Google Maps calls on millions of users to boost access info

From E-Access Bulletin Live…

Google logoThe Google Maps team has requested its extensive user community help improve its accessibility listings.

As reported in previous issues of e-Access Bulletin, Google has taken various steps to increase its accessibility offerings in maps during previous months (see e-Access Bulletin December 2016). Now, however, the Google Maps team have explicitly asked that its ‘Local Guides’ – a community of millions of users who voluntarily collect data – proactively add in wheelchair-accessible location information to maps.

As the Local Guides system works primarily by users answering questions (these questions help gather new data sets that help improve maps), the following calculation is made on a Google blog post announcing the call-out:

“If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions [about wheelchair-accessible locations] every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day.”

The blog post was written by Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, a software engineer for the Google Maps, Content and Community team, who also uses a wheelchair. Read the Google blog post in full at the following link…

As Blair-Goldensohn points out in the post: “Because anyone can identify and label wheelchair-friendly locations directly on [a Google Map], it’s easy to share this knowledge around the world. But not everyone knows this tool exists.”

The post then lets readers know how to add in this information: “First, make sure your Google Maps Location History is turned on. Then visit ‘Your contributions’ in the upper-left menu, tap ‘Answer questions about a place,’ and indicate whether businesses you’ve visited are wheelchair-friendly.”

Those using devices on the Android operating system can also search for nearby areas around them that don’t have this accessibility info, so that it can be added.

2-1-1 Maine Adds Text Messaging

Referrals Now Available by Text Message

211 Maine logo2-1-1 Maine is a free resource providing an easy, confidential way to connect people to information about thousands of health and human services around Maine.

Every day Information Specialists help people find assistance for complex issues such as financial problems, substance use disorders, and support needs for older adults, and for simpler issues such as finding volunteer opportunities and donation options.

Mainers can now text their zip code to 898-211 and automatically connect with a friendly, Maine-based Information Specialist. The Specialist will ask the person texting what services they are looking for and provide them referrals via text to resources in their area.

Information Specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by texting a zip code to 898-211.

Mainers can also continue to use:

 

South Portland Housing Authority Offers Home Repair Program for Seniors

From the South Portland Housing Authority:

Smart HomeSouth Portland, ME, MARCH 7, 2017 – The South Portland Housing Authority (SPHA) today announced the new and exciting Home Modification for Seniors and Disabled (HMS) program. The Authority hopes to demonstrate that small investments in home safety help extend the time seniors and disabled persons can remain in their own home, reducing health care expenses and improving quality of life in their homes.

“Essentially, homeowners contact us for a simple assessment of their property, and we use the results to focus on high quality safety enhancement,” SPHA Executive Director Michael Hulsey noted. “We are looking for South Portland homeowners to work with at our expense, for simple safety issues.” Hulsey added, “Most work would get done in one -day or-less; more-complicated work would get contracted out when needed. A Grant from MaineHousing pays for the program expenses.”

Melanie Cahill, Coordinator of the Program, explained, “When a homeowner contacts us, we schedule an appointment to discuss their concerns, and take a good look at what needs to be done for the homeowner to stay safely in their home. We have experience selecting and installing equipment and can offer suggestions.” Experienced maintenance staff’s typical installations include grab-bars, hand-held showerheads, transfer benches, raised toilet seats, handrails, and lever-style doorknobs. “We also make smaller home repairs,” added Ms. Cahill. “These repairs, such as securing flooring, motion lights, electrical upgrades (like GFI outlets near water sources) adjusting exterior doors, and stair tread repairs, can make daily living safer. Input from homeowners is crucial for us to be successful.”

South Portland Housing Authority is excited to connect housing and healthcare in innovative ways through this Home Modification Program. The very small per home investment helps to ultimately improve health outcomes and can defer or decrease medical costs. Homeowners themselves drive the process and work closely with the team to make sure that their needs are addressed.

Qualifications for the program include:

  • 60 years of age or more, or have a disability;
  • Own your own home, or live in a home owned by someone in your family;
  • Live in South Portland;
  • Have annual income under $43,050 for a single person; under $49,205 for a two-person family; or under $55,350 for a 3-person family.
  • Less than $50,000.00 in liquid assets

For more information about this program, and how we can help you, please call Melanie Cahill, Program Coordinator, at 207-773-4140

Punch-In: Service for youth with disabilities seeking employment

This news comes from the Great Lakes ADA Center – AT Bulletin of Jan-Feb 2017

Punch-In logoPunch-In is a free resource for young adults with disabilities preparing for and seeking employment. One of the many offerings on the site is a free, online course to develop the skills and strategies necessary to be successful in career endeavors. Teachers and other professionals can set up a self-paced course to administered as group or individuals may take the course independently. The course includes over 100 high quality videos for instruction and advice. There is also a moderator for every course to assist and encourage students.

