New Maine CITE Program Director Arrives

Jessi WrightJessi Wright, MBA, ATP has been named the new Director for the Maine CITE Program, the Assistive Technology (AT) program for the state of Maine. Jessi began her duties on February 1, 2021.

Jessi was previously the Director of the West Virginia State Assistive Technology Program located at the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities.

Jessi has worked in the disability field for over 15 years, ten years of which were with state assistive technology programs. She has extensive experience in disability services program management and is recognized as a national leader in the assistive technology field with knowledge of AT services, training, data management, funding, and grant writing.

Personally, Jessi grew up with an aunt with Down Syndrome and has provided caregiving support to friends and family with varying disabilities. She also identifies as a person with a disability. As a user of AT, she fully understands the potential life changing benefits of AT and has dedicated her career to educating and helping others achieve independence and an increased quality of life through the use of AT.

As a photography, nature and travel enthusiast, Jessi is looking forward to exploring all the adventures Maine has to offer. She plans to spend her down time camping, hiking and kayaking in the beautiful state of Maine. Jessi is also looking forward to trying out winter recreation activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well. You may also find her checking out a local hockey game or live music event around the state.

The Maine CITE Program, located at the University of Maine Augusta, is the statewide AT program, administered by the Maine Department of Education and funded by the federal Administration for Community Living. Maine CITE provides information, training, and services about AT, manages the statewide device demo, loan, and reuse programs, and provides technical assistance to organizations and individuals. Maine CITE’s online searchable AT inventory, AT4Maine, has more than 1000 devices available for demo and loan that can be accessed at the website, AT4Maine.org.

Maine CITE also administers the Maine Accessible Educational Materials Program (Maine AEM) which provides information, training, and technical assistance to educators to ensure educational content and communications are accessible to all.

Please feel free to contact Jessi at jwright@mainecite.org

 

7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium!

The following comes from CAST

Located near Boston, CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization that created the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and Guidelines, now used the world over to make learning more inclusive.

Register now for the 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium!

Education2020 was a year for the history books, challenging us to make dramatic, unexpected changes quickly. We also confirmed that radical change in teaching and learning is possible. But 2020 also illuminated barriers to learning like never before. How do we ensure that the future is intentionally planned in a way that achieves the outcomes we hope for?

The 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium will highlight promising work taking place in the field and will also serve as a forum to think about how we can begin to intentionally design for a better future right now. This year’s event is not about UDL as it has always been done. It is about the dramatic changes that we hope to see in the future and the innovations that can lead us there. Join us for a learning and networking experience filled with connected conversations that elevate our thinking around UDL and the future designed.

Use this link to register for the 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium now.

Learn more about the CAST UDL Symposium by visiting our website.

W3C Publishes Working Draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0

From the U.S. Access Board

Accessible Information TechnologyThe World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published the First Call Public Working Draft of its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0, which are developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world. WCAG 3.0 provides new ways to evaluate web content accessibility for people with disabilities by addressing more types of disabilities, concentrating on both mobile and desktop applications, and developing new tests and scoring to determine accessibility.

While WCAG 3.0 would succeed WCAG 2.1 and 2.0, it would not deprecate these earlier versions. WCAG 3.0 covers a wider set of user and disability needs, publishing requirements, and emerging technologies such as web XR (augmented, virtual, and mixed reality) and voice input. WCAG 3.0 also includes non-normative information about web technologies working in conjunction with authoring tools, user agents, and assistive technologies. The WCAG 3.0 model is designed to support better coverage across disabilities and be easier to maintain so that the model keeps pace with accelerating technology change.

Since the late 1990s, the Board and the WCAG working groups have engaged in ongoing collaboration to make web content more accessible to users with disabilities. The Board’s original Section 508 Standards (2000) cited WCAG 1.0 and included a mapping between specific WCAG 1.0 checkpoints and 508 provisions. The refreshed 508 Standards (2017) incorporate significant portions of WCAG 2.0 by reference.

The finalized WCAG 3.0 standards are not expected to be completed until after 2022. To submit feedback, file an issue in the W3C Silver GitHub repository (GitHub account required). Please file one issue per discrete comment. If filing issues in GitHub is not feasible, send an email to public-agwg-comments@w3.org or public-silver@w3.org. Feedback and comments on this draft are due by February 26, 2021.

Use this link to view the draft and directions on how to participate and make comments…

Apple’s Vision for Learning with iPad

Voice Over Utility logo from AppleApple has published a new resource for educators about using iPad for learning. Separated into four sections: Connect, Collaborative, Creative, and Personal, the resource PDF provides information on topics such as accessibility, productivity, creative projects for learners and apps for education. In addition, the resource provides links to free curricular and learning resources and professional learning opportunities.

Use this link to view/download Apple’s Vision for Learning with iPad

 

Blind and low vision individuals needed for research study

UNAR Labs,Person reading Braille an early stage Maine-based startup with a mission to empower people with vision impairment via multisensory information access using touchscreen-based smartphones and tablets. UNAR Labs researchers are seeking individuals for paid participation in a study to understand and identify the best tactile guidelines, conversion/translation parameters, and embossing strategies used in traditional tactile graphics generation processes. The researchers believe that insights from experts in the field will guide them in designing a meaningful prototype software system for enabling blind and visually-impaired users with access to digital graphical materials.

The commitment is an interview (zoom or phone) with field experts involved in the process of generating braille and tactile graphics. The interviewee may be tactile artists, braille transcribers, braille proofreaders, tactile graphic prepress support staff, and braille/tactile graphics transcribers. Researchers are also interested in shadowing staff at work to better understand workflow, recognize steps used in information down-sampling and the overall conversion/production process; this, of course, will need to take into consideration health and safety during this time of the spread of the coronavirus.

