Changing Lives: Microsoft Accessibility Program Managers Tell Congressional Subcommittee About Making Technology Work for People With Disabilities

Redmond, Wash., August 4, 1998 — Microsoft Accessibility Product Managers Gary Moulton and David Bolnick began their testimony today before the Technology Subcommittee of the House Science Committee by quoting Bill Gates’ recent statement that the personal computer is one of the most promising tools now available for assisting people with disabilities, and reaffirming Microsoft’s commitment to be an industry leader in making software products accessible to all users.

Microsoft has stepped up its long-standing commitment to software accessibility with a five-point plan that outlines the company’s vision and dedication to accessibility issues. Achieving the important goal of bringing assistive technologies to everyone who needs them, however, will require more than Microsoft’s efforts. It will take broad partnerships and targeted awareness campaigns throughout the industry.

“No one company, organization, or agency can ensure that products are accessible and available, and that the world knows about them,” Moulton said.

Microsoft is committed to considering accessibility issues at every phase of the product development process in a concerted effort to make the company’s software products accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, Microsoft has created a number of tools that allow developers and software authors across the industry to build more accessible products that work better with accessibility aids. Active Accessibility, for example, is a technology introduced in 1996 to standardize the way PCs and adaptive hardware and software communicate with each other. Microsoft also has created a software development technology called SAMI (Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange) that enables webmasters and software developers to easily add closed captions and audio descriptions to multimedia.

Both Moulton and Bolnick stressed that promoting and providing incentives for the development of accessible products is a key objective in meeting access goals. Programs underway at Microsoft to help meet accessibility goals include:

  • Integrating individuals with disabilities into every facet of product design and development.

  • Forming Independent Access Review Boards to evaluate products in the early design and development stages at Microsoft.

  • Establishing a Disability Advisory Council.

  • Requiring software developers who want to use the Designed for Windows logo on their packaging to follow certain accessibility recommendations and provisions in the design of their products.

In their presentation to the committee, Moulton and Bolnick reaffirmed Microsoft’s focus on accessibility issues not just in Redmond, but industrywide. “Microsoft is committed to making our products accessible to the widest range of users,” Moulton said. “We are also committed to helping drive the industry towards universal accessible design. Finally, we are committed to raising awareness of what is possible with assistive technology.”

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