Microsoft and AT Vendors Usher In Next Wave of Technology for People With Disabilities
Jan. 23, 2007
Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office release and assistive technology companies bring customers unprecedented ease of use.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Jan. 24, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. and assistive technology (AT) vendors today unveiled an array of innovative products and services for people with disabilities at the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s eighth annual conference. The products will be available when Microsoft launches the Windows Vista™ operating system and the 2007 Microsoft® Office release next Tuesday.

“Today marks the culmination of a process that began almost two years ago, when we brought over 30 AT companies into our labs to give them a first look at Windows Vista,” said Rob Sinclair, director of Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group. “We’ve made these companies an integral part of our development process, and as a result an unprecedented number will have updated versions of their products available simultaneously with the launch of Windows Vista and the 2007 Office release.”

Historically, customers often had to wait six, 12 or even 18 months for assistive software and devices that supported a newly released operating system. Now, due to close collaboration with the AT industry as well as advances in the underlying technology in Windows Vista and the 2007 Office release, customers who experience a range of physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities will be able to purchase the very latest in assistive technology without delay. This includes products such as screen readers, screen magnification, one-handed keyboards and other specialized input devices.

“In the past it’s been challenging for the AT community to ship updated versions of our products in a timely fashion following the release of a new version of Windows® or Office,” said Doug Geoffray of GW Micro Inc., which develops the screen reader Window-Eyes to assist people who are blind. “But because Microsoft has done such a good job collaborating with us during the development process of Windows Vista and the 2007 Office release, there is a lot of confidence and excitement in the AT industry about the launch of these new products.”

In addition, accessible technology is becoming even more critical as the population ages and the incidence of disability increases. “The successful partnership between Microsoft and assistive technology vendors is good for the entire accessibility ecosystem,” said Michael Takemura, director of HP’s Accessibility Program Office. “HP products with Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system and assistive technology should improve accessibility experiences for customers with disabilities or age-related limitations in the workplace or at home.”

Accessibility in Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office System

Windows Vista includes built-in accessibility settings and programs that make it easier for users to see, hear and use their computer. Microsoft invested more than three years of research to better understand the needs of people who experience a wide range of physical challenges that affect their computer use. The accessibility settings and programs in Windows Vista are particularly helpful to people with visual difficulties; hearing loss; pain, spasticity or paralysis in their hands or arms; or reasoning and cognitive issues. Major accessibility improvements in Windows Vista include the new Ease of Access Center, where customers may purchase Windows Vista-compatible AT products via the Windows Marketplace, and state-of-the-art speech recognition and magnification capabilities. A list of companies whose products are Windows Vista-ready can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/at/windowsvista.aspx. More information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windowsvista/default.aspx.

The 2007 Microsoft Office system is more accessible than ever, making it easier for users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations with rich content. Finding needed features and functionality is made simple through a redesigned user interface. People who prefer the keyboard to a mouse will find that the traditional keyboard shortcuts and menu accelerators work as they do in previous releases. Live Preview can help eliminate the cycle of undoing and redoing formatting for users with mobility impairments by showing potential options within the document before it is actually applied. SmartArt™ graphics and templates make it possible to create complex designs and diagrams without a mouse. Designed to work with common accessible technology applications and with improved support for screen readers, magnifiers, speech recognition and alternative displays, the 2007 release helps provide accessibility for everyone. More information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/office2007/default.aspx.

Information about Microsoft’s long-standing commitment to accessibility can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/enable.

About Microsoft

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

Microsoft, Windows Vista, Windows and SmartArt are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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