Maine DOE Launching a New Website

Maine DOE logoThe Maine Department of Education will be launching a new website on Friday, September 28, 2018. Over the course of the summer months, Department staff have been working on updating and re-writing website content for a new website that features an improved search function, a user-friendly interface, and a content management system which will allow Department staff to keep content updated and timely.

The new website will replace the current website found at maine.gov/doe. It will have a similar, yet new, look and feel.

It is important to note that those who have bookmarked links to the Department’s current website may need to re-save their bookmarks when the new website is released because there will be some pages that have a different website address.

To ensure that the field and the public can find information on the new website on Friday and going forward, please send all inquiries, comments, concerns, and questions related to the website to doe.webmaster@maine.gov.

For further questions about the launch of the new website, please contact Maine Department of Education Director of Communications, Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Access Board Issues Correction to ICT Refresh Final Rule

US Access Board logoFrom the US Access Board:

On January 22, the Access Board issued a correction to its updated accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) to restore provisions on TTY access that were inadvertently omitted. The action applies to the final rule the Board published last January to jointly refresh its Rehabilitation Act (Section 508) standards for ICT in the federal sector and its Communications Act (Section 255) guidelines for telecommunications equipment.

The original Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines required that devices with two-way voice communication support use of TTY devices which provide text communication across phone connections for persons with hearing or speech impairments. In its ICT refresh, the Board had proposed replacing this provision with a requirement for real-time text (RTT) functionality, a new technology with significant advantages over TTYs. RTT transmits text in virtual real-time as each character is typed, whereas TTY messages can only be sent individually in sequence. Also, RRT technology is directly compatible with wireless and Internet protocol (IP) based networks.

In finalizing its rule, however, the Board chose to reserve the RTT requirement because the Federal Communications Commission had initiated its own rulemaking to address RTT functionality over TTY compatibility in IP-based telecommunication environments. In doing so, the Board intended to add the original TTY provision back into the rule, but the necessary language was unintentionally left out. The recent correction restores the TTY requirement with minor editorial changes for consistency with the new format and terminology of the updated requirements (Section 412.8). It also corrects a couple typographical errors in other sections of the rule. The corrections become effective March 23, 2018 without further action unless adverse comments are received.

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Timothy Creagan at (202) 272-0016 (v), (202) 272-0074 (TTY) or Bruce Bailey at (202) 272-0024 (v), (202) 272-0070 (TTY); email: 508@access-board.gov

New Family Guide on AT and AEM Published

Students using Assistive TechnologyThe Maine CITE Coordinating Center is excited to announce the release of the revised parent resource entitled, “Guide for Maine Families on Assistive Technology (AT) and Accessible Educational Materials (AEM).”

The revised Guide is for Maine families of children who have disabilities ages 3 to 21 years who are eligible for services and/or programs under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This guide will assist families to get necessary assistive technology (AT) devices and services and accessible educational materials (AEM) for their children.

Here is the link to a MS-Word document version for you to download and print.

Feel free to share the link with others and to download and print out copies of the Guide if you need “hard copy.” The digital document is fully accessible.

If you find information that is no longer accurate, please contact the Maine CITE Coordinating Center – we welcome your input.

Legal references regarding web accessibility

US Capitol DomeThe following are on-line resources that have listed and documented historic information about legal issues related to web accessibility. Resources include references to legal cases and rule interpretations. Thanks to several members of the ITACCESS listserv from Educause for assistance in compiling this list.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – Web Accessibility Laws and Policies – lists United States and international governmental policies related to web accessibility, although it is not a comprehensive or definitive listing.

Law Office of Lainey Feingold – Legal Updates – The articles listed on this page are about legal developments related to web, mobile (digital), technology and information accessibility in the United States. These articles include advocacy initiatives by the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and her co-counsel and clients, and also by other lawyers, organizations, and government agencies.

Resources primarily focused on institutions of higher education

ATHEN – Legal news – Focused on Office for Civil Rights (OCR) complaints and resolutions in that have occurred in higher education.

Karl Groves – List of Web Accessibility-Related Litigation and Settlements – last updated 2015.

University of Washington – Legal Cases by Issue – Recent legal actions against higher education institutions related to the inaccessibility of information technology (IT).

University of Minnesota – Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements – List of higher educational institutions face liability for inaccessible web content and technologies.

 

PDF conversion tools and services

Digital DocumentsA frequent request that we receive at Maine CITE is for assistance in converting complex digital documents into an accessible format. Often these are documents that have been converted to Portable Document Format (PDF) and the original document may no longer be available. The requests often come from organizations and institutions that have a large volume of these types of documents and lack the time and skilled personnel to successfully convert these digital documents into accessible digital documents.

Below we have pulled together list of some “tools and services” that can assist in this process. Thanks to Jiatyan Chen of Stanford University, Damian Sian of Princeton University and Tristan Price of Mt. Hood Community College who generated the initial list.

