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 AT Pro
gram News
  News for and from the State AT Act
 Programs, the Alternative Financing Programs,
 and their community partners

                            May/June 2010
In This Issue
Field News: Chris Clasby and Kathleen Laurin on Creating Access to Wildlife Recreation
Success! Tasha Shoffner Finds her Calling through AmeriCorps
Did You Know? AT Programs Build Capacity with AmeriCorps
Lessons from an AFP-AgrAbility Partnership
Accessible Video: Tips, Tricks, and Tools for YouTube (and Beyond)
Hot Resource: OATS-Directory of Free AT Software
Ask the Expert: Getting Started with AmeriCorps
Nifty Product: ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps
Chris Clasby and Kathleen Laurin on Creating Access to Wildlife Recreation
Thanks to MonTECH Program Coordinator Chris Clasby, MSW and Program Director Kathleen Laurin, Ph.D. for sharing the details on this unique recreational AT program, how it came together, and how it is and will be sustained.
Clasby fishing with a sip and puff rod
Chris fishing with sip and puff rod
Assistive technology (AT) devices can open the world of recreation to individuals with disabilities and those who are aging. Unfortunately  access to recreation and leisure activities is sometimes not considered an important component of disability services and rehabilitation. The Montana Access To Outdoor Recreation (MATOR) project at the University of Montana Rural Institute-MonTECH recognizes that these activities are crucial to quality of life for each of us with or without a disability.  Consistent with Montana's heritage of wildlife-associated recreation, MATOR strives to increase opportunities for individuals with disabilities to pursue wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, and related activities. The project achieves this goal by providing more than just an equipment loan program; MATOR also provides high quality opportunities to see and try adapted recreational equipment in the natural environment, and it facilitates social supports (when requested) that ensure everyone enjoys their time outdoors.
 
Family hiking with a "trail buddy"
Family hiking with a trail buddy for wheelchair access
MATOR began in 2008 with the receipt of a three-year recreational programs grant from the Rehabilitation Services Agency (RSA) of the US Department of Education. Seven new recreational program awards were made that year (based on the FFY2008 competition), ranging from $115,000 to $135,000 for the first year of funding. MATOR is unique for RSA's recreational programs because it is the only one that focuses on wildlife-associated recreation (wildlife viewing, fishing, and hunting). It is also unique because it is using recreational program funds to purchase ... read the rest on creating access to wildlife recreation

Have an idea for an article you'd like to contribute? ATPN provides editing support. Contact ATPN

Success! Tasha Shoffner Finds her Calling through AmeriCorps

Tasha Shoffner
Tasha Shoffner
In 2007, Tasha Shoffner completed her MBA with the help of a DynaWrite speech generating device. After graduation she was in pursuit of full-time employment when she learned of an opportunity to serve as an Americorps volunteer at the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Houston assistive technology (AT) demonstration center, a program of the Texas AT Act program. She couldn't resist. Tasha had already been working part time as a consumer representative for Dynavox (a maker of alternative and augmentative communication devices) and had discovered the pleasure of helping others get empowered through assistive technology (and AAC in particular). Now here was an opportunity to light that fire for people with disabilities of all kinds; it was a chance to put her skills and life experience to work in a powerful and satisfying way, and learn about a lot of assistive technology in the process.
 
Shoffner's own story with AAC did not begin until her junior year of college. She was contemplating switching majors to avoid the oral presentations necessary to complete her BA in social work... read the rest of Tasha Shoffner's story

Have a success story you wish you had time to write? ATPN can draft a profile that your program's newsletter can use too. Contact ATPNand put "story idea" in the subject line.
Did You Know? AT Programs Build Capacity with AmeriCorps

Both the Tennessee and Texas AT Act programs have partnered with AmeriCorps to help staff AT demonstration/loan centers. Alternative Financing Programs (AFPs) in Georgia, Wyoming, and Iowa have used AmeriCorps to set up financial literacy courses and programs. In Maryland an AmeriCorps volunteer is running an AT reuse program. Did we leave you out? Tell us about your AmeriCorps partnership.
Lessons from an AFP-AgrAbility Partnership

PATF logo with words Pennsylvania Assistive Technology FoundationBack in 2007, Kevin Yasnowski became the first farmer to receive a financial loan through the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF). At the time, Mr. Yasnowski was working at a Nike shoe outlet, but he didn't want to just sell shoes. He wanted to help with haying and raising heifers alongside his father on their family's farm. To do so Yasnowski, who has Down Syndrome, needed safety equipment for a tractor. But because he was already employed, the Penn. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) turned down his request for assistance. Indeed there was no program that could help with this equipment. That's when PATF stepped in.
 
