September 2020 Webinars

Maine CITE is offering the following webinar in September:

Webinar: Accessible Digital Documents – Correspondence and Social Media

Date: 9/17/2020
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET

Various icons for social mediaEvery day we send and receive dozens if not hundreds of e-mails, and for many of us, an equal number of social media posts and comments. But are all these e-mails, attachments, and social media posts accessible to people with disabilities who use Assistive Technology?

This webinar will provide an overview of the accessibility of digital documents specifically digital correspondence and social media. Guidance is provided on how to make digital content accessible

Presenter

  • John E. Brandt, MS. Ed.

Use this link for more information and to sign up for the Webinar: Accessible Digital Documents – Correspondence and Social Media


The following list of September 2020 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.

Back to School and Virtual Accessibility from Cornell University
September 9, 2020 at 12:00 pm Eastern

2020 Virtual Leadership Briefing from M-Enabling Summit
September 15, 2020 at 11:00 am Eastern (2 hours)

Online and Face-to-Face – They Want Me to do What? Thriving in a Blended Learning Classroom from AbleNet
September 9, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Integrating AT into Virtual Instruction for Struggling Readers from EdWeb
September 10, 2020  1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EDT

AAC – A Year of Core Words from SETC
September 15, 2020 at 6:00 pm Eastern

Making Math Digital from SETC
September 16, 2020 at  6:30 pm Eastern

AT and AAC Tools for Literacy for All from SETC
September 22, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

AAC Talk: Communicating with the World from SETC
September 24, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

AT Chatter-Setting up the Classroom for Literacy from SETC
September 29, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern

Introduction to MathShare from SETC
September 30, 2020 at 6:30 pm Eastern

AT to Increase Independence for Young Adults with Disabilities from PACER
September 30, 2020 at 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… 

UMaine assistive technology spinout UNAR Labs receives grant

From the University of Maine News

UNAR Labs receives $300,000 NIH Small Business Innovation Research award

UNAR Labs devices and mediaORONO, MAINE, August 12, 2020 – UNAR Labs, a University of Maine spinout company that develops assistive technology for blind and visually impaired (BVI) users, has been awarded $300,000 under the National Institute of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program to further prove its concept. With the award, the company plans to prototype an information access system that would help educational institutions develop accessible learning materials more efficiently.

The company’s mission is to make the visual graphic information that has become such a big part of modern daily life more accessible to BVI users on the digital devices they already have, including smartphones and tablets.

“More than 60 to 70 percent of digital content is completely inaccessible to visually impaired users — think of maps, images, photos, Facebook, Twitter,” says Hari Palani, co-founder and CEO of UNAR Labs. “We want to provide a bridge and enable BVI users with access to all this information.”

UNAR Labs’ core technology is a software platform called Midlina that translates visual graphical information into an accessible multisensory graphic that BVI users can touch, feel and hear using the haptic, vibration and audio features built in to digital smart devices (phones/tablets).

The SBIR award will allow Portland-based UNAR Labs to focus on improving the process to translate textbooks and other educational materials – including the graphical components — into a multisensory format that makes them fully accessible for BVI students. Using existing methods, this process can take two weeks to two months (depending on the complexity of the material), involves significant manual labor, and can cost many thousands of dollars, according to Palani. The company is developing a software system that aims to cut this time down to hours and reduce the manual labor that makes it so expensive.

“Translating visual information into equivalent non-visual information is not a trivial task, so we have a long research agenda to achieve this technical feat,” says Palani, who came to UMaine in 2011 to conduct graduate research on accessible technology with professor of spatial informatics Nicholas Giudice, co-founder of UNAR Labs.

The two began to explore commercialization of their research after connecting with the team at UMaine’s Foster Center for Innovation in 2017. Their path to commercialization has been deliberate. In 2017, UNAR Labs became the first team from Maine to be invited to participate in the National I-Corps program. After completing I-Corps, where Palani and Giudice conducted extensive customer discovery research, they joined the MIRTA accelerator at UMaine in 2019, built a prototype, and began to prove the feasibility of their technology. A $225,000 National Science Foundation Phase I SBIR award in 2019 helped fund this work, along with a $100,000 commercialization support grant from the Maine Technology Institute. UNAR Labs is participating in the 2020 Top Gun program, a statewide accelerator that targets startups with high growth potential.