Each interview will take approximately 30-60 minutes. Qualified participants will be compensated $20/hour (Amazon gift card) for their participation (prorated at $5 per 15 minutes). Researchers would like to conduct interviews in the next 2-3 weeks so please don’t delay your response.

To participate, please send an email to Hari Palani at hari.palani@unarlabs.com

Learn more about UNAR Labs…

 

Imageshare 3.0 released

groups of students and teacher in classroom viewing digital contentFrom the DIAGRAM Center

The DIAGRAM Center is thrilled to announce the public release of Imageshare 3.0!

With over 2500 resources made up of over 3500 individual files covering common topics in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), gone are the days of spending hours hand crafting tactiles for your students.  Imageshare 3.0 is the beginning of a true one-stop-shop for all you multi-modal needs.

We will be hosting a webinar unveiling Imageshare 3.0 in the coming weeks so make sure to keep an eye out for the registration announcement. And if you are new to the Imageshare project you may wish to check out the getting started video to get an overview of how it works (warning – video is on auto-start).

If you have questions, feedback or wish to provide resources to the collection please feel free to email Amaya directly or reach out to the team at info@diagramcenter.org.

Visit and start using Imageshare 3.0…

 

Maine State Library finds temporary new quarters down the street

Maine State Library in AugustaAccording to a report in Mainebiz…

“The Maine State Library will be the sole tenant of 242 State St., Augusta which has approximately 25,760 square feet over two floors. The public-facing component will take up almost all of the first floor, save for some private library offices, said Kelsey Goldsmith, director of communications for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees state government real estate. The entrance is off the parking lot, on Manley Street.

“The library and archives, which shares space with the Maine State Museum, has been closed to the public since July, 2020 so the 53-year-old Maine State Cultural Building can undergo extensive asbestos removal and an electrical, cooling and heating overhaul. While it remains closed, the museum is offering  online exhibits and events. The library has had curbside pickup since it closed.”

Among the programs affected by the closure has been the Talking Books program, a service for people with print disabilities. The Talking Book Program is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and provides free library services for eligible patrons, including digital books via smartphone app, NFB-Newsline newspaper services, and free matter mailings.

Much of the Talking Books Program in Maine has been functioning fully as much of the resources are on-line, however staff have been working from home.

According to Mainebiz:

“In a normal year, the Maine State Library gets about 75,000 in-person visitors; 17,500 patrons used its computers. In partnership with the Portland and Bangor public libraries, it answered more than 59,000 reference questions in 2018. The library also has a Book by Mail service for rural communities, sending out an average 6,500 books a year to people in areas that don’t have access to a library. It’s talking books program for people who are vision or reading-impaired lent 103,800 items.

Once the majority of the library’s collection is moved to the Winthrop site, it will be available to the public through the library’s delivery service. The public can pick up requested materials at 242 State St., or have them delivered to the appropriate library across the state. For instance, if a patron of the Portland Public Library requested a book, library staff would send it to Portland.”

Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) contest

Pictogram of Audio Description logoThe American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project (ACB-ADP) and the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) are cosponsoring an exciting opportunity for young people who are blind and visually impaired: The Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) contest. Students aged 7 to 21 can participate in one of four categories.

Multimedia experiences are integral to public, private, and special education curriculum. Audio description provides access to all the visual images of the films and videos that young people who are sighted enjoy.

Students can choose a described video from the thousands of titles available through DCMP, libraries, or video streaming services.

Reviews can be submitted in writing, in braille, or via an audio recording. Entries can also be submitted via email or postal mail.

Deadline for entries is Friday, January 22, 2021. Contest winners in each category will be chosen by February 19, 2021, and the grand-prize winner will receive an iPad Mini! Each first-place winner will receive a $100 iTunes gift card. Second-place winners will receive a $50 iTunes gift card, and the third-place winners will receive a $25 iTunes gift card. Each supporting teacher who has a first-place winning student will be awarded a $100 Amazon gift card.

Learn More about the Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) contest

Technical Assistance Specialists at the AEM Café

From the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)

Meet CAST’s team of friendly Technical Assistance Specialists at the AEM Café!

person using smart phone and laptopEvery first Thursday of the month
4:00 – 5:00 pm ET

How are you approaching accessibility in your learning environment? Are you stuck in a rut? Need some new ideas? Struggling with a challenge? Eager to share a new idea or strategy with others?

Every first Thursday of the month from 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET, we’ll focus on a topic, share some little-known resources from the AEM Center, and the rest is up to you. Show up, chat, ask questions, or just listen to the conversation. The AEM Café is open and ready to welcome you!

Use this link to register (once) for the entire AEM Café series…

Reliable Source of Ebooks for Special Education Students

Back to School 2020: Special Education Students Can Learn Anywhere with Bookshare

Bookshare logoThe following comes from Bookshare…

Some schools are offering blended learning where students spend a few days in down-sized classrooms and the other days doing online classes from home. Still other schools are starting with 100% distance learning and then phasing in on-site classes to small cohorts of students in “learning pods.”

No matter what the school environment looks like, the stakes are even higher for students with learning differences. How can teachers provide books in alternate formats so students with reading barriers like dyslexia, blindness, and cerebral palsy can complete assignments, no matter where and how learning is taking place?

Bookshare Makes the New Reality of Education Less Uncertain…read more about Bookshare

To help teachers prepare for a successful back to school, the Bookshare staff has assembled a collection of valuable resources, tips, step-by-step guides, video tutorials, curated reading lists, and webinars. Visit the back-to-school resource page for details…