Microsoft commits to improving accessibility in New Zealand

Wednesday 21 December 2011, 8:24AM
By Microsoft New Zealand

Microsoft New Zealand has signalled an increased focus on accessibility solutions by making a significant donation to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) and announcing the availability of Microsoft Office add-ons for people with a hearing or vision impairment.

The donation of more than $1 million worth of software was made by Microsoft to help the RNZFB manage information about its members more effectively and encourage greater collaboration within the organisation. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and SharePoint 2010 are the key products being donated.

“We’re delighted with the incredible donation of software from Microsoft. We rely on the generosity of the public for around two thirds of our operating budget, so this contribution will go a long way in helping us continue to provide support to our members,” says RNZFB Chief Executive, Sandra Budd.

The Save as 'DAISY' add-on, which is now available, allows users with limited vision to convert files such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents into compatible software for Braille readers, as well as reading the file aloud and giving the user the option to save files in the DAISY format, converting them into an accessible multi-media format.

RNZFB Executive Director of Access, Innovation and Enterprise, Neil Jarvis says, “ensuring blind and partially sighted New Zealanders can enjoy the same experiences as everyone else when using technology is imperative."

“As a user of these add-ons, I’d like to thank Microsoft and Intergen for having the foresight to make accessibility a priority.”

Save as DAISY was developed by Intergen on the Microsoft Office platform, and the company has also developed the STAMP add-on for PowerPoint 2010, as well as the ButtercupReader web application – designed to assist people with a hearing impairment with web browsing.

“Accessibility is always central in our minds when developing software at Intergen. Our goal is to ensure everyone can benefit from technology, from anywhere (home, classroom or work). DAISY, STAMP and Buttercup add to the existing framework to improve functionality for those with disabilities,” says Chris Auld, Chief Technology Officer for Intergen.

The STAMP add-on allows users to add closed captions to audio files on Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and was developed to help people with hearing disabilities. STAMP can also be used to add subtitles to video files, and works in all the languages Microsoft Office currently supports around the world, including New Zealand English and Te Reo Māori.

"Information technology is becoming increasingly important in all aspects of life – education, work and social. We aim to ensure that everyone can access these tools and benefit from them, and add-ons like the ones announced today make this possible," says Mark Rees, Microsoft New Zealand's National Technology Officer.

The two add-ons join the first accessibility solution developed by Microsoft and Intergen. The two companies worked with the RNZFB to create the ButtercupReader, an add-on that allows people with a visual impairment to listen to talking books and web documents, which was launched in 2009. It is free, and can be added to any web browser with no additional software required.

The Save as DAISY add-on is available for Microsoft Office 2010 and Office 2003-2007, while the STAMP add-on is available on PowerPoint 2010, both and can be downloaded free of charge.

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