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Multi-million dollar grant to enhance Australian blindness services

22 April, 2009 | Joing Media Release, Sydney, Australia

Microsoft Australia and Vision Australia today announced an expansion of their strategic relationship with the provision of Microsoft’s biggest software donation grant in Australia to date, valued at over AUD$6.6 million (US$4.5 million)*.

With 300,000 Australians currently blind or with low vision, the grant will help Vision Australia to significantly enhance the services it provides to support thousands of Australians. The grant will also assist with the upgrade of Vision Australia’s IT systems, ultimately enabling greater collaboration between staff, enhancing fundraising efforts, and improving the organisation’s overall operational capability and efficiency.

When Kenny Johar first started developing signs of Retinitis Pigmentosa as an ambitious Year 12 student, he was in denial of his deteriorating eyesight.

"From early on, I had high career aspirations. I was not about to let a vision impairment stop me from achieving my ambitions," said Mr Johar.

The Microsoft technology upgrades will bring Vision Australia clients like Kenny enormous benefits. For example the creation of accessible on-line communities, such as blog capabilities and discussion forums, will help people who are blind or have low vision to overcome key social issues, such as social isolation and loneliness.

In addition, the creation of an online library will enable clients to subscribe to a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as download the content in a format they can access through assistive technology. This significant development has the potential to enable Vision Australia to create the world’s largest digitally accessible library.

“Less than 5% of published information is available in formats that can be read by people who are blind or have low vision. By harnessing digital technology, Vision Australia and Microsoft are working in partnership to revolutionise the way our clients access the written word,” said Mr Gerard Menses, CEO, Vision Australia.

Vision Australia is also taking on the role of research and development advisor to Microsoft, helping the company to make its products and services more user-friendly and accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.

“Information is at the heart of modern society, it’s what makes us tick,” said Mr John Galligan, director of Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Australia.

“Imagine then only having limited or no access at all to written information. Advances in technology combined with the efforts of organisations like Vision Australia mean we are well on the way to making this a thing of the past for people who are blind or who have low vision,” he said.

“Microsoft and Vision Australia have a shared goal to enhance the quality of life of people who are blind or have low vision, as well as their families. We view our relationship with Vision Australia as world-class and a benchmark for our engagement with accessibility groups across the world.”

Microsoft’s support for Vision Australia is part of its Unlimited Potential (UP) program, a commitment to help people realise their potential through the power of software and technology.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

About Vision Australia

As the nation’s leading provider of blindness and low vision services Vision Australia offers the skills, equipment and support that enables thousands of Australians to live the lives they choose.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Marie-Claire Suter
Tel: 0414 789 605

Ben Tan
Tel: 0418 488 827

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