September 21, 2000
Today, as part of his Digital Divide tour, President Clinton visited a Community Technology Center in Flint, Michigan that will offer access to cutting-edge technology for people with disabilities and others in the community. The President announced new commitments by the Administration, businesses, universities and non-profits to help ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate in the Information Age. The visit is part of the Clinton-Gore Administration's ongoing effort to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity for all Americans.
HIGHLIGHTING THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGIES. For the 54 million Americans with disabilities, access to information and communications technologies is critical to their ability to participate in the workforce, gain new skills through online learning, and improve their quality of life. During his visit to the Disability Network technology center, the President saw demonstrations of advanced technologies such as an "Eyegaze System" that allows people with disabilities to operate a computer and send e-mail using only their eyes; speech recognition technology; and online college courses and electronic talking books that are accessible to people with disabilities.
TAKING STEPS TO EMPOWER AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES. The President announced 5 key goals for government and the private sector to ensure that people with disabilities can participate fully in the Information Age:
- Increasing the accessibility and usability of existing information and communications products and services for people with disabilities;
- Improving the state-of-the-art of assistive technology;
- Ensuring that existing efforts to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity are accessible to people with disabilities;
- Using information technologies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and
- Increasing access to technologies for people with disabilities who cannot currently afford it.
ANNOUNCING COMMITMENTS TO CREATE DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY. The President announced a series of public and private initiatives to create digital opportunity for people with disabilities, including the following:
- Over 45 high-tech CEOs will pledge to adopt corporate-wide "best practices" on accessibility;
- 25 of the nation's top research universities will agree to expand research and education on accessibility;
- SmartForce, an e-learning company, will provide $20 million of free access to its online training material to at least 5,000 people with disabilities per year for the next 3 years;
- President Clinton will create a task force to examine Medicare/Medicaid coverage of assistive technology;
- Americorps will provide $9 million in grants to help close the digital divide;
- The Department of Education will provide over $16 million in grants to promote accessible information technology, and $1.8 million for an initiative to develop standards for accessible online learning;
- Microsoft, Community Options, and other partners will create a business incubator with an emphasis on the needs of entrepreneurs with disabilities;
- Sun Microsystems will create a lab to make desktop software accessible for people with disabilities;
- The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities will expand their High School High Tech program to 4 new cities and 3 new states;
- The Department of Commerce will award a grant to help community-based organizations provide Web-based services to people with disabilities; and
- CompTIA will partner with Compaq and the National Cristina Foundation to provide scholarships and training for certification, with some resources targeted to people with disabilities.