JAN offers free webcasts

Person at desk using keyboardThe Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

Starting in October 2020, JAN is offering a series of free webcasts to the public. Topics include Ergonomics for Teleworkers, ADA Update, Accommodating Veterans, and many more. The JAN Webcast Series is free, but you must register for each event. Sign up now, as space is limited!

Dates/times and titles follow. Use this link for more information and to register for any of these events.

October 2020
Intentional Inclusion: Increasing Access & Opportunity
10/13/2020 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern

November 2020
The Top Ten Veteran-Related Accommodation Questions and Answers
11/10/2020 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

December 2020
Ergonomics for Teleworkers
12/08/2020 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

January 2021
Accommodations for Respiratory Impairments
01/12/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

February 2021
Requesting and Negotiating Reasonable Accommodations
02/09/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

March 2021
ADA and Accommodation Lessons Learned: COVID-19 Edition
03/09/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

April 2021
Service and Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace
04/13/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

May 2021
Q&A with the Cog/Psych Team: Challenging Mental Health Scenarios
05/11/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

June 2021
Accommodating Public Safety Workers with Disabilities
06/08/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

July 2021
ADA Update
07/13/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

August 2021
AT Update: What’s new in 2021
08/10/2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern

 

Maine DOE Publishes – Returning to School Tool-Kit

EducationThe Maine Department of Education has released a new web resource, COVID-19 Returning to School Tool-Kit which details the latest information and guidance about COVID-19. The resource was designed for district and school staff and educators as they begin to welcome employees and students back to school and into learning communities for the 2020/2021 school year and during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Tool-Kit includes Health & Safety Resources/Guidance for Schools, guidance on Masks, Distancing, and Hand Hygiene, as well as Training & Professional Development materials.

Use this link to view the COVID-19 Returning to School Tool-Kit… 

Q&A about captioning from NDC

Closed Caption feed on TV screenThe National Deaf Center on Post Secondary Outcomes (NDC) has recently been publishing a number of valuable resources regarding accessibility accommodations for people with deafness or hearing impairments. The latest comes in the form of a Q&A (questions and answers) with section that was particularly helpful. We picked this one to share, but please view the full resource and consider signing up for their newsletter.

Read the entire NDC Q&A resource

Captions – automatic, closed captions, real-time, transcription: What do these all mean?

Automatic captions – Also referred to as speech-recognition, automated captioning, or auto-captions, are generated by a computer with Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology. These captions tend to lack punctuation, speaker identification, and require a human to fix mistakes.

Many platforms include this feature, such as:

  • Video streaming platforms (i.e. YouTube automated captions or Microsoft PowerPoint Translator)
  • Apps (i.e., Translate or Otter.ai)
  • Learning Management Systems (i.e., Blackboard, Canvas)
  • Live video streaming services (i.e., Zoom, Google Meet)

Captions – Also referred to as open/closed captions or subtitles. These are captions for pre-recorded video content that are time-synced and embedded into the media. Accurate and edited captions provide equivalent access. Captions also provide auditory information that ASR technology may not be able to identify.

Real-time captioning – Also referred to as live captioning or speech-to-text services.  This service is provided by a qualified speech-to-text professional.  Examples: Live captioning for news broadcasts or by a third-party vendor streamed into Blackboard for a synchronous online class.

Transcribe/Transcription – Also referred to as a transcript. This process involves converting audio into a plain text document. Transcripts are commonly used for stand-alone audio, such as podcasts or presentations without video. They are also used as the first step towards creating captions for media. Transcripts can be auto-generated using ASR or by speech-to-text professionals.

 

Tips for Hosting Accessible Meetings with Deaf Participants

Accessibility pictogramThe National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) has hosted a valuable set of tips for hosting meetings where some of the participants may be deaf or hard of hearing. They note, “besides running a better meeting, effective communication between hearing and deaf people has other benefits for career success. Research shows it strengthens relationships, increases well-being, and fosters meaningful participation in the workplace.”

Among the tips are recommendations regarding:

  • the use of captioning for any videos shared in the meeting,
  • the importance of providing the right accommodations – including in-person American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, remote ASL interpreter, remote speech-to-text services, large print materials, and presentations slides as handouts with presenter notes, and
  • establishing some meeting ground rules, including taking turns, and identifying yourself before making comments.

The complete list of tips (PDF) may be downloaded from this link to the NDC website

In need of further assistance? Connect with the NDC Help Team

 

Give IT Get IT provides PCs for Maine citizens

From MaineBiz Magazine

Person using laptop computer

An organization that refurbishes donated computers and provides them at low or no cost to people who need them is stepping up its efforts to help Mainers who are offline during the pandemic.

