Microsoft and New Zealand Company Pulse Data To Make Thousands of EBook Titles Available to the Blind

REDMOND, Wash., and CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Nov. 20, 2000 — Microsoft Corp. signed an agreement with Pulse Data International Ltd. that will provide the visually impaired with easy access to thousands of new and existing electronic books. Pulse Data, a specialist in enabling access to information for the visually impaired, will collaborate with Microsoft in delivering a blind-friendly interface for eBooks created for Microsoft® Reader.

Microsoft Reader software will be integrated with Pulse Data’s BrailleNote, a family of screenless personal data assistants based on the Microsoft Windows® CE operating system that offer feedback through speech and electronic Braille.

“We at Microsoft have a dream that people with visual impairments will have access to books and literature at the same time and with the same availability as sighted readers,”
said Janine Harrison, group program manager of Microsoft Reader.
“This collaboration is a wonderful step in making that dream a reality.”

Russell Smith, managing director of Pulse Data, shares this enthusiasm and sees Microsoft as the driving force behind the alliance.
“Clearly we are very excited about the opportunity and consider this the next step forward in our relationship with Microsoft USA and Microsoft New Zealand. Integrating Microsoft Reader into the BrailleNote family is a further justification for our decision to use the Windows CE operating system in the BrailleNote family of products.”

To read an electronic book with BrailleNote, users will need to download an eBook title from an online distributor to their BrailleNote device, then open the file. They will have the option to listen to the speech version of the eBook or read the electronic Braille display.

Jim Halliday, president of HumanWare Inc., the North American distributor of BrailleNote, is thrilled about the possibilities for the technology.
“The implications are enormous. With the integration of BrailleNote and Microsoft Reader, blind schoolchildren will be able to read the same eBooks as their sighted classmates, and blind people will have virtually instant access to literally thousands of titles that would take months or years to create through traditional paper Braille publishing.”

Geoff Lawrie, managing director of Microsoft New Zealand, said,
“Pulse Data’s work has been instrumental in promoting New Zealand’s software development reputation on the world stage, and we are delighted to be working with Pulse Data to further enhance its innovative products for the visually impaired.”

About Microsoft’s Accessibility Efforts

With more than a decade of experience and dedication, Microsoft has been a leader in making accessible products and raising the standard for the industry. In addition to developing products, technologies and services that are accessible and usable by all people, Microsoft works closely with companies that produce accessibility aids to achieve a common goal of improving the lives of people with disabilities by making computers a positive force in employment, education and recreation.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

About Pulse Data International Ltd.

Founded in 1988, Pulse Data international has become a world leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of innovative products and software that enhance the lives of visually impaired people. These include electronic magnifying systems for people with low vision and hardware and software products, which use synthesized speech and electronic Braille for the totally blind.

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