Microsoft joins tech accessibility group

10 Dec 2007

A new industry alliance composed of leading global IT companies including Microsoft along with assistive technology firms today announced the founding of the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA), a group that aims to help developers create hardware, software and web services for people with disabilities.

Other founding members of the AIA include HP, Novell, Adobe and Oracle along with assistive technology firms including Ai Squared and QualiLife.

The group will begin work on four key areas: consistent keyboard access, interoperability of accessibility APIs (application programming interfaces), UI (user interface) automation extensions and Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite (ARIA) mapping through UI automation.

Consistent keyboard access will involve developing a standard set of keyboard shortcuts for web surfing that will work in any internet browser, whereas API interoperability simply means making it possible to transfer information between any of the existing accessibility models such as Microsoft’s UI Automation and IAcessible2.

UI automation extensions will mean that this assistive technology for users with disabilities will be able to adapt to new Web 2.0 or next-generation web interactivity.

By working on ARIA mapping through UI automation the group hopes to begin mapping information for richer, more interactive web accessibility experience for the physically disabled.

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

“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.”

By Marie Boran