Accessible Technology and Rehabilitation Medicine Provide Hope for 54 Million Americans With Disabilities Who Want to Compete in Today’s Work Force

NEW YORK — July 13, 2005 — The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine and Microsoft Corp. have teamed up to educate the medical community about the importance of incorporating accessible technology into the rehabilitation process to help patients with disabilities return to the work force and be more productive and competitive in their jobs.

The forum, “Innovations for a Healthy Work Force,” will take place this morning at New York University Medical Center in New York City. A panel of medical and technology experts will discuss workplace issues confronting people with physical and sensory disabilities caused by injury, disease or aging, with a focus on ways that accessible technology can help mitigate these issues.

“Our economy and social fabric are increasingly reliant on the use of computers for the conduct of commerce, business and communications,” said Dr. Bill Crounse, global healthcare industry manager for Microsoft. “When large numbers of people are unable to use computers due to injury, illness or the effects of aging, they are also excluded from jobs and from contributing to the information economy. This is a scenario that we cannot afford to accept.”

In today’s economy, computers are essential for many businesses, and are a mainstay of personal and professional life around the world. Among working-age adults in the United States, 78 percent use computers — 68 percent at home and 45 percent at work. With nearly 60 percent of the work force experiencing some level of disability or impairment due to chronic ailments (e.g., vision loss, carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis) or serious injury, using a computer can be challenging for many people.

“We are committed to helping patients overcome their disabilities and have found that rehab therapy plays an essential role in enabling many of our patients to return to the work force,” said Dr. Mathew H. M. Lee, the Howard A. Rusk professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine and medical director of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. “Enabling our patients to use computers for work and to communicate with friends and family provides them with the incentive to train with rehab professionals to overcome their physical disabilities.”

At the event, medical and technology experts will provide insight on health issues facing today’s work force, and medical issues pertaining to pain, weakness, and the loss or impairment of vision, mobility or dexterity. Accessible technology products that can help mitigate each of these conditions also will be demonstrated.

Scheduled presenters include the following:

Dr. Mathew H. M. Lee, Howard A. Rusk professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and medical director, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine

  • Dr. Bill Crounse, global healthcare industry manager, Microsoft

  • Dr. Mark A. Young, MBA, FACP, chair, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Maryland Rehabilitation Center

  • Dr. Steve Stiens, MDS, associate professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, director of Spinal Cord Medicine Fellowship, attending physician, VA Puget Sound Heath Care System

  • Dr. Stanley F. Wainapel, MPH, clinical director, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, and professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

The inability to operate computer technology can put workers of any age at a disadvantage and may hinder career advancement or lead to unemployment, whether these individuals are recent college graduates looking for a job, wounded soldiers returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, or aging baby boomers trying to stay competitive in today’s work force. In each case, the challenge can be overcome through the use of accessible technologies designed to help people with disabilities.

“As a blind physician, I can relate to the importance of continuing to adapt our rehab practices to ensure that patients will be able to function in the technology age,” Wainapel said. “Despite having a progressive degenerative retina disorder that was diagnosed during childhood, accessible technology has enabled me to continue practicing medicine, while also helping me serve as a role model to patients who are recovering from an injury or are experiencing limitations because of a chronic disease.”

About Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine

The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, an integral component of New York University Medical Center, is the world’s first facility devoted entirely to rehabilitation medicine. Founded in 1948 by Dr. Howard A. Rusk, the Rusk Institute is the largest university-affiliated center for the treatment of adults and children with disabilities, as well as for research and training in rehabilitation medicine.

About Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group

For more than 15 years, Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group has overseen Microsoft’s accessibility efforts, furthering the company’s goal of making its products accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. More information about Microsoft and accessibility can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/enable.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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