Waterville-based give IT. get IT., a nonprofit formed last year out of a merger between PCs for Maine and eWaste Alternatives, is increasing its capacity to recycle retired technology from Maine businesses, refurbish it, and then distribute it to technologically isolated Mainers.

“We were planning to launch give IT. get IT. in March, before COVID-19 forced businesses of all sizes to completely alter their operations,” co-founder Chris Martin said in a news release. “With so many Mainers now facing isolation due to shelter in place mandates, the need for give IT. get IT.’s services has never been greater or more urgent.”

PCs for Maine was formed in 2002 to provide computers and free technical support in Maine, and other parts of northern New England. The merger with eWaste Alternatives added the recycling function.

The pandemic has created more reliance on technology throughout the state, particularly for education and work, and the need  for computers in the home has increased. Of the estimated 70,000 Maine households that don’t have access to the internet or a personal computer, half have students who need to participate in online classes. “This represents a significant threat to Maine’s future workforce and economy,” the nonprofit said.

Read the complete article on MaineBiz magazine

Give IT Get IT website


Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Pexel.com

MDOE provides guidance on grading during emergency distance learning

The following announcement comes from the Maine Department of Education:

Unified Message and Recommendation Regarding Grading Practices During Emergency Distance Learning

As many School Administrative Units (SAUs) and schools move into a new phase of implementation of emergency distance learning, focusing on long term practices, many are now wading through conversations around the assessment and evaluation of learning. Some SAUs have already come to decisions around how student learning will be evaluated, if at all, and those plans vary widely, from feedback only to maintaining regular grading practices. We, the Department of Education, Maine School Boards Association, Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities, Maine Education Association, Maine Principals Association, and Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, have a deep conviction that any learning evaluation policies or practices must come from a stance of equity and compassion.

We strongly recommend that SAUs take time to thoughtfully design grading policies and practices that do no harm. Operating from a stance of equity and compassion means beginning with those most marginalized in mind when making decisions.  Even during times of regular school instruction, each and every district in the state of Maine had learners dealing with homelessness, food instability, poverty, substance use disorders, and domestic violence, among other stressful and traumatic life situations.  Now we see those situations intensifying, and new situations emerging in families that were once stable.

Any evaluation of learning must take into account the reality that many of our learners are in these circumstances. Learning in any of the circumstances noted above is almost impossible, and no student should face a failing grade, or other evaluative suffering, as a result. We encourage SAUs and regions to discuss and determine a system that holds harmless students for whom conditions are outside of their control and as best as possible prevents any further learning inequities.

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 CVStats.net, 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 Vice.com…

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
drogers@drme.org 

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.

eLearning Teaching Tips webinar from edWeb

The following announcement comes from edWeb  who is sponsoring this free webinar…

e-Learning Teaching Tips: Support for Educators During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday, April 9, 2020
3:00 pm ET

Presenters

Candice Dodson, Executive Director, State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
Ashley Webb, Graphic Design Teacher and Instructional Coach, Mountain Heights Academy, UT

Program Description

In support of the SETDA Coalition for eLearning, SETDA will collaborate with teachers that have extensive experience teaching online to share tips for best practices for online learning. Teachers are being asked to transform the way they teach and to meet diverse learning needs, and they need support. Join this edWebinar to hear from experienced teachers, ask questions, and share your examples as we all work to support students in this time of need.

This edWebinar will be of interest to preK through high school teachers and school leaders. There will be time for questions at the end of the presentation.

Use this link to learn more about this event and to register…
 

Voice-Assisted Coronavirus COVID-19 Screening

The following comes from Cool Blind Tech:

iPadApple also partnered with CDC on app and website for coronavirus triage

With voice-assisted tools released by Amazon and Apple, you can answer a few questions to figure out if you need further medical assistance for COVID-19.

Simply say, “Hey, Siri” for iPhones or “Alexa” for Amazon devices, and ask if you have the coronavirus.

These technologies are no replacement for professional medical advice, but they can help you figure out first steps at home when the health care system is overwhelmed with long wait times.

Amazon Echo

Amazon announced Thursday that it launched a screening tool for the United States that will talk you through some symptom-checkers.

“Ask, ‘Alexa, what do I do if I think I have COVID-19?” or “Alexa, what do I do if I think I have coronavirus?” and Alexa will ask a series of questions about your travel history, symptoms, and possible exposure. Based on your responses, Alexa will provide CDC guidance given your risk level and symptoms,” Amazon said in a statement.

Read the complete article on Cool Blind Tech

Read the news release from Apple

Read news release from Amazon