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I found a great article over in the Business and Technology section of the Seattle Times which really highlights how Microsoft is helping to change lives with Windows Vista.
The article is about a girl, Logan Olsen, who at 16 years old, suffered a brain injury which made tasks such as tying her shoes a challenge.
"Olson is on the computer constantly, typing out ideas, researching seasonal fashions and corresponding with writers and advertisers to assemble the upcoming premiere issue of a lifestyle magazine for young women with disabilities. But the loss of fine-motor skills means her fingers can't keep pace with her mind"
However, with the release of Windows Vista, and in particular, the Speech Recognition software included within Vista, Microsoft have made great strides in assisting people with disabilities. The article goes on to say that, on a recent visit to Microsoft, the now 21 year old Logan, had the chance to test the Speech Recognition software, and after only a brief setup, the system was recognising her words despite her speech impairment. The Speech Recognition is just one of dozens of features in Vista to make it easier for people with disabilities.
"Some 57 percent of U.S. computer users between 18 and 64 were likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology, according to a 2003 Forrester Research study commissioned by Microsoft"
In Windows XP, "Accessibility Options" are found under a green wheelchair icon in the computer's Control Panel which kept many who don't consider themselves disabled from finding things that could make their system easier and more comfortable to use however in Vista, the images are found in an "Ease of Access" center (See image at top), which uses everyday terminology to make things easier for the users to configures their settings for their machine and the explicit wheelchair icon has been replaced with stylized arrows and dashes, still in the basic shape of a wheelchair.
You can find out more about the accessibility in Windows Vista, by visiting this Microsoft webpage, or you can read the full Seattle Times article.
***** Update *****
There is also a brilliant post by James, entitled "I want my desktop to look beautiful, even if I can't see it" in which James conducts an excellent interview with a colleague of our's here at Microsoft UK; Saqib Shaikh, a developer in Microsoft Consulting Services. One of his main passions is accessibility for computers, because he's blind. Recently he's been working on some Windows Workflow Foundation projects which sound pretty cool. Make sure you take a look at the post, I know you will find it interesting. Nice one James. :-)