More web access for disabled users

Microsoft is introducing new software designed to help computer users with disabilities use the Internet.   MSN Explorer (not the same as Internet Explorer) is due later this fall. The company says the new package combines services and software with an interface that connects more easily to the Web.

For example:
· Users without a mouse can use shortcut keys on their keyboards to navigate around the screen.
· Internal connectors will work with screen readers, screen magnifiers and speech input devices for best results on MSN Explorer.
· The AutoComplete function will save keystrokes by matching previous websites. This is a boon to people who have difficulty typing.
· Settings will convert MSN Explorer menus so they are readable by a wide variety of accessibility aids.

According to Microsoft, the new system was built from the ground up with accessibility in mind.
The new software was tested by blind people at a Seattle institute. Their feedback helped in making modifications to improve the product for blind users.

More disabled users online
According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Intective, the Internet is having a greater impact on the lives of the disabled than on those without disabilities.
· On average, adults with disabilities spend twice as much time online as adults without disabilities.
· More adults with disabilities say the Internet has significantly helped them communicate and socialize.
So the ability to access the Web is of particular concern to users with disabilities.

“We realize the crucial role the Internet plays in the lives of people with disabilities, which makes it important for MSN Explorer to be compatible with a full range of accessibility aids,” says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s marketing vice president.

The preview version of the software is currently available in the United States. The final version of MSN Explorer designed for interface with disability aids is due later this fall.