Leading Corporations Join European Effort to Raise Awareness of Disabilities

REDMOND, Wash., May 15, 2003 — There are more than 37 million people with physical disabilities in Europe, according to a recent report of the European Disability Forum, which found across the continent “a serious lack of understanding of what disability means and how many people it affects.”

To help counter the problem, Microsoft — long a leader in developing accessible technology — has joined nine other major corporations in sponsoring the 2003 European Year of People with Disabilities (EYPD), the largest disability-awareness campaign in Europe to date.

“Microsoft’s corporate policy is very clear,” explains Doug Kendall, a program manager with Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group. “As a leader in the software industry, we recognize our responsibility to develop products and information technology that will be accessible and usable by all people, including people with disabilities. Sponsoring the EYPD gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our support for people with disabilities throughout Europe.”

Organized by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Disability Forum, the EYPD will conduct thousands of individual awareness events during 2003.

“Microsoft will support the EYPD campaign through concrete actions to promote the rights of Europe’s more than 37 million people with disabilities and to demonstrate how Microsoft technology is a positive force in their lives,” says Umberto Paolucci, corporate and government affairs vice president for Microsoft Italy and the executive sponsor of Microsoft’s EYPD effort.

Microsoft’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region maintains an Accessibility Task Force that is helping drive the EYPD campaign. Each of Microsoft’s European subsidiaries will sponsor activities in their local communities, including raising awareness of accessible technologies among IT professionals and interacting with the disabled community through speaking opportunities and community projects.

In addition, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have teamed to provide state-of-the-art technology on an official EYPD 2003 tour bus. The bus will travel to local awareness events across Europe throughout the year, equipped with a Tablet PC that allows visitors to sample accessibility features built into Tablet PC, as well as in Microsoft Windows XP and Office XP.

Tablet PC allows specific user profiles to be set for increased accessibility, such as a setting for users with low-vision that increases font and icon sizes. Users with visual disabilities can also take advantage of the Microsoft Magnifier, a utility that enlarges a portion of the screen and increases legibility.

“Increasing awareness of accessibility options that are already built into Microsoft products is a key objective of Microsoft’s EYPD 2003 participation,” Kendall says. For example, Windows XP includes Accessibility Options and an Accessibility Wizard that together help users quickly zero in on ways to configure their systems for certain specific user needs. Many disabled people may not be aware of how extensively they can control their Web-browsing experience through accessibility options in Internet Explorer, and productivity software such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook.

“We also want to spread the word about what we’ve done to make our products more compatible with the specialized assistive technology that many people use to interface with their computers,” Kendall says.

Around the world, Microsoft collaborates with 73 individual assistive-technology vendors to help improve users’ experience. The technology continues to advance, helping people with disabilities perform tasks that enrich their lives.

“We’re teaming with people inside and outside of Microsoft to ensure collaboration for assistive technology,” Kendall says. “Through our participation and support of awareness campaigns like the EYPD and our continuous pursuit to create the most accessible software in the world, we are helping all people-including people with disabilities-realize their full potential.”

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