Microsoft Discusses Role of the PC as Assistive Technology

Microsoft Discusses Role of the PC as Assistive Technology

WASHINGTON, April 29, 1998 — Microsoft Corp. today demonstrated before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources how its technologies are expanding the horizons of people with disabilities.

“For many people with disabilities, access to current computer technology means the difference between working and not working, communicating and not communicating,”
said Sam Jadallah, vice president of the organizational customer unit at Microsoft.
“Microsoft is committed to making accessible products and encouraging and motivating accessibility innovation across the industry.”

During the hearing, Jadallah highlighted the company’s four-pronged approach, which Microsoft instituted recently as part of its groundbreaking approach to accessibility. This plan includes these points:

  • Developing products, technologies and services that are accessible and usable by all people

  • Strengthening relationships with the disability community to help Microsoft better understand and respond to customer needs

  • Enabling the development community to produce great accessibility solutions

  • Empowering consumers with information about the best choices and products available for their use

U.S. Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, opened the hearing by saying,
“There is no doubt that we live in an information age. Information is power; it frees us. With information, each of us has the power to learn and to understand, to choose and to act. For all individuals, but especially for those with disabilities, technology is the bridge to information, top choices and freedom.”

In addition, Jadallah expressed concern over what he believes to be the biggest challenge facing Microsoft and the entire software industry: continuing the fast pace of innovation for all consumers without leaving adaptive technologies behind.
“Microsoft took a major step forward in addressing the problem of compatibility across software products and accessibility aids in May 1997 when we released Microsoft Active Accessibility,” Jadallah said. Microsoft® Active Accessibility
tools allow PCs and adaptive hardware and software to communicate efficiently with each other.

Jadallah also demonstrated two new Microsoft technologies with features that will benefit users with disabilities: the Microsoft Windows® 98 operating system and Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange (SAMI). Windows 98 greatly improve the accessibility options built into earlier versions of the operating system. SAMI, scheduled to be available next month, enables webmasters and software developers to easily provide closed-captioned viewing and audio descriptions in multimedia Web pages and products.

Microsoft has been actively involved in accessibility issues for nearly 10 years. The company’s accessibility policy, established in 1995, helps ensure that every Microsoft employee is charged with making its products, programs and services accessible to people with disabilities. In February, Microsoft held an internal Accessibility Day as part of its ongoing commitment to the issue. At the event, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates announced the company’s approach to accessibility as it enters the next century, including tripling the staff of Microsoft’s accessibility team during the next year.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, Active Accessibility and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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