Accessible Absentee Voting for People with Print 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.

Print disabilities 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 th e 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

 

 

Vacancy Notice: Director of Maine CITE

Maine CITE Coordinating CenterThe University of Maine Augusta (UMA) is seeking applicants for the position of Director of Maine CITE to provide statewide leadership and manage Maine’s federally designated statewide program of assistive technology (AT) for individuals of all ages with disabilities.

This full-time position is responsible for the successful management and implementation of the Maine statewide AT plan to assure continuity of services in Maine including AT demonstrations, loans, reuse, training, public awareness, and technical assistance. AT services impact independence, safety and productivity in education, community living, and employment. Maine CITE collaborates with the University of Maine System, the Maine Department of Education, and numerous AT provider organizations. This position develops and maintains cooperative relationships with community-based organizations, policy officials, and departments in State Government to achieve program goals. The Maine CITE Director works with state directors nationally to ensure continuity of services in Maine in accordance with federal requirements. Applicants must have experience in disability services, occupational therapy, assistive technology, or other related field.

Please use this link for additional information…

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…

 

Changes to AEM and NIMAS terms

From the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials

Recent federal statutory developments have impacted the provision of accessible educational materials, specifically those sourced from NIMAS files. The following changes mean that certain aspects of the AEM Navigator are now outdated:

  1. Definitions of key NIMAS-related terms have been updated.
  2. The NIMAC is now permitted to accept NIMAS files sourced from digital instructional materials.

First, as a result of changes to Copyright Law in response to the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act, key NIMAS-related terms have been updated. See our recent announcement NIMAS Terms Clarified Post Marrakesh to learn about the new terms “eligible person” and “accessible format.” The definition of “eligible person” has implications for the guidance that the AEM Navigator provides for who can use materials created from NIMAS source files from the NIMAC. We are currently waiting on the Library of Congress for regulations that will update the process currently outlined in the AEM Navigator.

Second, the U.S. Department of Education recently published a Notice of Interpretation in the Federal Register permitting the NIMAC to accept NIMAS files sourced from digital instructional materials. Previously, as reflected throughout the AEM Navigator, the NIMAC was permitted to accept NIMAS files from print instructional materials only. We are currently working with our stakeholders to develop new guidance and technical assistance to support educators with navigating a student’s need for accessible materials, whether those materials start as print or as digital.

We look forward to providing you with a new version of the AEM Navigator. The timeline primarily depends on when the Library of Congress  publishes procedures related to the new term “eligible person.”  While we don’t expect to be able to replace the AEM Navigator Online Tool due to the technology now being outdated, we will certainly build the best experience possible for you and your team.

If you have questions or comments regarding upcoming changes to the AEM Navigator, please contact us at aem@cast.org.

Remote Learning With DCMP Accessible Videos

groups of students and teacher in classroom viewing digital contentThe Described and Captioned Media Program is the nation’s leading source for accessible educational content, providing services for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Families and school personnel with early learners through Grade 12 students can register for free access to over 6,000 Educational Media titles on-demand and on DVD. The DCMP Learning Center contains a wealth of information related to education, accessibility, deafness, blindness, and other related topics. DCMP provides Media Accessibility Guidelines through their Captioning Key and Description Key, used by media professionals as well as amateurs around the world.

Read: How to Set Up, Use, and DCMP Share Student Accounts

About DCMP

DCMP membership provides unlimited access to thousands of accessible educational videos. We’re fully funded by the U.S. Department of Education, so there are no costs associated with any of our services. Family members, school personnel, and other professionals who work with early learners through Grade 12 students with a hearing or vision loss do qualify for membership.

 

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Hero Images 

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.

 

Providing Related Services to Enhance the Continuity of Learning

OSEP Webinar: Highlighting Strategies and Practices in Providing Related Services to Enhance the Continuity of Learning During COVID-19

June 29, 2020
2:00 – 3:00 PM EDT

Ideas that Work - Office of Special Education Programs - U.S. Department of Education

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is hosting the second in a series of webinars focused on ready-to-use resources, tools, and practices from OSEP partners to support the educational, developmental, behavioral, and social/emotional needs of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities through remote and distance learning.

This second webinar will focus on the provision of related services. In addition to highlighting OSEP resources, we will be joined by representatives from several of our related service national organizations. Additional information will be posted on OSEP’s COVID-19 Resource Page. 

Use this link to register for this OSEP webinar…

If you have any questions about the OSEP webinar, please contact the Webinar Series planning team at osep-meeting@air.org.

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 2020 Guide – PDF

Bookshare Summer Read-a-Thon Starts

Bookshare logoEach year, our colleagues at Bookshare encourage students to continue to read during the summer months after school is out. This year’s campaign called #AllInTogether is seeking to get students who are Bookshare members to read 200,000 books by July 31st.

Here are some of the details from Bookshare’s website:

Let’s Read 200K Together

This summer, while staying physically distant from others, why not come together virtually to share in the joy of reading? Bookshare’s #AllInTogether Summer Read-a-thon is a national campaign to share in the common bond of reading. Join Bookshare readers from around the world to escape, enjoy, and explore books for readers of every age and level. By July 31, we aim to have read 200,000 ebooks as a community.

Completed details and entry directions are on the Bookshare website…

Feds provide clarification on definition of print materials

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), Department of Education has announced a “Final notice of interpretation” regarding the definition of “print instructional materials’’ in the Individuals with Disability Education Act – IDEA regarding digital instructional materials. In this final interpretation, effective May 26, 2020, OSERS noted the “trend” toward digital materials in classrooms, a far different landscape from 2004 when IDEA was last amended and the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) was created. At that time, the vast majority of instructional materials were printed on paper and NIMAC was implemented to allow for the schools to convert printed instructional materials into specialized formats for a student with a print disability in a timely manner.

According to the announcement in the Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 101 of May 26, 2020:

“…the Department interprets the phrase ‘printed textbooks and related printed core  materials’ referred to in the definition of ‘print instructional materials’ in section 674(e)(3)(C) of IDEA (20 U.S.C. 1474(e)(3)(C)) to include digital instructional materials that comply with NIMAS, because that is the primary medium through which many textbooks and core materials are now produced.”

The full announcement in the May 26th Federal Register may be downloaded in PDF on the govinfo.gov website.

Read more about Laws and Policies related to AEM…