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National Federation of the Blind logo and tagline live the life you want

Efforts to be inclusive in higher education are being driven by the need for students to be exposed to accessibility concepts as part of their mainstream curriculum in order to be better prepared to address the needs of those with disabilities.

The National Federation of the Blind Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access invites you to apply for the 2022 Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship. This is an opportunity to empower educators with the knowledge and ability to teach their students about accessibility today to ensure it is integrated into the tools of tomorrow.

We will help you to integrate accessibility concepts into an existing course through this program; no previous experience is required.

What is Accessibility and Nonvisual Access?

Accessibility means full and equal access to the information and other content available online to the blind at the same time that it is made available to the rest of the public.

What is the Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship?

  • One-year fellowship: You will work with the experts of the National Federation of the Blind Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access for one year to integrate innovative accessibility concepts into your existing curricula.
  • Course enhancement: Accessibility concepts will be blended into your existing course to allow students to acquire the knowledge and awareness of accessibility as an integral part of their learning and a necessary consideration as they practice their profession.
  • Benefit to your students: The students that complete your course will be better equipped to meet the evolving needs of the industry, earn higher salaries, and create greater access for all.
  • Financial compensation: One award of $2,000 will be made to a professor or instructor of a University System of Maryland (USM) school or independent Maryland college, and two awards of $1,500 each will be made to Maryland community college instructors.

Here is what a former fellow has to say:

“When I learned I’d been selected as a recipient of the Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship, I was floored! I … was so intrigued by the idea of gaining a better understanding of how to incorporate accessible and inclusive practices into course design … I have received excellent feedback and strategies for how to improve the accessibility of both my syllabus and course site. Additionally, I have learned a number of best practices for ensuring that my course is welcoming for all of my students…” Dr. Renee F. Hill, Principal Lecturer, Director, School Library Specialization, University of Maryland, College of Information Studies

How to Apply

Take advantage of this free opportunity to start including accessibility concepts in your course offering.

Apply today by completing the brief application by November 15, 2021. The application requires copies of your class syllabus, the course description from the college catalog, and two professional references.

Apply for the Accessibility Inclusions Fellowship Today!

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently created a financial toolkit to help people with disabilities make better informed economic decisions throughout their careers. To gather feedback and suggestions on the best ways to improve the toolkit, DOL invites you to join a national online dialogue, “Advancing Financial Equity for Individuals with Disabilities,” now through November 8.
This virtual conversation will inform future content enhancements to the Financial Toolkit and help DOL create equitable opportunities for employment and financial empowerment for people with disabilities. All ideas are welcome, but we are specifically looking for input to identify:

  • New information and resources to include in the toolkit
  • Ways to address underserved and marginalized populations
  • Employment-related financial questions and related resources.

Visit the online dialogue now through November 8 to submit your ideas, comment and vote on ideas submitted by others.

Independence amplified maryland logo- Presented by the Maryland Association of Centers for Independent Living

There are some excellent speakers scheduled for Independence Amplified for the rest of the year!

Kristen Patterson, MBA 
Disability and Youth Services Coordinator
Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning
Maryland Department of Labor
Jennifer Eastman 
Director, Community Living Policy
Maryland Department of Disabilities
Presentation on Public Health
What is I AM?
The Centers for Independent Living in Maryland are collaborating on a weekly live stream. The stream, which can be watched live via Zoom or viewed later on YouTube, will feature speakers on the current issues that most interest the disability community, families, and service providers.
We will hear from disability leaders, public officials, and most importantly—you, our community, and listeners. The show will educate the public about the capacities of people with disabilities through the message of I AM: I AM independent. I AM safe. I AM prepared. I AM in charge. Topics may include food resources, transportation concerns, and how the rules of re-opening the economy affect the community. 
Independence Amplified Maryland is your opportunity to know what’s going on in the world of disability and take control of your future.

Banner reading "The Arc for People with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities", with a young man smiling in the background

People with disabilities must plan for the future, including how they will pay for the things they want and need. To help people with disabilities and their families begin to understand some of the resources they may want to consider as they develop their financial plan, The Arc’s Center for Future Planning has developed a series of new videos.
Click below to view the two newest videos (also available in Spanish):
Free Special Education Resources in Spanish
Spanish-speaking families and the professionals who support them can now find a wide range of special education resources in Spanish on The Arc@School website.
The new resources are easy to download and provide a general overview of special education, in addition to covering topics such as parent’s rights, early intervention services, IEPs, and Section 504.

Every day we use gadgets for work, leisure, communication, and our hobbies. Technology empowers us and makes getting things done easier.


Now more than ever, those with disabilities can choose from a variety of gadgets, mobile applications, and other types of devices, all designed to make their life easier. Thanks to technological innovations, people can get around many of the limitations caused by their health issues.


Today we’re looking at voice cloning, a technology that allows people to generate a realistic copy of a person’s voice, and how it can help people who have complications with their speech.


Voice cloning for amyloidosis: the case of Michael York

About ten years ago, the actor Michael York sadly discovered he was suffering from amyloidosis. This is the name of a group of rare conditions caused by the accumulation of amyloid, an abnormal protein that makes it difficult for tissues and organs to work properly, disrupting their vital activity and functionality. The condition caused by the illness is quite similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.


