Microsoft Enhances Support for Assistive Technology Providers Through New Partner Program and Expanded Online Product Catalog

LOS ANGELES March 19, 2003 Microsoft Corp. today unveiled a new partner program that provides expanded support for assistive technology vendors and developers in delivering products that enable people with disabilities to use information technology more productively and easily. In addition, the company announced a joint project with Easter Seals designed to provide expanded access to a broader array of assistive technology products to people with disabilities through Microsoft’s online Assistive Technology Catalog.

The Microsoft® Assistive Technology Vendor Program (MATvp) strengthens the company’s ongoing commitment to fostering development of innovative products that are accessible to all people. Microsoft introduced MATvp and the cooperative effort with Easter Seals at the 18th annual international conference Technology and Persons With Disabilities, which opened Monday and is sponsored by the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

“Microsoft and its assistive technology partners are dedicated to ensuring that all people have access to tools that empower them to achieve their ambitions and reach their full potential,”
said Madelyn Bryant McIntire, director of the Accessible Technology Group at Microsoft.
“We believe that the exceptional talent and expertise represented in MATvp will foster waves of innovative software and devices that make technology even more widely accessible.”

More than 70 vendors including BAUM Retec AG, GW Micro Inc., Maui Innovative Peripherals Inc., Origin Instruments Corp., SSCT Inc. and textHELP Systems Ltd. have already joined MATvp. The program provides vendor members with increased access to new Microsoft technology code, Microsoft product licenses for testing and development purposes, enhanced technical support to foster development and innovation, inclusion in Microsoft product design reviews, and additional resources to help them deliver assistive technology solutions that are compatible with Microsoft products to their customers.

MATvp members also can include their products in Microsoft’s expanded online Assistive Technology Catalog at, which comprises more than 100 Microsoft-compatible technologies that customers can buy through the e-commerce equipped Web site. The catalog provides in-depth information to help consumers conveniently identify and acquire assistive technology products from multiple vendors at a single online site.

Easter Seals, which provides services to millions of people with disabilities and other special needs, will integrate Microsoft’s Assistive Technology Catalog on its Web site. The organization will use its extensive knowledge and experience in working with the disability community to help broaden awareness of the products available in the catalog among those served by the more than 450 Easter Seals service sites throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico.

“Microsoft’s long-term history and commitment in making technology accessible for all people has earned the sincere appreciation of Easter Seals and the families we work with,”
said James E. Williams Jr., chief executive officer of Easter Seals.
“Our organization is pleased to take an active role in making the Microsoft Assistive Technology Catalog a second-to-none resource for our membership to easily identify assistive technology products that fit their individual needs, compare features offered by a variety of vendors, and purchase what they want electronically from any location.”

MATvp Benefits Help Members Deliver Better Products, Faster

Membership in MATvp is open to developers and manufacturers that design, build and support assistive technology products to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Examples include screen readers for people who are blind or visually impaired, speech recognition software that converts audio input into sign language for people who are deaf, on-screen keyboard programs that allow people with mobility disabilities to select keys using input devices and reading tools that assist people with learning disabilities.

Maui Innovative is among the MATvp partners that have gone through the Microsoft hardware quality assurance testing process, which ensures that their products are compatible with the Microsoft Windows® XP operating system. Microsoft also is working with Maui Innovative to ensure that future releases of its Miracle Mouse, which enables hands-free operation of any Windows-based application, will continue to be compatible with future versions of Windows.

GW Micro has used MATvp resources to help fine-tune the compatibility of the new version of its Window-Eyes 4.5, a software screen reader for the visually impaired, with the Microsoft Windows operating system. Window-Eyes 4.5 performs tasks such as reading headers, lists and tables on Web sites to help users retrieve more comprehensive information while working or browsing online.

“Our involvement in MATvp gives us access to Microsoft technical experts, who helped ensure that our latest version of the Window-Eyes screen reader would be exceptionally stable, versatile and fully compatible with Windows XP,”
said Clarence Whaley, director of sales and marketing at GW Micro.
“Working with Microsoft has allowed us to bring Window-Eyes 4.5 to market faster and enable our visually impaired customers to gain a richer, more rewarding experience from navigating the Web.”

Manufacturers and developers can learn more about MATvp membership criteria, program benefits and requirements for listing products in the Assistive Technology Catalog at

Microsoft Activities at CSUN Technology Conference

Today during the weeklong conference, Microsoft will lead presentations on its assistive technology vendor support programs and on its past, present and future efforts to promote accessible technologies. In addition, Microsoft technical experts will discuss their accessible technology initiatives and demonstrate some of the latest accessibility features in Microsoft products.

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.

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