Microsoft Leads Accessibility Effort

Microsoft is heading a group of technology companies that will collaborate on creating IT products for the disabled.

Microsoft is looking to make it easier for disabled people to use technology.

The software vendor is chartering an initiative called the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance. Announced Dec. 10, the AIA is an engineering collaboration between assistive technology vendors, IT companies and key nongovernmental organizations.

The group's goal is to enable developers to more easily create accessible software, hardware and Web-based products that will reduce barriers to information and communication technologies for people with disabilities, Microsoft officials said.

The AIA members also will collaborate on engineering projects to increase interoperability between existing technologies, deliver new technologies and work to create better developer guidelines, tools and technologies, and lower development costs, Microsoft said.

The group initially will focus on four areas: Consistent keyboard access; interoperability of accessibility APIs; user interface automation extensions; and accessible rich Internet application suite mapping through user interface automation, AIA officials said.

In addition to Microsoft, founding members of AIA include software and solutions companies such as Adobe, BayFirst Solutions and Novell, hardware companies such as Hewlett-Packard, and assistive technology companies such as Claro Software, Dolphin Computer Access, GW Micro, HiSoftware, Madentec, Texthelp Systems and QualiLife.

"Today, developers must work across divergent platforms, application environments and hardware models to create accessible technology for customers with disabilities," Rob Sinclair, director of the Accessibility Business Unit at Microsoft, said in a statement.

"The AIA is an opportunity for the entire industry to come together to reduce the cost and complexity of accessibility, increase customer satisfaction, foster inclusive innovation and reinforce a sustainable ecosystem of accessible technology products."

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