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Computer for the blind in international spotlight

Kiwi computer for the blind attracts international attention

Auckland, New Zealand – Thursday, April 13, 2000 – Christchurch-based company, Pulse Data International Ltd, today unveiled the world’s first Windows-based portable computer for the blind.

BrailleNote features a unique Braille-based keyboard interface that enables the blind to use accessibility-enhanced versions of standard Microsoft software such as Windows, and Office. Along with a built-in modem and email package, BrailleNote helps blind people communicate and connect no matter where in the world they are.

Signifying the importance of the break-through to the international disabilities community, George Allen, of Microsoft’s international Accessibility and Disabilities Group, visited New Zealand today to give a global preview of this unique computing device together with Dr Russell Smith, Managing Director, Pulse Data International.

BrailleNote will be officially launched in Europe later this month with the help of New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark.

Dr Smith says BrailleNote has been in development for the past two years and its launch represents a major milestone for the company that has been developing technology for the vision impaired for the past 25 years.

“BrailleNote is the first computer which allows the blind to operate in a truly portable environment that is comfortable, easy to use and produces results that are indistinguishable from those created by a sighted person.

"This is one of those rare products that really helps the blind achieve real equality – allowing them to communicate and compete using the same tools the rest of the world uses.”

Dr Smith says Microsoft’s assistance in developing BrailleNote had been vital.
“Microsoft’s Accessibility and Disabilities Group worked closely with us to merge the interface and software into a seamless and interactive environment for the blind,” he says.

Microsoft New Zealand’s Managing Director Geoff Lawrie says BrailleNote is a Kiwi invention with international ramifications.

“BrailleNote will truly narrow the ‘digital divide’ confronting people with disabilities.

“It allows blind and visually impaired people throughout the world to work just as everyone else does - with a friendly and efficient interface to read and write documents and email, which can then be exchanged with any other PC user,” says Mr Lawrie.

Marcel Oates, Production Engineer of the Library Services for the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, was the first blind person in the world to be involved in the beta testing of BrailleNote.

“BrailleNote is the result of a lot of hard road testing – I know it’s going to be a major success with blind people around the world. It is a liberating product - finally, the blind can communicate and go online at any time, whereever we are,” says Mr Oates.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSDR”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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