REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 7, 2001 — As part of an ongoing commitment to make all its software products useable for everyone, Microsoft Corp. today announced that Microsoft® Windows® XP is the most accessible version of any Microsoft operating system to date. With its built-in accessibility features and compatibility with more than a dozen assistive technology products, the Windows XP operating system enhances accessibility for users with specific vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive and seizure-related disabilities.
“Microsoft’s goal in the development of Windows XP was to enable all users to experience more with their PC than they ever thought possible,”
said Chris Jones, vice president of the Windows Client Group at Microsoft.
“The accessibility enhancements in Windows XP provide better integration with assistive technology and help our customers achieve more, communicate better and get help more easily.”
In addition, accessibility enhancements in Windows XP allow customers with disabilities to be more productive and efficient by enabling them to more easily customize Windows XP based on their own accessibility needs and preferences. Accessibility utilities that come with Windows XP, such as Magnifier and Narrator, provide temporary accessibility support to individuals who need short-term use of a computer or need to set up their own computer for the first time.
Microsoft worked with the disability community to determine what accessibility improvements to make to Windows XP. Feedback was sought through focus groups, beta testing, executive feedback sessions and design reviews. Assistive technology users, assistive technology vendors and the Microsoft Accessibility Advisors, a cadre of professionals who have a unique understanding of the computing needs of people with disabilities, all played a role in determining what accessibility improvements to make.
“For more than 12 years, Microsoft has strived to make each of its products more accessible than its previous versions,”
said Gary Moulton, manager of assistive technology vendor relations at Microsoft.
“Our goal is to be certain that each new product is easier for our customers to operate, with new and/or improved features that address specific needs, including those of our customers with disabilities. Feedback from our customers and assistive technology vendors is the cornerstone for us in achieving that goal.”
“The American Council of the Blind (ACB) applauds the attention paid in Windows XP to accessibility for visually impaired persons,”
said Charles Crawford, executive director of the ACB and a Microsoft Accessibility Advisor.
“The Windows XP operating system incorporates disability access to both the best of the past and the challenges of the future. It’s the equal playing field upon which the contributions of both those who can see the screen and those who cannot can be harvested.”
Microsoft takes into consideration government regulations, including section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, when developing products such as Windows XP. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to consider accessibility before they purchase, procure and maintain new electronic and information technologies.
Like Windows XP, Office XP provides solutions to address customers’ accessibility needs. Office XP applications include advanced speech-recognition functionality, enabling people to enter and edit data, control menus and execute commands by speaking into a microphone, and improve productivity by speaking to their PC. In addition, when used together, Office XP and Windows XP provide an exceptional desktop usability experience for customers using assistive technologies.
In the past, assistive technology users waited up to 18 months for assistive technology devices to support newly released operating systems. Assistive technology, also called accessibility aids, works with a computer’s operating system to accommodate specific disabilities. In the development of Windows XP, Microsoft worked closely with Compaq Computer Corp. and many assistive technology vendors so that software such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, on-screen keyboards and hardware such as one-handed keyboards and augmentative communication devices addressed a wide range of disabilities and were available to users when Windows XP hit the shelves. Companies including Ai Squared, Dolphin Computer Access, Freedom Scientific Inc., GW Micro Inc., Interactive Solutions Inc., NXi Communications Inc. and Tash Inc. currently have, or soon will have, assistive technologies available that support Windows XP. Compaq also has Evo and Presario desktop and notebook computers with Windows XP readily available.
“Freedom Scientific and Microsoft worked together during the development phase of Windows XP to ensure that users who are blind or have low vision will have the necessary assistive technology that will seamlessly integrate with the new operating system,”
said Eric Damery, vice president of business development for software at Freedom Scientific Inc.
“This includes our soon-to-be released Version 4.01 of JAWS® for Windows screen reader and OPENBook 5.0 scanning and reading software. Our MAGic 8.0 magnification software will also be compatible with Windows XP in the near future. As we continue our relationship with Microsoft, we’re confident that we are offering our customers the best accessibility solutions in the industry.”
More information about assistive technologies can be found on the Microsoft Enable Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/at/default.htm .
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Assistive Technology Vendors
Support Windows XP
“All our accessibility products feature CompatibilityOne, our commitment to support all Windows platforms in one package. Ai Squared and Microsoft have been working hard to ensure that low-vision users will have complete access to Windows XP. Our upcoming releases, ZoomText 7.1 and BigShot 2.03, will feature support for Windows XP, along with continuing support for all the other Windows operating systems.”
— Ben Weiss
“Windows XP provides users with improved technology integration and richer communications. Supernova extends those benefits to blind and partially sighted computer users.”
— Mike Hill
Dolphin Computer Access
“As a blind technology user, I am very pleased with the accessibility enhancements made to Windows XP. Windows XP, coupled with GW Micro’s Window-Eyes Professional software, will offer people who are blind ultimate access to the Web, software applications and all aspects of computing. Now people who are blind will have access to the latest operating system from Microsoft and the latest screen reader technology from GW Micro at the same time.”
— Clarence Whaley
Director of Sales and Marketing
“Interactive Solutions’ iCommunicator platform was originally developed on Windows 98 and has experienced a seamless migration with Windows 98, Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP, thus offering users multisensory technologies that provide communication accessibility for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and persons who face other communication challenges. Delivering Windows XP with iCommunicator software allows our disabled clientele greater speed and reliability when communicating in the home, classroom and workplace. Windows XP and its new accessibility features combined with the iCommunicator create ‘Equality through Technology,’ which is a very important advancement for all people with disabilities.”
— Michael F. Dorety
Interactive Solutions Inc.
(Subsidiary of Teltronics Inc., Nasdaq
“Maintaining compatibility with all versions of Windows is a high priority for us so we can continue to deliver compelling products for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, and for those who need to communicate with people who are deaf. We are pleased that our existing software NexTalk and NTS work well with Windows XP.”
— Tom McLaughlin
NXi Communications Inc.
“Because of the accessibility features built into the Windows XP operating system, our customers can now modify the accessibility features of the USB WinMini, Tash’s innovative one-handed keyboard, to accommodate their specific physical needs. In the past, any adjustment to the setup of our product was very complex. This makes the USB WinMini a true plug-and-play device.”
— Colin Wheeler