REDMOND, Wash., June 26, 2003 — Microsoft Corp. today marked the second anniversary of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act by announcing new accessibility improvements in the upcoming release of Microsoft® Office System products as well as in recent releases of Microsoft Visual Studio®
.NET and Microsoft Windows Server (TM) 2003. These enhancements reflect Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to partner with government and technology industry leaders in increasing adoption of Section 508 standards and ensuring that the full benefits of technology are available to all people, including people with disabilities.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires all federal agencies to ensure that all electronic or information technology they purchase, develop or use is accessible to people with disabilities, both federal employees and members of the public. Microsoft actively supports Section 508, which took effect in June 2001, and works closely with federal information technology (IT) managers to help them conduct market research and implement their Section 508 purchasing practices. The company’s employees also consider Section 508 at each stage of designing, developing and testing Microsoft products.
“Section 508 has proved to be a significant catalyst for innovation and competition in making accessible technology the norm rather than the exception,”
said Rhett Dawson, president and chief executive officer of the Information Technology Industry Council.
“The advances in technology that have been accelerated as a result of this law are beneficial not only to people with disabilities and the government, but to the IT industry as well.”
“Microsoft has pursued the goal of delivering accessible products for 15 years, and that goal has become ingrained in our best practices,”
said Madelyn Bryant McIntire, director of the Accessible Technology Group at Microsoft.
“Helping our government customers meet their 508 responsibilities has re-energized our long-standing commitment to building products that are accessible to all people. We are proud to play a role in helping the federal government reach people with diverse abilities.”
Latest Microsoft Product Releases Feature New Accessibility Enhancements
Microsoft developers continually strive to design accessible software. Recent and upcoming Microsoft product releases provide examples of this commitment:
Microsoft Office System
Microsoft Office FrontPage
2003 Accessibility Checker. This new FrontPage tool allows users to check the accessibility of Web content created in FrontPage as well as in Office files saved as HTML pages.
Accessible forms using Microsoft Office InfoPath (TM)
2003. With InfoPath, form designers can create accessible XML-based forms using an array of controls. Among other things, these controls enable designers to add alternative text to images, assign keyboard shortcuts for different forms, specify a logical tab order for the forms, and provide screen tips for users.
Using Audio Notes with Microsoft Office OneNote (TM) 2003. OneNote allows laptop, desktop and Tablet PC users to record audio notes, bridging the note-taking gap for people who experience writing fatigue or who have learning or visual disabilities. Audio notes are automatically time-stamped and synced with typed or handwritten notes, so users can go back and listen to specific sections simply by clicking a button.
Microsoft Office Online improvements. Office Online, the companion Web site for many products in the Microsoft Office System, includes many new accessibility improvements to help simplify keyboard navigation.
Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) improvements. Microsoft has improved the MSAA support in many Microsoft Office System dialog boxes, enabling screen readers and other assistive technology tools to more reliably meet users’ needs.
Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003
Compatibility with the Visual Studio Statement Completion Pane. The Statement Completion Pane, an integral part of the software development process, is now compatible with third-party assistive technology devices.
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Accessibility in Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server mode. Microsoft is providing a new tool to independent software vendors such as Dolphin Computer Access and GW Micro Inc. that allows third-party accessibility software and hardware to plug into Windows Server 2003 enabling devices such as screen readers to be used when running applications in a Terminal Server session.
Dolphin Computer Access creates software products that allow people with visual disabilities to use information technology more productively and easily. Dolphin’s Hal screen reader for Terminal Server will be available in the third quarter and will provide speech and Braille access to Terminal Server sessions from a thin client.
GW Micro is committed to updating Window-Eyes, a software screen reader, providing users who are blind the ability to carry out remote computing tasks easily on their local machine.
Assistive Technology Vendors, Disability Community Help Shape Microsoft Products
Accessibility improvements in Microsoft products have evolved from extensive collaboration with assistive technology vendors as well as members of the disability community. For example, Microsoft sought to involve assistive technology partners early in the development process for the Microsoft Office System to help them better upgrade their solutions and improve the compatibility experience for assistive technology users.
As a result, more than 15 key assistive technology vendors, including GW Micro, Freedom Scientific, Ai Squared Inc., textHELP! Systems Ltd. and Duxbury Systems Inc., had access to early versions of the Microsoft Office System in testing labs and participated in the beta programs. When the new Microsoft Office System programs, servers and services are released later this year, a number of these vendors plan to release a variety of fully compatible assistive technology tools, creating increased benefits for users with disabilities.
“The ongoing open exchange of ideas between Duxbury Systems and Microsoft has been very helpful to us in developing and improving how our Braille translation software interacts with Microsoft’s products,”
said Peter Sullivan, vice president of software development, Duxbury Systems.
“We are very excited that this collaboration will be of great benefit to customers of both companies and look forward to continuing our work together.”
Microsoft Continues Long History of Support for Accessibility
Microsoft’s dedication to making its technology accessible to all users began with the launch of Windows®
2.0 in 1988, and the company further strengthened that commitment in July 1995 with a corporate policy that makes every employee responsible for ensuring that all users have access to Microsoft products and services.
As a member of the Information Technology Industry Council, Microsoft worked with other IT industry leaders and the federal government to develop a template called the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), in which technology providers describe precisely how a given product does or does not meet Section 508 standards. VPATs enable government IT managers to more easily adhere to Section 508 in their purchasing decisions. Microsoft has posted more than 30 VPATs for its products at http://www.microsoft.com/usa/government/section508.asp .
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
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