U.S. Access Board Launches New Website

From the U.S. Access Board

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board has redesigned and updated its website at access-board.gov. The new site features a streamlined design to make information easier to find. New menus and cross links enhance navigation of key resources, including the ADA Accessibility Standards and the Section 508 Standards.  In addition, the site updates information on Board programs and services, including training and filing of complaints under the ABA.

The Board updated its site based on the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS). Developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and U.S. Digital Service, the USWDS helps federal agencies create websites that are accessible, fast, and easy to use on mobile devices. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act requires agencies to aims to update their websites using the USWDS to improve the digital experience for government customers.

Now published on GSA’s Federalist platform, the Board’s website continues to serve as a leading resource on accessible design and federal accessibility guidelines and standards. Through this site, the Board provides updates to the public on initiatives in rulemaking, research, ABA enforcement, and other programs. The Board’s guidelines and standards, published guidance, animations, and other resources, are also available on the site.

Send questions or comments on the site to webmaster@access-board.gov 

 

 

Webinar on ADA/ABA and Recreation Facilities

From the US Access Board…

Upcoming Webinar on Recreation Facilities

US Access Board logoDecember 3, 2020
2:30 – 4:00 pm ET

The final webinar of 2020 in the Board’s free monthly series will take place December 3 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will review scoping and technical provisions for recreation facilities in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards (Chapter 10).

This session will address the requirements for:

  • amusement rides,
  • recreational boating facilities
  • exercise machines and equipment
  • fishing piers and platforms
  • golf facilities and miniature golf facilities
  • play areas
  • swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
  • shooting facilities with fixed firing positions
  • sports facilities.

Presenters will address common sources of confusion and frequently asked questions about these provisions. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board.

Visit accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register.

All webinars include video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits.

Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site. 

 

Accessible Absentee Voting for Maine People with Disabilities

Interim Agreement Reached for the November 3, 2020 Election

Access

Augusta, Maine – An interim agreement has been reached between the Maine Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) and named municipalities and Plaintiffs Lynn Merrill, Nicholas Giudice, Pauline Lamontagne, Cheryl Peabody, and Disability Rights Maine that provides Maine voters an accessible absentee ballot system for the upcoming November 3, 2020 general election. Following a lawsuit filed on July 15, 2020 by the Plaintiffs, the SOS agreed to develop and implement an accessible absentee ballot system for qualified voters with disabilities. This system will allow for accessible absentee ballots across all Maine’s municipalities.

Starting October 2, 2020, Maine voters with print disabilities can access an Accessible Absentee Ballot Request Form on the Secretary’s website to request an accessible electronically-delivered absentee ballot. Maine’s accessible ballot will allow voters to both receive and return the ballot electronically to the Secretary of State’s Office to be counted.

(Under this Interim Agreement,) Print disabilities [1] may include, but are not limited to, vision impairment or blindness; physical dexterity limitations; learning disabilities, such as dyslexia; brain injury or cognitive impairment; or early dementia, all which may prevent an individual from independently marking a paper ballot.

“No one should have to choose between their health in the pandemic and exercising the most fundamental and important right in a democracy-the right to vote.  We are pleased that the Secretary of State’s Office has taken steps to ensure that people with print disabilities will be able to vote privately, independently, and safely from their home for the November 3 general election,” says lead counsel, Kristin Aiello of Disability Rights Maine.

The terms of the agreement, which apply to the November 3, 2020 general election, include the following:

A new application is being added to the state’s existing Absentee Ballot Request (ABR) Service that will enable Maine voters who self-certify that they have a disability that prevents them from completing a paper ballot independently to vote by electronic ballot.

To obtain a ballot, qualified voters must complete an online request for an accessible absentee ballot and receive the accessible ballot from the Secretary’s Elections Division.

The application is accessible by standard screen reader text-to-speech software, and enables a voter who is blind or visually impaired to navigate the application and independently complete the form fields.

The Secretary is designing a welcome page on the SOS website for the accessible ABR Service.  The welcome page for accessible absentee ballot users will contain tips for each screen reader, which will walk the user through each step of accessing the ballot.  The welcome page will also contain a sample absentee ballot so people can practice prior to voting with the real ballot using their own operating system.

Once the voter’s application is approved, the voter will receive a secure log in and credentials to access the state ballot for the electoral districts in which they reside, as well as any local ballots.

The SOS will provide universally accessible pdf (UA/PDF) absentee ballots that voters with print disabilities will be able to download and review using a standard screen reader (JAWS, NVDA, or VoiceOver).

Voters will be able to mark their choices independently and confidentially, and then submit the ballot via a secure delivery system using the secure log in credential provided through the ABR service. Voters can track the status of the absentee ballot at every stage of the process.

To assist voters navigate the new system, the Secretary’s vendor has hired an expert in accessibility, Maria Delgado, formerly of American Printing House for the Blind, to troubleshoot any problems that occur when print-disabled voters are attempting to cast an absentee ballot. Ms. Delgado will work with each voter through the system if any problems should occur.  Information on how to contact her will be on the accessible ballot web page.

People with print disabilities will be able to submit their ballot requests via the online ABR service and obtain their ballots to cast starting on October 2, 2020, which is the same date that other voters will begin to receive their paper-based absentee ballots.