Note that these companies and tools vary extensively and some tools are free and others are fee for service.

Services

SensusAccess – SensusAccess is a self-service, alternate media solution for educational institutions. SensusAccess allows students, faculty, staff and alumni to automatically convert documents into a range of alternate media including audio books (MP3 and DAISY), e-books (EPUB, EPUB3 and Mobi) and digital Braille. The service can also be used to convert inaccessible documents such as image-only PDF files, JPG pictures and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations into more accessible and less tricky formats.

CommonLook – NetCentric Technologies, a global leader in document accessibility, provides software products and professional services enabling faster, more cost-efficient, and more reliable processes for achieving compliance with the leading PDF and document accessibility standards, including WCAG, PDF/UA, and Section 508. CommonLook software makes the creation, remediation, and management of accessible PDF and Microsoft Office documents easier than ever before.

247 Accessible Documents – On-demand Accessible Documents – Upload a Document and receive an Accessible PDF, Accessible Word Document or an Accessible PowerPoint that meets Accessibility Standards & Guidelines 2.0 in 5 days.

inclüd – Accessible content conversion, creation, and consulting services, inclüd provides institutions with a path to accessible information, ensuring that those with exceptional needs can access content tailor made for them.

Equidox Equidox is an automated solution that simplifies the process of discovering, converting, and publishing PDF documents to WCAG 2.0 compliant HTML. Manual PDF to HTML conversion requires a significant amount of time and extensive HTML knowledge. Not only is manual HTML conversion less efficient, but it can also introduce errors. Equidox automates the conversion process, and saves organizations time and money.

BrailleWorks – Braille Works is a solution for repair or remediation of your documents so organizations can meet WCAG and 508 compliance standards. WCAG and Section 508 document compliance can be difficult and navigating these waters is not a job for the inexperienced. Elements of a document such as paragraph structure, tables, charts, lists etc, need to be properly organized and tagged to provide true accessibility.

Tools

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC – The defacto PDF conversion tool. Includes an Accessibilty Checker to assess your PDF files.

axaio MadeToTagaxaio MadeToTag is an Adobe InDesign CS6 to CC plug-in to properly prepare InDesign documents for export as accessible, tagged PDF file – much more easier, faster and more reliable. The tagged PDF complies with the terms of the PDF/UA-Standard, the international standard for universally accessible PDF. PDF/UA is important to all organizations and companies delivering documents which have to be conform to regulations requiring accessible electronic content including WCAG 2.0, Section 508 in the US.

PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC 2) – PAC 2 quickly tests PDF files for accessibility. PAC 2 is used to support expert and affected tests during assessment. NOTE: The company offering this software, Access for All, is based in Switzerland, you may need to use translation to understand the content.

 

New guidance on IDEA

From the U.S. Department of Education

US Department of Education logoThe U.S. Department of Education (on 12/12/2016) made available to the public final regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), aimed at promoting equity by targeting widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities. The regulations will address a number of issues related to significant disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities based on race or ethnicity. The Department is also releasing a new Dear Colleague Letter addressing racial discrimination.

Children of color—particularly African-American and American Indian youth—are identified as students with disabilities at substantially higher rates than their peers. It is critical to ensure that overrepresentation is not the result of misidentification, including both over- and under-identification, which can interfere with a school’s ability to provide children with the appropriate educational services required by law. It is equally important to ensure that all children who are suspected of having a disability are evaluated and, as appropriate, receive needed special education and related services in the most appropriate setting and with the most appropriate discipline strategies employed.

This rule sets a common standard for identifying significant disproportionality in representation of students within special education, segregated school settings, and in receipt of disciplinary actions and ensures that school districts where disproportionality is found carefully review their policies and practices to determine root causes and whether changes are needed. The final rule ensures that school districts explore and address situations where the cause of significant disproportionality is due to under-identification of a group as well as over-identification.

Meanwhile, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is also releasing a new policy document to support educators and administrators as they work to identify students’ need for special education [PDF]. This new policy document was created to remind states, school districts, and public schools of their legal obligation to prevent discrimination on the basis of race in special education. OCR’s enforcement experience suggests both over-identification and under-identification based on race are occurring in schools.

For more information: please read – FACT SHEET: Equity in IDEA…

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.

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

Digital Accessibility Toolkit for State and District Education Leaders

StudentsAccessibility of websites and other digital technologies have seen increased attention this year from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights when it comes to state departments of education and school districts.

eSchool News published a recent article about a Digital Accessibility Toolkit for state and district education leaders.  The toolkit provides an overview of digital accessibility in four areas:

  • Why accessibility is important;
  • Procurement of accessible technology by states and districts;
  • Benefits of accessible technology; and
  • The last section is a discussion of the legal requirements for digital accessibility.

Resources

And also check out the new Accessibility in Schools resource here on the Maine CITE website.

 

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.