More MS news articles for May 2000

Acessability .. Where we began and Where we are now! 1873-2000

The following was delivered by Janice Hertz, Director of Accessibility at Microsoft Corporation, at the CSUN 2000 keynote address.

Herman Hollerith, a young student whom experts now recognize as having had a cognitive processing disability, begins making a habit out of jumping from his second-story schoolroom window to avoid having to take his spelling lessons.

Herman Hollerith thinks of the idea to use punched cards to keep and transport information. This construction meant a great improvement as hand tabulation was projected to take more than a decade. They called this little invention the computer.

Herman Hollerith founds the Tabulating Machine Company.

The Tabulating Machine Company becomes known as International Business Machines (IBM).

The Readophone, an invention that reproduces literature and music on long-playing discs, is invented. The "Readophone Talking Book", is demonstrated to Dr. Herbert Putnam, librarian, and to Dr. H.H.B. Meyer, director, Project, Books for the Blind, Library of Congress.

The American Foundation for the Blind publishes the first issue of the Talking Book Bulletin.

National Bureau of Standards develops specifications for a low-cost and reliable talking-book machine for the blind.

In support of the quest to develop more reliable, powerful, flexible, smaller, cheaper, cooler-running, and less power-consuming hearing aids, John Bardeen, along with his fellow associates William B. Shockley and Walter H. Brattain, all Bell Labs scientists, invent the transistor. Sony is not convinced that this is the best use for the transistor and acquires a license for the technology for $25,000, and later invents the transistor radio.

Deaf orthodontist Dr. James C. Marsters of Pasadena, California ships a teletype machine to Deaf scientist Robert Weitchrecht in Redwood City, California. Marsters requests a way to attach it to the telephone system so that phone communication could take place.

Vinton Cerf develops the host-level protocols for the ARPANET. ARPANET was the first large-scale packet network. Cerf, hard of hearing since birth, married a lady who was deaf. Cerf communicated with his wife by using text messaging. Cerf stated, "I have spent, as you can imagine, a fair chunk of my time trying to persuade people with hearing impairments to make use of electronic mail because I found it so powerful myself." Had it not been for this experience, Cerf may not have used text messaging to the extent that he did, and he may not have integrated e-mail as part of the functionality of ARPANET, the precursor to Internet.

Ray Kurzweil and his team at Kurzweil Computer Products create the Kurzweil Reading Machine and the first omni-font OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology. They did this work in support of individuals who are blind.

Voice indexing is used for the first time in the talking book, Access to National Parks: A Guide for Handicapped Visitors by the Library of Congress.

Ray Kurzweil develops the first music keyboard with acoustic sound. The inspiration for this came, in part from a conversation he had with Stevie Wonder, who had been a user of the Kurzweil Reading Machine for the blind.

EasyAccess appears on the Macintosh.

Retail Point-Of-Sale (POS) devices begin to use picture-based keyboards (mostly fast food restaurants). This technology was originally developed in the mid-60's to enable people who were unable to speak to use a keyboard, computer, and speech synthesizer to speak. Today, picture-based keyboards are enabling retail establishments to employ individuals who, for one reason or another, were unemployable 10 years ago.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all telephones, required to be accessible, are to be equipped with a volume control and/or a shelf, and outlets to accommodate Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf. This includes a phone jack and a power plug. Cranking up the volume on an accessible phone makes it usable for everyone in a noisy environment. Another benefit of the ADA is the lowering of pay telephones so that wheelchair users can access them. Because of this mandate children are now able to access these same phones. They can even reach and read the phone books!

National Federation of the Blind establishes a dial-up, synthetic-speech talking newspaper, making a daily newspaper available to blind people by 6:30 a.m. on day of issue for the first time.

Microsoft Windows 95 comes with built-in Accessibility Options.

Productivity Works develops, pwWebSpeak, a browser that translates information content from Web pages into speech.
This great new technology can provide Web access to anyone in eyes-busy environments.

Microsoft Active Accessibility 1.0 ships.

NCR Corporation develops the world's first Audio ATM designed to provide access to banking for blind and visual impaired
people. The Audio ATM has the potential to allow more than 50 million people around the world who are have visual impairments, as well as 1.4 billion people who can neither read nor write, have comfortable access to self services when and where they need it.

Nokia releases LPS-1 Loopset. Hearing aid users have newfound mobile freedom with this new device. Based on induction technology, the Loopset allows hearing aid users to talk on digital mobile phones.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) releases their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines specifications. These specifications demonstrate how to develop graphical Web pages that have the ability to present their full message with the browser's graphics display turned off.

Microsoft Windows 2000 ships with Active Accessibility and built-in Accessibility options installed automatically on every system.

March 22, 2000
CSUN is held in Los Angeles, California. You - the greatest minds in the entire accessibility/disability world, and the greatest adaptive hardware and software products ever - make history.

The information provided above was originally printed in an article by Steve Jacobs, Director, Association of Access Engineering Specialists.

Last updated on April 19, 2000
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