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PUBLIC AND PRIVATE INITIATIVES TO CREATE DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES September 21, 2000

-- Leading high-tech CEOs pledge to develop a corporate-wide policy on accessibility: In a letter to President Clinton, the CEOs of leading high-tech companies, including 3Com, Adobe, AOL, AT&T, Bell South, Compaq, eBay, Global Crossing, Handspring, Hewlett-Packard, Macromedia, Microsoft, NCR, PeoplePC, Qualcomm, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems, have committed to develop a corporate-wide policy on accessibility within six months. Currently, very few high-tech companies have such a policy. These policies will include "best practices" such as:

-- Training their workers to develop accessible products and services;

-- Giving their developers adequate resources to design accessible products and services;

-- Identifying and fixing accessibility problems in new versions of their hardware and software; and

-- Supporting research and development to improve the state-of-the-art of assistive technology.

-- Presidents of 25 of the nation's top research universities agree to expand research and education on accessibility: In a letter to President Clinton, the presidents of 25 of the nation's top research universities including University of California, University of Michigan, and MIT, have agreed to take a number of important steps to expand research and education on accessibility, including: ensuring that computer scientists and engineers receive training on accessibility; expanding the number of faculty who conduct research on accessibility; and ensuring that university online resources are accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the College of Engineering of the University of Wisconsin will create a new educational program on design and human disability that will involve the creation of additional tenure track faculty positions.

-- SmartForce, an e-learning company, will provide $20 million worth of free access to its online training material to at least 5,000 people with disabilities: SmartForce will donate $20 million worth of "e-scholarships" to people with disabilities, working in partnership with the Association of Rehabilitation Programs in Computer Technology at Western Michigan University. At least 5,000 people per year for the next three years will be able to get free access to on-line training in areas such as information technology and financial management. An online support center will provide e-testing and mentoring during the learning process.

-- President Clinton will direct his Cabinet to create a task force on Medicare/Medicaid coverage of assistive technology: President Clinton will direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other members of his Cabinet to form an interagency Task Force on Health Care Coverage of Assistive Technologies. Currently, the Medicare and Medicaid programs provide essential health coverage to nearly 12 million people with disabilities. The task force will be charged with examining existing Medicare and Medicaid coverage of assistive technologies, and making recommendations on how to best enhance such coverage in order to support independent living and employment for people with disabilities. This review is particularly important and timely because the historic Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act signed by President Clinton allows people with disabilities to maintain their Medicare and Medicaid coverage even after they return to work.

-- President Clinton will call on Congress to reauthorize AmeriCorps and will announce that AmeriCorps will today award $9 million in grants to support 1,200 AmeriCorps volunteers to help close the digital divide, including people with disabilities: AmeriCorps grants will support efforts by 1,200 AmeriCorps volunteers to help close the digital divide. AmeriCorps volunteers will be helping teachers learn how to use technology, staffing Community Technology Centers, and giving at-risk youth the skills they need to become technologically literate. Several of the projects focus on the needs of people with disabilities, such as a project in North Carolina that will give 300 blind and visually impaired students of all ages computer and Internet skills. This example of the work that AmeriCorps can do to close the digital divide will be cited by the President as a reason to reauthorize AmeriCorps and include an "E-Corps" component in the reauthorization. E-Corps will encourage the training of AmeriCorps volunteers in computers and technology in communities to help bridge the digital divide.

-- National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research will invest $2.5 million to expand partnership with industry to make World Wide Web accessible for people with disabilities: The Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) will provide $2.5 million in funding over the next 5 years to the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative at MIT. This initiative will develop guidelines to ensure that Web content and Web software is accessible for people with disabilities, and will educate developers about the importance of implementing these guidelines. This work is critical because the Web now provides access to over 2 billion pages of information, and is becoming increasingly important in the workplace, for electronic commerce, and for government services.

-- Department of Education will fund new partnership to make online learning accessible to people with disabilities: The Department of Education will provide a $1.8 million grant under the Administration's Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnership to a new initiative that will help make online learning accessible for people with disabilities. The project will be led by the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media and the IMS Global Learning Consortium. Industry partners include Blackboard, Inc., Educational Testing Service, Pearson Education, Sun Microsystems, PeopleSoft, and Saba Software. The project will impact the accessibility of online resources in all learning environments, including K-12 education, post-secondary education, and workplace training.

-- Department of Education will provide a $7.5 million grant to the Georgia Institute of Technology to increase the accessibility of electronic and information technology: The Department of Education will provide a 5-year, $7.5 million grant to the Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Rehabilitation Technology. This grant will provide training and technical assistance on universal design to technology manufacturers, product designers, and purchasers of information technology. It will also help improve the implementation of federal laws such as Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

-- The C.S. Mott Foundation will fund a "Task Force on Equal Access to Technology and Opportunity. With funding from the Mott Foundation, the Disability Network of Flint, Michigan, will create a one-year blue-ribbon commission that will bring together diverse sectors of society to address long-term challenges in the accessibility of information technologies. First, the Task Force will address the problem of affordability. Many people with disabilities are unable to afford basic computer technology and Internet access, let alone high-end and costly specialized assistive devices. The Task Force will explore financing mechanisms and strategies for building on the foundation of the Tech Act Projects. Second, the Task Force will focus on education and outreach to colleges and universities to help with improve the integration of accessibility and usability into academic curricula and university services. The Task Force will consist of 15-20 members representing industry, colleges and universities, technology experts, disability advocates, and government. It will meet four times over the coming year, issue a report, and develop model action plans for dissemination to different sectors of society.

