Posted by Laura Ruby 
Director, Accessibility Policy & Standards

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a field hearing last Friday in Washington, D.C, on broadband access for people with disabilities. The event, part of the agency’s efforts to develop a National Broadband Plan, included a technology exhibit of some of the options and programs available to improve accessibility.

Microsoft had an opportunity to demonstrate some of the enhancements in Windows 7 that make it easier for people to see, hear, and use a computer. These include the new lens mode and full-screen mode in Windows Magnifier; our resizable on-screen keyboard with text prediction, hover and scan modes; and new speech recognition and multi-touch technologies. We also showed how Microsoft’s Silverlight plug-in enables closed-caption support of HD streaming media and rich Internet applications.

Microsoft has long been committed to developing innovative accessibility solutions and to integrating accessibility into broader product planning, research and development, and testing. We’re also committed to improving the interoperability of our software with the hundreds of assistive technology products that third-party developers have created to work with Windows. These specialized hardware and software products provide additional accessibility features for those with significant vision, hearing, dexterity, language, or learning needs.

Microsoft works through organizations such as the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance and the Assistive Technology Industry Association to foster broad availability of solutions for people with disabilities, and to help drive down the cost and complexity of building accessible mainstream products.

We commend the FCC for focusing on the technology needs of people with disabilities. Its forums provide a great venue for dialogue among consumers, academics, industry and state and federal government agencies. We hope the FCC’s National Broadband Plan will promote robust choice and opportunity for people with disabilities.