Giudice, who is visually impaired, believes that UNAR Labs has a distinct edge in advancing this technology.

“Lots of companies are interested in this type of technology, and for good reasons, but they’re often coming at it from a technical standpoint and not thinking about it from the human side — the perceptual, cognitive aspects of it,” says Giudice. “We’re working in a field that we both have had a lot of experience in, personal and professional. This company is built out of a lot of Hari’s dissertation work and my experience as a blind scientist who has dealt with trying to find solutions to this for the last 20 years and understands what works, what doesn’t and the real challenges.”

That’s a key reason why UNAR Labs is building solutions for use in commercially available hardware (e.g., smartphones). A dedicated device with a braille display to show graphics can cost upwards of $15,000, Giudice says. For institutions, the process of producing accessible versions of textbooks involving graphic information is in the range of $20,000 to $30,000 and involves a complex, multi-step production process that requires an experienced transcriber to convert the materials to a tactile format and a second person to check that they are accurate before printing on a tactile embosser. UNAR Labs’ software would automate this process and eliminate those manual steps, setting it up so that educational institutions (or commercial production facilities) could quickly and easily prepare accessible material from standard visual materials for printing and delivery.

The company’s long-term goal is to create a suite of products that will meaningfully improve information accessibility for the BVI community across platforms and devices.

“We have met all our planned milestones thus far and are well on our trajectory toward creating a truly inclusive and accessible digital world,” Palani says.

UNAR Labs is in the process of hiring its first full-time employee, and Palani says they hope to add four more positions before the end of 2020. In addition, the company has contracted with UMaine’s Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) Lab — known for innovative research to support nonvisual information access — to help conduct some of the human usability studies with the products being developed as part of their new NIH project.

Contact: Ashley Forbes, ashley.forbes@maine.edu

Photo credit: Image from University of Maine News

Webinar on Accessible Virtual Meeting Platforms

Recording Available of Webinar on Accessible Virtual Meeting Platforms

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board recently (July 21, 2020) conducted a webinar on the accessibility of virtual meeting platforms as part of its Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series. Presenters from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission reviewed features and considerations for ensuring access to virtual platforms according to the Section 508 Standards. A recording of this free webinar – including handouts – is available on the webinar site. 

The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series provides helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to information and communication technology in the federal sector. This webinar series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the U.S. Access Board.

 

2020 Guide for Maine Families on AT and AEM Published

EducationThe Maine CITE Assistive Technology Program is pleased to release the revised Guide for Maine Families on Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials. The 2020 Guide provides Maine families who have children with disabilities an easy to use resource describing how to get the assistive technology (AT) devices and services they need. Information about accessible education materials (AEM) and families’ important role in the planning process are also provided.

The 2020 Guide updates general information about AT and AEM. It includes new resources about assistive technology used during “learning at home” activities, as well as AT device demonstration and loan services – AT4Maine.org.

Use this link to download the The Guide – PDF

UMF Offers Online Certificate Program is Assistive Technology

University of Maine Farmington - logoThe University of Maine Farmington – Division of Graduate and Continuing Education has announced they are offering a graduate certificate in Assistive Technology. The new program is offered completely online.

Those completing the certificate program will be prepared to:

  • Support the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in both school and community settings.
  • Utilize assistive technology to increase independence and eliminate or  mitigate barriers.
  • Assess, design, research, and implement Assistive Technology.

The certificate in Assistive Technology (AT) prepares a broad range of professionals who can assess, design, research, and implement Assistive Technology (AT). Those completing the certificate will be prepared to support the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in both school and community settings by utilizing assistive technology to increase independence and eliminate or mitigate barriers. Courses are chosen in consultation with your academic advisor to ensure professional goals are reached and that sufficient preparation is undertaken for those seeking national certification.

For more information and to enroll, please contact the University of Maine Farmington – Graduate Studies or by phone 207.778.7502 or email gradstudies@maine.edu

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

 

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.

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…
 

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; leilani.carlson@maine.edu.

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.