"It's important to do what you love," notes Executive Director Susan Tachau.
 
PATF learned of Yasnowski through a partnership it had just launched with AgrAbilityand Penn State University... read the rest of Lessons from an AFP-AgrAbility Partnership

YouTube logo with the words, "broadcast yourself."Accessible Video: Tips, Tricks, and Tools for YouTube (and beyond)

Google's YouTube has helped make sharing video easy and popular for the non-technologically savvy.  Users simply sign up for a YouTube channel, upload a video from their camera and instantly get a web address (url) and even a snippet of code (html) to embed on their websites.
 
For people with sensory disabilities, however, the use of this social media to convey important information is frustrating. Videos are rarely captioned, few provide audio description of visual content, and even the players themselves are often inaccessible to screen readers and other assistive technology. In the last few months, however, Google has helped bring the need for accessible video to mainstream consciousness. Their launch of easy-to-use captioning tools--even auto-captioning--is helping set a new standard for what a video should include.
 
Because of YouTube's innovation, MassMATCH and ATPN set out to learn more about the new captioning tools for the benefit of the AT program community. We wanted to know how to use them. We also wanted to know how to go beyond them to provide access to more people with disabilities. Below are tips, tricks, and tools for accessible video that we have gleaned from the web and from experts in the field. The article includes advice on captioning, audio description, and accessible video players. It is intended to provide general awareness as well as deeper insight for novice video producers and anyone embedding video content on a website.
 
Thanks to Geoff Freed of the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), Marsha Schwanke of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University, and Jayme Johnson of the High Tech Center Training Unit at the California Community Colleges for contributing insight and resources used for this article.
Read the rest of Tips, Tricks, and Tools for YouTube . . .
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Hot Resource:
OATS- Directory of Free AT Software

OATS stands for "Open Source Assistive Technology Software." The OATS website is a great resource for finding free AT software to meet a specific need. Applications are organized by the following categories:
  • text input projects
  • communication
  • using the mouse
  • viewing the screen
  • accessing the web
  • symbols
  • alternative access
  • E learning and education
  • general tools
  • other need
The site was launched in 2006 to bring together an international community of users and developers to create free AT software with the features that people want. Wherever possible, the site provides user, developer, and OATS feedback on the software applications. The OATS Project Consortium is based in the UK, hosted by the University of Dundee, and coordinated by The Ace Centre.

Comment on OATS here...
Ask the Expert:
Getting Started with AmeriCorps

Americorps VISTA logo

Dear Expert:

 
How can I get an Americorps volunteer to work
with my program? We don't have any matching funds, but we do have some interesting projects for a college graduate and could really use the help.
 
--Looking to build my AT program's capacity

Dear Looking:


Depending on the goals of your program, AmeriCorps VISTA may be a good option for you. Through Americorps VISTA you get a person (volunteer hours), not a grant, so no matching funds are required, but you do need to provide supervision and the resources needed to complete the project. VISTA volunteers commit one year of full-time service and are often college graduates. The focus of VISTA members is capacity building for sustainable change that will ... read the rest of getting started with AmeriCorps.

Want to Ask the Expert? ATPN will ask for you (who the expert is depends on the question you pose). To Ask the Expert, contact ATPN and put "Expert" in the subject line. All questions are posed anonymously from start to finish.
Nifty Product: ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps

Logo: In Touch Graphics with finger print graphicClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps aims to be the MapQuest for people who are blind or deaf/blind. Developed by In Touch Graphics, the service is providing "mobility-friendly" walking directions for both indoor and outdoor environments. These are auditory and tactile maps (MP3 files and text files for download) available from their accessible website or over a cell or standard phone, and they are free to blind and deaf/blind users. The maps provide:
  • step by step indoor guidance
  • landmark to landmark route travel
  • directions prepared by mobility specialists
  • formats for braille output or a listening device
In Touch Graphics is marketing the service to institutions, organizations, and businesses ("sponsors") to make their facilities more fully accessible. Sample maps on the website include the Massachusetts State House, ATIA 2010 Orlando, and the University of Minnesota. A search box is provided for finding point to point or point of interest directions.



Disclaimer: AT Program News makes no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this newsletter. AT Program News has not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device referred to in this electronic newsletter or at www.atprogramnews.com
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