Assistive Technology for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Early childhoodAs part of Maine CITE’s presentations at recent conferences, we have created a new resource for assistive technology (AT) for people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The resource will now be updated regularly as we become aware of new AT devices and services. If you know of anything you think should be added to this page, please contact John Brandt at jbrandt@mainecite.org .

Use this link to visit AT for people with ASD.

 

New White House Report Documents Emerging Tech for Seniors

From the White House, March 5, 2019:

Senior with assistantEvery day, new innovations help make life a little easier for older Americans, whether it’s video chatting with family or monitoring their heart rate with a smart watch. Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous transportation systems, the internet of things, and next-generation wireless networks hold significant promise for enhancing independence, safety, overall mental and physical well-being, and health of older generations. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is growing rapidly and may reach nearly a quarter of the population in the next forty years. With an aging population, the Nation must proactively develop strategies, tools, and recommendations to enable older adults to live healthy, independent lives for as long as possible. Accordingly, the Trump Administration has made finding and assessing potential solutions for an aging population a research and development (R&D) priority.

Today, the Trump Administration released a new report, Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population, identifying innovations that have the potential to improve quality of life for all Americans, particularly those who live with physical or cognitive burdens due to aging or disability. Importantly, the report also identifies the R&D needed to bring these innovations to fruition.

Drafted by experts convened from across the Federal Government by the National Science and Technology Council, the report highlights six key ways technology has the potential to help Americans live longer, healthier, and more independent lives. These include:

  1. Key Activities of Daily Living. Technology could help older Americans perform many of the activities that comprise independent living, such as eating well, maintaining good hygiene, and managing medications. The report recommends key R&D to advance smart home technology and innovations that promote faster healing and safer, more accurate medication delivery.
  2. Cognitive Skills. Cognitive changes are common during aging and can eventually affect one’s ability to live independently and safely. Further R&D holds the promise of advancing technology to help older adults monitor changes in their cognition, provide mental training to reduce the impact of these changes, and create systems that help individuals and families maintain financial security.
  3. Communication and Social Connectivity. Older adults may face communication challenges as a result of hearing loss, social isolation, and loneliness, especially in economically distressed and rural areas. Technology has the potential to improve hearing abilities, and strengthen connections to family, loved ones, and communities.
  4. Personal Mobility. To live independently, older Americans must be able to move around their homes and throughout the larger community with comfort and ease. Technology could help older adults stay mobile and safely continue to perform key activities necessary for day-to-day life.
  5. Access to Transportation. True independence requires mobility outside of one’s home and immediate neighborhood. Transportation needs and limitations vary depending on how a person’s physical and cognitive abilities change with age. For examplesome older adults may be able to drive but require vehicle modification and/or advanced technologies to assist them. New technology could also help older adults more safely and easily use public transportation. Additional R&D into assistive systems that help keep drivers safe and technologies that support easy access to public transportation will allow older Americans to remain connected to social, health, and business facilities.
  6. Access to Healthcare. Routine access to healthcare plays a critical role in helping older adults stay active and independent as they age. The report highlights the need for enhanced R&D into technology that could help align and coordinate care, and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services.

In addition to the six primary areas listed above, the report recommends cross-cutting themes that are critical to the widespread adoption of new technologies among older Americans, including intuitive, user-friendly designs as well as addressing privacy and security considerations.

Getting these cutting-edge innovations into homes and communities will require R&D across a wide range of disciplines, spanning the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. But the potential is profound; Resilient, cost-effective materials could keep surfaces free of bacteria, innovative sensor and actuator systems could keep people comfortable during long periods in bed, new household robots could assist with food preparation, and much more. The Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population report not only identifies areas of technology that can significantly impact Americans’ quality of life as they age, but also recommends areas of R&D where public and private sector efforts can help bring those innovations to life.

Our Nation stands on the verge of truly transformational breakthroughs in technology that will shape all aspects of our daily lives for years to come. President Donald J. Trump has led his Cabinet in the expansion of rural broadband so older Americans in all parts of our Nation can benefit from these technologies. The Trump Administration understands that targeted R&D combined with the removal of regulatory barriers can lead to untold innovation and discovery. This report serves as a guide to the public and private sector to ensure aging Americans reap all the benefits of emerging technologies on the horizon. The rising tide of 21st century innovation should lift up Americans of all generations and all walks of life.

Use this link to download the entire 30-page report Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population– PDF

Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”

Group formed to test and document assistive technologies

ARIA W3C logoThe W3C – World Wide Web Consortia – has created a community group to systematically test and document  assistive technologies use of ARIA and HTML5 accessibility features in web applications. W3C membership is NOT needed to participate in the community group.

How WAI-ARIA is supported by assistive technologies, such as screen readers, is highly variable. This variation in WAI-ARIA rendering adds unnecessary complexity to the development of high-quality web experiences for users of assistive technologies and places significant limitations on the types of web widgets that can be made widely accessible.

This community group is dedicated to:

  1. Helping assistive technology developers converge on a set of clear norms for baseline support of WAI-ARIA.
  2. Helping web developers understand the current state of support for WAI-ARIA by assistive technologies.

WAI-ARIA is as important to assistive technology presentation as CSS is to visual presentation. Join us to help make WAI-ARIA as reliable as CSS.

In order to join the group, you will need a W3C account. Please note, however, that W3C Membership is not required to join a Community Group. Complete details may be found at this link…

This is a community initiative. This group was originally proposed on 2018-11-30 by Matthew King. The following people supported its creation: Matthew King, Laura Fathauer, Shadi Abou-Zahra, David Sexton, Mark McCarthy, Aaron Leventhal. W3C’s hosting of this group does not imply endorsement of the activities.

 

Mobile Accessibility Testing Guide for Android and iOS

Android TabletsA new accessibility resource has been made available from the Paciello Group:

“The TPG Mobile Accessibility Testing for Android and iOS (PDF, 2.6MB) is a free accessible PDF outlining how to test native apps and the web for accessibility on Android and iOS. It provides an overview of accessibility settings, how to use them and common testing tools.

“Instructions on how to test content are provided for Android Talkback, iOS VoiceOver, zoom and switch settings. Also included are some testing tips, differences between testing mobile web and native apps, as well as an explanation of gestures and how to use them.

“This is a great document to use if you are testing, developing or designing apps and need to understand how accessible your content is and how usable it is for people of different abilities.”

More information on the Paciello Group website…


Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by WikiMedia Commons

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.

 

Robot assists student in need

Double Robotics - DoubleAs reported in the Portland Press Herald and News Center – WCSH-6 – Portland, the Vassalboro Community School in AOS92 has recently purchased a Double Robotics telepresence device to assist on of their students with a chronic illness who is not able to attend school.

The device, called “Double” is a remote student-controlled robotic device that is able to navigate through the school and allow the student to attend classes and interact with students and teachers from home. The device was created by a company called Double Robotics a California-based technology company.  As noted in the Press Herald article:

“Double is an iPad mounted on wheels that Abby (the student) is able to remotely control over Wi-Fi. Think Skype on a Segway.

“‘It acts as your double,’ says Sara Broyles, communications manager Double Robotics Inc., the company that created the ‘telepresence’ robot that Abby uses. ‘It gives you a physical presence where you can’t be in person.'”

The use of robots as assistive technology is growing across the country. We have posted more information about this device and others here on our website. 

Funding for this particular technology was provided by the Perloff Family Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

Another source of funding is the Grahamtastic Foundation who currently has a fleet of nine robots working to support students in Maine schools.

More information