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Computing more accessible for disabled people

IBM makes computing more accessible to New Zealanders with disabilities

SeniorNet NZ first to use Web Adaptation Technology

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - 4 April 2006 – New Zealanders with visual and motor disabilities will have improved access to computers and the internet thanks to innovative technologies developed and donated by IBM.

IBM is donating its ‘Web Adaptation Technology’ to New Zealand not-for-profit organisations and today celebrated the availability of this software at a launch event held at Upper Hutt branch of SeniorNet New Zealand. The Minister of Disability Issues and Minister of Senior Citizens, Hon Ruth Dyson, as well as representatives from SeniorNet, were on hand to witness a demonstration of the software.

Web Adaptation Technology automatically enhances the readability of web pages, reduces visual clutter, makes the browser, mouse and keyboard easier to use, and can read text aloud. It also eases typing for people who have difficulty with a keyboard – users with tremors, arthritis or those recovering from a stroke – by detecting errors and automatically adjusting keyboard sensitivity to accommodate typing. Individual preferences can be saved so that web pages are adapted for that individual on any computer on a network using the software.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand indicate that people with disabilities are a significant part of New Zealand's population, accounting for one in every five people in 2001. More than 50% of New Zealanders over the age of 65 are living with a disability. Information about the experience of disability is becoming increasingly important as the population ages and the country strives to eliminate barriers faced by people with disabilities.

SeniorNet is the first New Zealand not-for-profit to use Web Adaptation Technology. The organisation’s national coordinator, Grant Sidaway, says his members will greatly benefit from using the IBM software: “Technology skills are needed to perform several basic tasks today, from gathering information to making purchases - and for some these tasks are more difficult than they need to be. Web Adaptation Technology will help us level up the playing field. We are over the moon that IBM has gifted this software to all SeniorNet Clubs in New Zealand and will be running short courses to help our members use it.”

IBM’s Corporate Community Relations Manager, Debbie Noon, says that IBM is committed to innovation across the community: “We know that having access to computers and the internet can be the key to social inclusion and employment. That’s why technologies like this are so important. We want to see people enjoy greater independence, access to information and services, and employment opportunities.”

Ms Noon says that IBM hopes to see the technology used more widely in New Zealand: “We’re making a great start with SeniorNet but we want to see this technology made accessible across the community. This is the sort of technology innovation that can transform the lives of those who might otherwise not be able to use computers and the internet.

Not-for-profit organisations wishing to access IBM's Web Adaptation Technology should contact Debbie Noon, IBM New Zealand's Community Relations Manager, at debbien@nz1.ibm.com.

ENDS

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