Tuesday , October 27 2020

Microsoft is investing $ 2.5 million in CREATE, a new center for accessible technologies at the University of Washington

Martez Mott, left, a PhD student at the University of Washington Information School, works with Ken Frye at Provail, an agency dedicated to meeting the needs of people with disabilities, on smart touch technology. (Photo by the University of Washington / Dennis Wise)

The University of Washington is starting a new one Center for research and teaching on barrier-free technologies and experiences (CREATE) and Microsoft support the effort with an opening investment of $ 2.5 million.

Microsoft and the UW have long been united in a shared commitment to accessible technology and a world made more accessible by technology. With a management team from six campus departments at three different universities, CREATE will build on the existing work of the UW in the areas of education, research and translation.

"This is the next step in a long-standing journey to provide people with disabilities with accessibility and technological advances," said Microsoft President Brad Smith in a press release on Thursday. "UW has really embedded accessibility as part of their culture, and we are proud to support their next step to advance thoughtlessness and empower people with disabilities."

Microsoft and the university have been working together on the ground for more than a decade to drive innovation in accessibility research. This partnership has resulted in internship and career opportunities for students and ongoing research with the Microsoft Research Ability team.

According to UW, current projects include the development of audio-first representations of websites for intelligent speakers; Understanding how perception of job developers with software developers with autism can affect hiring decisions; Sign language recognition; and mental health.

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft. (Microsoft Photo / Brian Smale)

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft, told GeekWire that the journey at the technology giant and at the university was very similar, with the aim of considering accessibility as a cultural unit that was systematically integrated into the structure of each institution. She called the investment "child's play".

"There is such a swell and a need for it," said Lay-Flurrie. “We need more thought leaders for research investments when it comes to accessibility. If anything has brought this to light, it is the time we are living in. "

Regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Lay-Flurrie said it had made it clear how much we all depend on technology.

"When you think of people with disabilities, this dependency is even deeper," she said. "When important information is communicated, everyone should have access to it, be it in a weekly newsreel, on a website or in a document. It really made the need for an inclusive digital transformation clear."

The announcement comes a week later Global Accessibility Awareness Day and the publication of details about Microsoft Windows 10 is easier to see and use for people with visual impairments. Other technology companies are also addressing accessibility, as Google has announced, for example, that it will improve accessibility for wheelchair users a more striking detail in maps.

CREATE is led by the UW Faculty of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, the Information School, the UW School of Medicine, Mechanical Engineering, the Human Centered Design & Engineering and the Disability Studies Program.

It will build on current projects to prioritize and automate personalization. Transfer transportation to be accessible; Improving skills through wearable technologies; Development of integrative, intelligent systems and data sets; and do-it-yourself accessible technology production.

The hope is that Microsoft's investment in and confirmation of UW's work will stimulate additional investments from other partners. The current goal is to raise $ 10 million for CREATE to provide support for five years.

"The University of Washington has been a leader in the research and design of accessible technologies for many years," said Jacob O. Wobbrock, iSchool professor and first center co-director, along with Jennifer Mankoff, professor at Allen School. “Our faculty and students are incredibly motivated to tackle the difficult accessibility issues. With CREATE we can now face even greater challenges of working together in this area. "

Find out more about CREATE and the cross-campus interdisciplinary team that will lead it. And Read more about Jenny Lay-Flurrie and her job at Microsoft.

About Darrel Hodges

Darrel Hodges works as a computer technician at a technology company.

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