In York’s case, he received qualified treatment in time and is able to monitor his health so that he can receive treatment whenever he needs it.


However, one of the most common symptoms of amyloidosis is swelling of the tongue, which makes it more difficult for people to speak clearly.


“I lost my voice completely. Which, for an actor, is a bit alarming. Now it’s sort of back.”, said York in one of his interviews.


The actor decided to promote awareness of the disease by producing and narrating a short animated film to help physicians, medical students, patients, and people all around the world better understand the condition. At the time, his voice was already a little raspy, but that did not interfere with the recording. Since then, the project has had a meaningful impact at conferences, universities, clinics, congregations, and communities.


As medicine and science are constantly improving, the animated film had to be updated with a new dialog. The team hoped to record York’s voice to make edits. But it quickly became clear that the current state of his voice was drastically different from his pre-amyloidosis voice. And there was little chance of finding an actor capable of imitating York’s unique vocal quality.


However, Michael York’s vocals got the chance for a revival thanks to voice cloning technology. The production team cooperated with a voice cloning software company to create a synthetic copy of the actor’s voice.


How is this possible? Recent advances in technology have allowed computers to sound incredibly accurate. The program can not only capture a person’s accent, but also timbre, pitch, tempo, speech flow, and breathing. Cloned voices can be customized to display any desired emotion, such as anger, fear, happiness, love, or boredom.


For Michael York, sixty minutes of source training audio and new dialogues were recorded. A voice cloning program then created an AI model to match the source voice with York’s target voice, using data from the original recording session.


To make speech synthesis technology work, it is important to have high-quality recordings of a person’s voice. In case of different conditions affecting voice (age, disabilities, etc.), it may be too late to record vocals. This is where voice banking becomes extremely helpful.


Voice banking is a service that allows individuals to record their speech and create a digital version of it to help people communicate in case they lose the ability to speak. The system is crucial for people who suffer from diseases that affect their speech.


These diseases are Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), and Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA).


Individuals who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease may also come to rely on voice banking as these conditions weaken physical and mental function and thus affect someone’s ability to speak.


Also, those with head and neck conditions and who have undergone specific procedures may need to use voice banking. These procedures include:

  • laryngectomy – a surgery where all or part of the voice box is removed
  • tracheostomy – a surgery that involves the insertion of a tube through the neck and into the windpipe
  • glossectomy – a surgery where all or part of the tongue is removed


Legal complications of voice cloning and banking


While voice cloning and voice banking have obvious benefits and commercial potential, the technology raises concerns among security experts. For example, the technology can be used by cybercriminals.


Scammers can use voice cloning to trick companies into transferring money to criminals’ accounts. Two years ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that the chief executive of a British energy company had been tricked into transferring €200,000 to a Hungarian supplier.


He was confident that he was receiving instructions from his boss. Energy insurance company Euler Hermes Group SA told WSJ that the fraudster used artificial intelligence software to mimic the voice of an executive of the company.


The program was able to mimic the voice, as well as tonality, intonation, punctuation, and German accent,” a spokesman for Euler Hermes later told The Washington Post. The phone call was accompanied by an email and the CEO of the power company did what was asked of him. The money itself disappeared irrevocably, it was transferred through accounts in Hungary and Mexico.


So what to expect from voice cloning?

Voice cloning technology delivers many benefits as an assistive tech, in the filmmaking industry, dubbing processes, and so on.


For example, with the help of speech synthesis, the NFL brought American football legend, Vincent Lombardi, back to life on screen. The technology revived Rivera Morales’ memorable voice and synthesized young Mark Hamill’s (Luke Skywalker) voice in The Mandalorian.

Technology isn’t bad by default, it becomes bad when it falls into the wrong hands and is used for nefarious purposes. Everyone has the opportunity to benefit from voice cloning or any other technology so long as they choose software that is committed to specific ethical principles. For example, it doesn’t use the voices of private individuals without their consent, adds a unique audio watermark on its products, and does not provide any public API for creating voices.

One thing is clear: in the future, anyone will be able to create their own AI voice clone if they want to. As for facial deepfakes, laws and ethics just can’t keep up with new technology. The only way out of this dilemma is to be honest with yourself and choose tools that have proven legal standing.


Contributed by Alex Serdiuk, CEO of Respeecher, Inc.






National Federation of the Blind logo and tagline live the life you want

On Tuesday, October 26 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern, the National Federation of the Blind Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Accessibility is hosting an accessibility boutique on technologies blind and low-vision professionals regularly use in the workplace. Blind job applicants are equipped with the additional skills necessary to fulfill their job responsibilities.

Technologies include:

  • Screen access software
  • Refreshable Braille
  • Voice dictation / OCR
  • Dual-channel headsets
  • Video magnification

Additionally, this event features a panel discussion on blind and low-vision employment. The panelists include representatives from a large retail company and from experts within the NFB Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Accessibility. They will address fears and concerns in hiring blind candidates and questions blind individuals may have about seeking employment. Register now!

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