by Sam Ramji on November 08, 2007 10:05pm


Back in Windows 95, Microsoft made a major contribution to accessibility to computers for people with vision and hearing impairments: MSAA, or Microsoft Active Accessibility.  At that time it was an additional download, but from Windows 98 on this technology was built into the OS.

MSAA allows users to run screen readers, Braille devices, and other accessibility technologies that work across multiple desktop programs without requiring custom adapters for each program.  Back in 2000, Rob Sinclair, now our Director of Accessibility, published the architecture for MSAA.  It continues to be a core part of the OS in Windows Vista (detailed information here: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms788733.aspx )

Why am I talking about this?  It’s background for some work we’ve been developing with Novell to improve cross-platform accessibility experiences, which we’ve announced today – work by Rob Sinclair and Norm Hodne at Microsoft and Michael Meeks at Novell, along with our legal teams.

Update: See Michael Meeks' blog on the work here: http://www.gnome.org/~michael/activity.html#2007-11-09

The User Interface Automation (UIA) specification is an advanced accessibility framework, and we are releasing this to the community, including an irrevocable pledge of patent rights for anyone implementing the specification.  Novell will build a Linux implementation of the UIA and an adapter to make it work well with Linux accessibility projects.  This will mean an advance in interoperable accessibility.

We’ve already gotten great responses from the National Federation for the Blind in the U.S. and from Janina Sajka, the head of the Open Accessibility Work Group at the Linux Foundation.

It is great to see the industry coming together with specs, words, and code to build a better world for people with disabilities.

Cheers,
Sam