Inclusive Innovation Showroom Illustrates Value of Accessible Technology

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 14, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today opened the Inclusive Innovation Showroom, a new facility designed to demonstrate how accessibility features in Microsoft products and assistive technology solutions developed by Microsoft partners can make it easier for anyone to see, hear and use a computer at work or at home.

Spearheaded by the Microsoft Accessibility Business Unit (ABU), the Inclusive Innovation Showroom uses real-world scenarios to illustrate how people of all abilities — including those with vision, mobility, learning and hearing impairments — can use accessible and assistive technology to customize their computing experience according to their own preferences and needs.

“There’s such a tremendous need for assistive technology (AT) to meet the needs of those with disabilities, and our partners play a critical role in helping create solutions that are practical and easy to use,” said Daniel Hubbell, a technical evangelist at Microsoft who works with more than 180 AT partners worldwide to ensure that Microsoft products are compatible with a wide variety of AT products that run on Windows. According to Hubbell, the ultimate goal of his work is to enable people of all abilities to have access to a computing experience that is both comfortable and highly functional.

Bringing Accessibility Technology to Life

The scenarios on display in the Inclusive Innovation Showroom illustrate home and work solutions for people with disabilities and for the aging population. The workspace portion of the showroom is arranged in a cubicle-style setup with three work spaces, each representing a separate workplace persona with varying degrees of disability. The home space highlights a retiree with age-related impairments and a student with learning disabilities. The interior is divided into a living room, a student dorm-style workspace and a home office.

“The Inclusive Innovation Showroom allows us to demonstrate the technology solutions in both home and work environments for professionals, students and aging baby boomers who have specific needs,” Hubbell said. “For example, by making the computer easier to see with bigger fonts, or more comfortable to use with ergonomic mice and keyboards, people can more easily lead a digital lifestyle: working, playing games online, creating family photo albums and communicating with colleagues, family and friends. Our hope is that seeing these products in action will inspire more individuals and companies to become a part of our collective accessibility effort to develop new innovative technology solutions.”

Real-World Scenarios Illustrate Different Needs and Solutions

The Showroom features five personas, each designed to illustrate a different set of unique needs and technology solutions. The personas are as follows:

  • Anne. A retired, married school teacher and book-club organizer, Ann is downsizing her home but upgrading her computer to make it easier to see photos and videos of her grandchildren.

  • Vanessa. As a third-grade student, Vanessa’s life is full of potential. She aspires to be a fashion designer and loves public speaking. Vanessa is dyslexic, so her parents and teacher worked with an accessibility consultant to select the appropriate reading and writing software.

  • Michael. Being an investment banker and self-described restaurant aficionado means that Michael is constantly on the road. Michael is blind and uses a Pocket PC equipped with a screen reader and Braille display for his urban explorations.

  • Allison. Allison’s kids and her job as a sales manager keep her constantly on the go. Because she was born with low vision, Allison relies on a variety of magnifiers and screen readers to help her read the text on her computer screen, or to do the reading for her.

  • Garrett. A football accident in high school left Garrett paralyzed, with only limited use of his hands. Now, Garrett is a medical researcher in cellular biology and a card shark in his spare time. Rather than using a traditional mouse, Garrett uses a head mouse, a sip-and-puff device, and the on-screen keyboard in Windows Vista.

In addition to conducting research and overseeing Microsoft’s overall accessibility efforts, the ABU creates tools, such as the User Interface Automation platform (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/bb892133.aspx), which help industry partners ensure that their accessibility applications and devices work seamlessly with Microsoft products. The solutions on display in the Inclusive Innovation Showroom are a result of this ongoing work.

All technology products featured are available on the market today, including the latest personal computing products from HP, featuring the new HP TouchSmart computer. 

More information on the Inclusive Innovation Showroom and the Microsoft Accessibility Business Unit can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/enable.

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

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass on Microsoft’s corporate information pages. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/contactpr.mspx.