More MS news articles for June 2001

Bush kicks off new tech push for disabled people

6/19/01 10:40 AM
Source: Reuters
By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday kicked off a government effort to make computers and other technology friendlier to disabled workers and to improve government services and benefits for them.

In examples cited by the White House, government computers with sound would include captioning technology for the hearing impaired, and government Internet sites would be designed to accommodate people with disabilities.

"The brilliant graphics that add life to many Web pages can make it difficult for a visually impaired person to get the information he or she needs from a Web site. Video technology is turning many computers into television sets. Yet, without closed captioning, many see a picture and no words. And complex keyboard commands make it difficult for a person with impaired motor skills to tap a computer's full potential," Bush said in remarks at a Pentagon center where technology is developed for disabled workers.

There are an estimated 54 million Americans with some form of disability.

Touring the center, Bush leaned toward a computer demonstrating a high-accuracy voice-recognition program. He spoke his name, and "George Bush" popped up on the screen.

"The Internet brings a world of information into a computer screen which has enriched the lives of many with disabilities. Yet, technology creates challenges of its own," the president said.

Bush announced steps on Tuesday which dovetail with his campaign proposals for the disabled or implement new laws and court decisions. These are:

  • Allowing disabled people to make down payments on homes using federal low-income housing benefits that previously could be used only for rent. This three-year pilot program implements legislation passed last year.
  • Directing federal agencies to coordinate state efforts to provide "community-based" alternatives to institutionalization for disabled people.
The order stems from a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to place people with mental disabilities in community settings rather than institutions. Bush expanded the ruling by applying it to all Americans with disabilities.

Bush noted in his remarks that disabled people use computers and the Internet at half the rate of the non-disabled.

During his campaign, Bush proposed a "New Freedom Initiative" which included some of the steps announced on Tuesday and is aimed at increasing opportunities for the disabled.

In his February budget request for fiscal 2002, Bush also proposed spending to help small businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, expand research into technologies to help the disabled, offer financial assistance for buying devices that assist disabled people and develop new transportation programs.

Copyright 2001, Reuters News Service