Microsoft Looks to Advance PC Accessibility With One-Year Research Grants

Research and Educational Institutions Will Focus on Improving Technology and Tools For People With Disabilities

REDMOND, Wash. - March 17, 1999 - In an effort to make computers and the Internet easier to use for people with disabilities, Microsoft Corp. today announced a series of grants to nonprofit research and educational institutions for original research in the field of PC accessibility. The international grant program, Exploring PC Accessibility: New Discoveries, was created in December to complement and extend the work Microsoft and other software and hardware vendors are doing to make computers easier and more useful for people with a variety of disabilities.

The grants are $10,000 or $50,000 for concept exploration and technology development, respectively. They were presented at the annual California State University Northridge Technology and Persons With Disabilities conference by Greg Lowney, director of accessibility at Microsoft.

"When Bill Gates talks about a computer on every desktop, he really means it," Lowney said. "For people with disabilities, the PC can serve as enabling technology in the workplace and the classroom, and it can provide a vital connection to other people as a basic means of communication. In addition to making our own products accessible, equipping and motivating the development community to produce great accessibility solutions is one of Microsoft's top goals in this area."

Grant winners in the two award categories are as follows:

Accessibility Concept Research Awards

Accessibility Product Development Awards

A total of $150,000 was awarded today, and additional grants may be awarded later this spring. Applications were accepted from nonprofit research and educational institutions around the world, with the expectation that their results will be made available at no charge for use in mainstream and accessibility-specific products at the end of the one-year research period.

"More funding is needed to support research in the computer access area," said Dr. Angelo of the University of Pittsburgh. "Finding better access methods for computers and other assistive technology devices will change the lives of people with disabilities."

As a cooperative effort between Microsoft's community affairs group and the company's accessibility and disabilities group, the Exploring PC Accessibility: New Discoveries grant program reflects Microsoft's focus on extending technology access to people and communities that have not traditionally had access to computers. The Exploring PC Accessibility: New Discoveries grant program is one of many initiatives Microsoft is undertaking to improve the features and usability of PC and Internet technology for people with disabilities. For example, new and improved accessibility features have been announced in a number of upcoming product releases, including the Microsoft Office business suite and the Windows 2000 operating system. In addition, Microsoft's accessibility and disabilities group recently hosted the company's newly formed Accessibility Advisory Council, consisting of representatives from advocacy groups, user groups and research organizations in the disability community.

 

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