“We want to do all we can to help advance the development of assistive technologies across all platforms and help a wider number of users access technology in their daily lives,” said Norm Hodne, Microsoft Windows Accessibility lead. “By making Microsoft UI Automation freely available we hope to increase the accessibility of many information and communication technologies and to drive cross-platform interoperability. We welcome the opportunity to work with other AIA members to extend the innovations we have built into UI Automation.”
Making Technology Accessible and Interoperable
The purpose of the AIA, formed recently by a coalition of the world’s leading information and assistive technology (AT) companies, is to foster industrywide collaboration aimed at reducing many of the barriers that people with disabilities frequently encounter when they try to access information and communication technologies, including Web sites.
To create accessible technology products today, developers work across multiple platforms, application models and types of hardware. To address interoperability issues arising from this current environment, the AIA is using a two-part strategy: First, the group is working to harmonize current technologies to interoperate more easily, reducing costs for developers and creating more usable products for customers. Second, it is working to create a unified accessibility model that will serve the entire industry.
Microsoft UI Automation: An Innovative Accessibility Model
UI Automation, a next-generation accessibility programming model, simplifies development and reduces costs for AT developers as well as IT application developers who want to make their software compatible with AT products, such as screen readers for people who are blind. UI Automation, which is available today for Windows XP and Windows Vista and is built into the Windows Presentation Foundation, offers developers a richer and more efficient way to convey user interface commands and behaviors to a person through their AT product.
“Microsoft UI Automation represents what the interface can do rather than how it is presented visually, making it easier for both the application developer and assistive technology developers to create rich experiences for their users, including people who are blind,” said Hodne, whose team develops UI Automation for Windows. “AT products built using UI Automation will require fewer updates and fewer customizations for specific applications, because they can intelligently interact with user interfaces and controls that have yet to be invented.”
About the Community Promise
As a member of the AIA, Microsoft has agreed to grant a royalty-free license for any Microsoft patents necessary to implement required portions of the UI Automation Specification, as the specification may be modified and eventually published by the AIA. Companies also can implement the latest version of the UI Automation Specification, which is publicly available from Microsoft. The Community Promise that accompanies the UI Automation Specification permits royalty-free access to Microsoft patent claims necessary to implement required portions of both mandatory and optional parts of the UI Automation Specification. The UI Automation Specification and Community Promise may be found at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/bb892133.aspx.