally Farrell, owner of Rummler Run farm in Buxton and former University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H professional in York County, agreed to introduce three of the students to daily life on her farm in summer 2019. The stories and experiences of those three students — practicing problem-solving, handling small livestock, helping ensure biosecurity practices — are told in the video “On the Farm.”

Maine AgrAbility, a collaborative project of UMaine Extension and Alpha One, is dedicated to helping farmers, fishermen and forest workers work safely and more productively. For more information, contact Leilani Carlson at 207.944.1533;

More information also is available on the UMaine Extension AgrAbility website.

About University of Maine Cooperative Extension:

As a trusted resource for over 100 years, University of Maine Cooperative Extension has supported UMaine’s land and sea grant public education role by conducting community-driven, research-based programs in every Maine county. UMaine Extension helps support, sustain and grow the food-based economy. It is the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition, and food security and safety are integral and interrelated. UMaine Extension also conducts the most successful out-of-school youth educational program in Maine through 4-H.

Survey on Wireless Device User Experiences for People with Disabilities

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies (Wireless RERC) announces the launch of its 2020 Survey of User Needs (SUN). The SUN is the Wireless RERC’s cornerstone survey on wireless technology use by people with disabilities. Over 8,000 consumers have completed it with disabilities since it was first launched in 2001.

This latest version has been updated in response to changes in technology. In addition to questions about cell phone and tablet use, this latest version of the SUN collects information about wearables, “smart” home technologies, and other next-generation wirelessly connected devices. User responses will help designers and engineers make new wireless devices and services for people with disabilities. Data from the SUN also provides important information to the wireless industry, government regulators, and other researchers to help them make wireless technology more accessible and more useful to people with all types of disabilities.

If you have a disability, please consider taking this survey. If you know someone who has a disability, please forward the survey to them. Thank you!

Select this link to take the 2020 Survey of User Needs