Microsoft Announces Recipients of First-Annual PC Accessibility Research and Development Grants

LOS ANGELES, March 17, 1999 — Double clicks. Flashy graphics. Beeps and dings. To most users, these functions are merely helpful guides in navigating today’s computer technology. To users with disabilities, however, these same functions can prevent access to the most basic operations of a computer.

Showcasing research projects that will usher in the next generation of PC and Internet technologies for people with disabilities, Microsoft today awarded $150,000 in grants to non-profit and educational research institutions for original research in the field of PC accessibility. The seven grants, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, are the first to be awarded in Microsoft’s “Exploring PC Accessibility: New Discoveries” international grant program.

The grants will finance concept exploration and technology development, with all research to be made available free-of-charge for use in mainstream and accessibility-specific products at the end of the one-year research period.

Greg Lowney, director of accessibility at Microsoft, announced the grants at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in Los Angeles. “I am really looking forward to watching these research projects unfold over the next year,” Lowney said. “The work of independent researchers, combined with efforts by mainstream and accessibility-specific technology companies, will result in computers that work better for more people, including those with physical, sensory, or cognitive limitations.”

According to Oxford Brookes University grant recipient, Mary Zajicek, “The Microsoft grant will enable us to combine the latest Web browser technologies with our existing speech output browser. As a result, blind and visually impaired people will be able to effectively scan the Web just as sighted people do.”

The 1998 Exploring PC Accessibility: New Discoveries grant recipients are:

Accessibility Concept Research Awards

  • University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, U.K., “toneWeb: using sound to enhance access to the World Wide Web for visually impaired people,” Dr. Helen Petrie, Director, Sensory Disabilities Research Unit.

  • University of Glasgow, “3D Audio Windows: Enhancing PC Accessibility for Visually Disabled Users,” Dr. Stephen Brewster and Dr. Ashley Walker, Multi-modal Interaction Group, Department of Computing Science.

  • University of Pittsburgh, “Development of Compensatory Software for People with Neck Range of Motion,” Dr. Jennifer Angelo, Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation.

  • New York University, “An Investigation of the Use and Potential Use of Accessibility Options in Operating Systems,” Anita Perr, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Education.

  • University of Washington, “Cognitive Benefits of Speech Recognition Technology for Persons with Learning Disabilities,” Prof. Philip Bell, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education.

Accessibility Product Development Awards

  • Syracuse University, “Improving PC Accessibility with NeatTools,” Edward Lipson, Professor, Department of Physics and David Warner, M.D., Northeast Parallel Architectures Center.

  • Oxford Brookes University, “The BrookesTalk Adaptation Kit (BAK) Project,” Mary Zajicek, Principal Lecturer, School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences.

A cooperative effort between Microsoft’s community affairs group and the company’s accessibility and disabilities group, the “Exploring PC Accessibility: New Discoveries” grant program is one of many initiatives Microsoft is undertaking to better understand and respond to the technology needs of people with disabilities. The grants are intended to increase the knowledge base of all groups dedicated to improving accessibility of PC technology and to facilitate the dissemination of new accessibility concepts and products.

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