-- Microsoft, Community Options, and other public and private partners will create a business incubator - with special emphasis on entrepreneurs with disabilities: Microsoft, Community Options, the New Jersey Community Loan Fund, the New Jersey Technology Council, the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners and other partners will create a business incubator targeted to low-income individuals, with priority given to people with disabilities. The New Jersey-based incubator will provide low-cost office space, customized technology support, and business planning expertise.

-- Sun Microsystems will partner with GNOME Foundation to make open source desktop software accessible for people with disabilities: Sun Microsystems will create a new accessibility lab that will make GNOME software accessible for people with disabilities. Sun is also committed to establishing a fund that will be able to accept contributions from companies and individuals to make open source software accessible for people with disabilities. GNOME is a free, open-source desktop environment that makes it easier for people to use Linux and other similar operating systems. Open source software may be freely distributed and modified by end-users.

-- President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities will announce expansion of High School/High Tech program to 4 new cities and 3 new states: The High School/High Tech provides opportunity for students with disabilities to explore exciting careers in science and technology. The program uses site visits, mentoring, shadowing, and paid summer internships to allow students to prepare for careers in scientific, engineering and technology-related fields. The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities has identified local partners that will expand High School/High Tech in 4 urban areas (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago) and 3 states (Col., Wisc., and Michigan).

-- CompTIA will partner with Compaq and National Cristina Foundation to provide scholarships and training for certification in IT jobs, with some resources targeted to people with disabilities: CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, will dedicate $1 million to create scholarships for the general population, including people with disabilities, to provide training for IT service and support positions. Compaq will match this commitment with $100,000 for scholarships targeted specifically to people with disabilities. In conjunction with these commitments, CompTIA is partnering with the National Cristina Foundation to develop a National Computer Re-Utilization Network to provide training organizations that serve teens, veterans, people with disabilities, and other under-served communities with re-furbished technology.

-- Department of Education will award a $2 million grant to strengthen Community Technology Centers, make them more accessible for people with disabilities: The Department of Education will award a $2 million grant to the "America Connects Consortium" to help create, improve and sustain Community Technology Centers through technical assistance. These centers provide access to technology and the skills needed to use it, typically to low-income families that do not have computers and Internet access. One of the consortium partners, the Alliance for Technology Access, will help the centers ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities and are meeting their needs. The Department of Education is already supporting or expanding 595 CTCs; President Clinton has proposed a $100 million budget initiative in FY2001 to create an additional 1,000 centers.

-- National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research will award $6.6 million in grants to create or expand state loan programs for assistive technology, bridge the digital divide for children: The Department of Education's NIDRR will award $3.8 million to six states to expand loan programs in 6 states: Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Utah. This program will increase the ability of people with disabilities to purchase assistive technology devices and services. NIDRR will also award a 4-year, $2.8 million grant to create the University of Kentucky Assistive Technology Research Institute to conduct research on assistive technology that has potential to help bridge the digital divide for children with disabilities.

-- NCR will provide free training on benefits of accessibility from a business perspective:

NCR is partnering with IDEAL at NCR and EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information) to create a workshop, "The Global Business Benefits of Designing Accessible and Usable Electronic and Information Technology." This workshop will be offered on-line to 400 participants free of charge.

-- Department of Commerce will help small community-based organizations provide Web-based services to people with disabilities: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Technology Opportunities Program will provide a grant to the Pangea Foundation, based in San Diego, California. The foundation will create Web-based templates that will make it easy for organizations to enter information in a format that is accessible to people with disabilities. People with disabilities will be able to find information on local services through a central clearinghouse on the Web in a format that they can use. The Administration has proposed tripling the budget for the Technology Opportunities Program from $15 million to $45 million so that the government can support creative uses of information technology for underserved communities.

-- Center for Applied Special Technology will develop improved version of Web accessibility tool with private sector support: CAST will upgrade its freely available tool for improving the accessibility of Web sites. The new version will have an improved ability to analyze the accessibility of web sites, and the ability to interactively repair problems that are found. Current sponsors include IBM, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Electric Foundation, Sun Microsystems, and HalfthePlanet.com.

-- The Colorado Computer Training Institute will sponsor the first annual Rocky Mountain Accessibility Internet Rally: CCTI will provide training to Web site developers to make them accessible to individuals with hearing, visual, learning or physical impairments. On December 2, web developers from participating companies will unveil those parts of their web sites that have been redesigned. On the same day, web designers will compete to develop accessible web sites for local non-profit groups. This replicated a successful Accessible Internet Rally organized by the Austin-based nonprofit, Knowbility.

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