There are five content modules:

  • Discover Yourself (Module 1) – This module is designed for students who are beginning to prepare for a job search. It offers tools to examine strengths in any potential job and explore careers options.
  • Get Prepared (Module 2) – This module offers the foundational steps to develop your work readiness skills and jump into the critical steps of writing a good resume and cover letter.
  • Find A Job (Module 3)- The Find A Job module helps set a job search in motion. A job search includes the way you find out, apply, and interview for employment. The module also has a special section on networking skills using social media to locate employment opportunities.
  • Know Your Rights (Module 4) – Understanding one’s rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is critical in the employment process. This module is an introduction to the ADA and other disability laws.
  • Use Technology (Module 5) – This module is an introduction to Assistive Technology (AT). AT may be a critical component for a successful career.

If you are interested in administering or taking the newly updated course join the Punch-in network at success-network.punch-in.org. You may also contact Janet Peters with any questions.

Maine Trust for People with Disabilities

Maine’s only pooled trust for people with disabilities

The Maine Trust for People with Disabilities - logoThe Maine Trust for People with Disabilities (MTPD) is Maine’s only nonprofit organization that offers parents, relatives and friends a convenient and economical way to establish and fund a special needs trust account for an individual who has a disability and who qualifies for public benefits, such as MaineCare or SSI. In addition, the MTPD offers individuals with disabilities the option to establish and fund their own accounts. The MTPD is a pooled special needs trust established in compliance with federal law.

These funds can be used to pay for such things as:

  • Recreation and Entertainment
  • Training/Education
  • A  car
  • Electronic devices
  • Appliances
  • Medical care and goods not covered by Medicaid
  • Other living expenses not covered by public benefits

The Maine Trust for People with Disabilities is sponsored by a Maine non-profit corporation The Maine Trust for People with Disabilities, Inc. The daily operations of the Trust are performed by a wide range of volunteers, including people who have disabled family members, representatives of social service agencies, and individuals from legal, business, accounting and investment management businesses. Norway Savings Bank serves as Trustee, and Old Port Pension Administrators is the recordkeeper.

For more information and to create a trust, visit the MTPD website… 

Pre-Employment Transition Services

As posted in the Maine Parent Federation News

High School student working in laboratoryThe Maine Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (or “VR” as it‘s commonly referred to) provides services to transition-age youth with disabilities to help prepare them for employment. Every high school in Maine has an assigned VR Counselor.

With the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), there’s an increased national focus on making sure that young people with disabilities and their families start career planning early. To support this, VR is partnering with schools and organizations across the state to expand opportunities for high school students to learn about the world of work through “Pre-Employment Transition Services”.

Here are some examples:

  • Job Tours/Job Shadows
  • Job Clubs
  • Mock Interviews
  • Self-Advocacy/Independent Living Skills
  • Group Career Preparation Activities

Additionally, VR has a number of career assessment tools and helpful labor market information that can assist students to learn about education requirements, projected openings, and wage information for their career fields of interest.

To learn more about Pre-Employment Transition Services available in your area please contact your high school or local VR office. A complete listing of offices is available on the VR’s website.

For more information call (207) 623-6799.

_______

Photo credit: Image licensed by Creative Commons by Speed of Creativity.

Movie Captioning and Audio Description Final Rule

Icon - reel of filmFrom ADA.gov…

On November 21, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed a Final Rule revising the Justice Department’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) title III regulation to further clarify a public accommodation’s obligation to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities.

The Final Rule requires require movie theaters to:

  1. Have and maintain the equipment necessary to provide closed movie captioning and audio description at a movie patron’s seat whenever showing a digital movie produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with these features;
  2. Provide notice to the public about the availability of these features; and
  3. Ensure that theater staff is available to assist patrons with the equipment before, during, and after the showing of a movie with these features.

Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations, including movie theaters, to provide effective communication through the use of auxiliary aids and services.  This rulemaking specifies requirements that movie theaters must meet to satisfy their effective communication obligations to people with hearing and vision disabilities unless compliance results in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration.  For a summary of the Final Rule and its requirements, see the “Final Rule Questions & Answers.”

An advance copy of the Final Rule is available at this link… 

The official version of the Final Rule will be published in the Federal Register, and the Final Rule will take effect 45 days after publication.

