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Microsoft makes accessibility model freely available

18 January 2008

Microsoft today committed to contribute its UI Automation specification to the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA), an engineering working group dedicated to making it easier for developers to create software, hardware and Web-based products that are accessible to people with disabilities.

The UI Automation specification describes Microsoft's latest accessibility framework technology, and will help developers include advanced accessibility functionality into implementations designed for use on any operating system.

"We want to do all we can to help advance the development of assistive technologies across all platforms and help a wider number of users access technology in their daily lives," said Norm Hodne, from Microsoft Windows Accessibility.

"By making Microsoft UI Automation freely available we hope to increase the accessibility of many information and communication technologies and to drive cross-platform interoperability."

UI Automation, a next-generation accessibility programming model that simplifies development and reduces costs for assistive technology (AT) developers as well as IT application developers who want to make their software compatible with AT products, such as screen readers for people who are blind.

UI Automation is available for Windows XP and Windows Vista and is built into the Windows Presentation Foundation. It offers developers a richer and more efficient way to convey user interface commands and behaviors to a person through their AT product.

As a member of the AIA, Microsoft agreed to grant a royalty-free license for any Microsoft patents necessary to implement required portions of the UI Automation Specification, as the specification may be modified and eventually published by the AIA. Companies also can implement the latest version of the UI Automation Specification, which is publicly available from Microsoft. The Community Promise that accompanies the UI Automation Specification permits royalty-free access to Microsoft patent claims necessary to implement required portions of both mandatory and optional parts of the UI Automation Specification.

The purpose of the AIA, formed recently by a coalition of the world's leading information and assistive technology (AT) companies, is to foster industry-wide collaboration aimed at reducing many of the barriers that people with disabilities frequently encounter when they try to access information and communication technologies, including websites.

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