To request an accessible absentee ballot, voters with print disabilities should visit the Absentee Ballot Request Page online

or contact the Secretary of State, Division of Elections at: (207) 624-7650 or email cec.elections@maine.gov

Additional Information about Accessible Absentee Voting for People with Print Disabilities

  • What does this news mean? Maine will now offer an accessible, electronically-delivered absentee ballot system for use by Maine voters with print disabilities.
  • What is a “print disability?” Under this Interim Agreement [1], “print disability may include, but it not limited to, vision impairment or blindness; physical dexterity limitations; learning disabilities such as dyslexia; brain injury or cognitive impairment; or dementia, all of which may prevent an individual from independently marking a traditional paper ballot.”
  • When does it go into effect? The system is in effect starting Friday, October 2, 2020.
  • How do I access this service to request a ballot? 
  • Questions? Contact John Goetz at Disability Rights Maine at (207) 619-4778 or at VotingAccess2020@drme.org 

Voting in Person on Election Day

Accessible Voting System in MaineMaine voters with disabilities may also vote in person on Election Day and use the accessible voting machine. 

The State of Maine provides the ExpressVote universal voting system as its Accessible Voting System. The ExpressVote is a ballot-marking device that allows individuals with disabilities to vote with privacy and independence.

Using this tabletop unit, voters can navigate through their ballot using a touchscreen, or a keypad and audio interface. The ExpressVote generates a printed ballot with the voter’s choices. Ballot scanners, which are in use in most of Maine’s voting places, can then count the ExpressVote ballot along with the other ballots, which helps to improve voter privacy.

The ExpressVote unit is not connected to a network and does not track or store voter choices. It is certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The State of Maine began offering an accessible voting solution in 2006, with the Inspire Vote-By-Phone ballot-marking system. The ExpressVote ballot-marking devices replaced the phone system in June 2016.

Voting Place Accessibility

Since 2006, the Secretary of State has worked with municipalities to enhance the physical accessibility of voting places as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The links below will provide additional information and resources to assist municipal officials in achieving compliance with physical accessibility requirements.

Use this link for more information about accessible voting in Maine.

Footnotes

  1. The term “print disability” used in this Interim Agreement is NOT the same as the term “other people with print disabilities” used in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 Section 1414 (a) (23) (A) and elsewhere in the law.

Wheelchair Securement Systems on Airplanes Studied

US Access Board logoThe U. S. Access Board, in partnership with the Transportation Research Board (TRB), is studying the feasibility of installing wheelchair securement systems on commercial aircraft as directed by Congress under the FAA Reauthorization Act. A committee of experts TRB organized to conduct this assessment held its third public meeting on August 11, 2020.

The committee is evaluating the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with securement mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs. Its members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines.

At the meeting, the study committee received presentations from airline engineers on technical issues and aircraft interior design considerations, wheelchair manufacturing and design experts, and speakers who addressed how securement systems could provide passengers with disabilities an equivalent level of service and safety in air travel. The meeting also included a panel on the operational implications of using wheelchair securement systems, which included speakers representing airlines, flight attendants, and contract service providers who routinely assist passengers with disabilities in the boarding process.

The Committee plans to hold its next meeting in October. Further details will be released at a later date. For further information, visit TRB’s website or contact Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at AJayasinghe@nas.edu or (202) 334-2401.

 

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

Audio Description Project – Proposed Rulemaking

The following press release comes from the Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind (ACB):

On April 23, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes expanding the number of broadcast designated market areas required to pass through audio description from the top 60 markets to the top 100, and to use the term “audio description” instead of the term “video description.”

The NPRM seeks to modernize the terminology in the Commission’s regulations to use the term “audio description” rather than “video description.” The term “audio description” is used by the rest of the federal government and is the term used in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Additionally, “audio description” is the agreed upon international terminology for audibly describing the visual elements of videos, on-stage performances, and subjects at museum and art galleries.

On May 21, 2020, the Media Bureau of the FCC released a public notice announcing the NPRM comment due dates; comments are due June 22, 2020, and reply comments are due July 6, 2020. The text of the NPRM is available on the FCC website.

Interested parties may file comments on their own by accessing the Electronic Comment Filing System. All filings must reference MB Docket No. 11-43. People with disabilities who need assistance to file comments online may request assistance by email to FCC504@fcc.gov.

Read more about the plan to expand the number of broadcast designated market areas…

Read more about the Audio Description Project…

 

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.

 

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.

MaineCare now allows Telehealth to deliver pharmacy services

In a special ruling made on March 16, 2020 by the Division of Policy of MaineCare, Chapter 101 of MaineCare Benefits Manual Chapter I, Section 4, Telehealth services for Pharmacy Services are now covered by MaineCARE.

In the “concise summary” the change in rules states:

This emergency rulemaking will remove the MaineCare Benefits Manual (MBM), Chapter I, Section 4, Telehealth Services blanket prohibition against providers utilizing telehealth to deliver services under the MBM, Chapter II, Section 80, Pharmacy Services. Pursuant to 5 M.R.S. Section 8054, the Department has determined that immediate adoption of this rule is necessary to avoid a potentially severe and immediate threat to public health, safety or general welfare. The Department’s findings of emergency are set forth in detail in the Emergency Basis Statement. Maine is facing a substantial public health threat posed by the global spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. As a preemptive action by the Department, Pharmacy Services will be available via telehealth when medically necessary and appropriate.

This emergency rule change will take effect upon adoption and will be in effect for 90 days (5 M.R.S. § 8054). The Department is concurrently engaging in the routine technical rulemaking process for Section 4 to prevent a lapse in the rule and added services.

Please use this link to see the new rules and rulemaking documents