Read more about these new rules…


Photo credit: Image in public domain by Pixabay.

Resources Available on Voting and Polling Place Accessibility

From the US Access Board:

The word "vote" with a wheelchair embeddedVoting is a fundamental and protected right for all citizens, including those with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws, people with disabilities must have full and equal opportunities to vote. The Department of Justice (DOJ), which regulates and enforces ADA mandates that apply to state and local governments, offers several guides on the subject. These include the “ADA Checklist for Polling Places,” [PDF] a 25-page resource DOJ recently updated that explains what makes a polling place accessible from entry onto the site to voting areas. It also recommends design remedies and provides a survey checklist for evaluating polling place accessibility. Other resources from DOJ include a bulletin [PDF]  that provides solutions to common access problems at polling places and a guide [PDF] to federal laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities.

In addition to the ADA, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 established requirements for voting systems used in Federal elections and requires access to polling places and voting systems for persons with disabilities. Under the law, each precinct in the country must have at least one accessible voting machine or system so that people with disabilities, including those with vision impairments, are afforded the same opportunity for participation, including privacy and independence, available to other voters. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which implements HAVA and issues guidance on meeting the requirements of the law, including guidelines for voting systems, is another key resource on accessible voting. The EAC offers a “BeReady16” toolkit that includes a section on accessibility, and other resources on accessible polling places and voting systems for voters with disabilities and voting officials. Visit EAC’s website at www.eac.gov for further information.

Those who encounter accessibility issues in voting can contact the Voting Section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division which enforces civil provisions of federal laws that protect the right to vote, including HAVA and the Voting Rights Act. Complaints can be filed through an online form or submitted at voting.section@usdoj.gov (email), (800) 253-3931 (phone), (202) 307-3961 (fax), or the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Room 7254 – NWB, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20530.

AT helps Maine orchard grow

AgrAbility logoThe Sun Journal recently published an article about the Pietree Farm in Sweden, Maine describing how the Maine AgrAbility project helped Stephen and Tabitha King make the farm more accessible so their daughter Naomi (who has a progressive muscular disorder) could continue to work.

The article notes, “King was adamant about making the whole farm accessible — not just for herself but for anyone who might like to visit the farm. She understood, better than most, how alienating it can be for a person with limited mobility to visit businesses, even those that claim to be accessible, only to find a ramp leading to a 6-inch step, or a bathroom with a trash can blocking the way where a wheelchair might need the space to maneuver.”

Quoting from the article:

“Maine AgrAbility is a nonprofit collaboration among the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries Northern New England and Alpha One. A grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds the program that came into existence through the 1990 Farm Bill. The first eight state programs received funding in 1991. As funding increased, more state programs were added across the US.

“Maine was first funded as part of a tri-state effort with New Hampshire and Vermont in 1996. In 2010, Maine was awarded single state funding to address the needs of Maine farmers and farm workers. Lani Carlson is the Maine AgrAbility project coordinator.”

Read the whole article on the Sun Journal website…

Learn more about the Maine AgrAbility Project…

Veterans Adaptive Sports and Training (VAST)

Images of Vets using AT
The goal of the Veterans Adaptive Sports and Training (VAST) program is to promote lifelong health and well-being of veterans with disabilities through regular participation in a VAST array of physical activities and sports. Any and all veterans are encouraged to volunteer and enjoy some outdoor activities and a sense of camaraderie with fellow veterans.

Located on the beautiful Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, VAST strives to offer year-round activities based on the needs and wants of veterans. Programs are free and equipment is provided.

Current sports include:

  • Archery
  • Cycling (hand and recumbent)
  • Nordic Pole Walking
  • Orienteering
  • Cross-country Skiing
  • Snow Shoeing

Learn a new activity or practice your skills with Army Veteran, Occupational Therapist, and two-time Olympic Biathlete, Kristina Sabasteanski. 

Research shows that daily physical activity for people with disabilities results in reduced stress, depression and secondary medical conditions and increases self-esteem, education success, employment rates and quality of life.

U.S. Paralympics is partnering with community organizations across the country, such as the VAST program at Pineland Farms, to create a network of Paralympic Sports Clubs. Paralympic Sports Clubs are community-based programs developed to involve people with physical and visual disabilities in sports and physical activity, regardless of skill level. With 21 million physically disabled Americans, including thousands of military personnel who’ve sustained serious injuries while on active duty, this is an important community need.

Visit the VAST program website…

Grant funding for this program is awarded by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, through funding provided by Veterans Affairs. The grants are provided to facilitate the growth of Paralympic-sport.