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Digital Opportunity for Americans with Disabilities

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Next stop on President Clinton's "Digital Divide" trip: Digital opportunity for Americans with disabilities (9/21/00)

TODAY, PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL CONTINUE HIS "DIGITAL DIVIDE" TRIP IN FLINT, MICHIGAN, WITH A FOCUS ON CREATING DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES: President Clinton will visit Flint, Michigan, as part of his ongoing initiative to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity for all Americans. The President will visit a Community Technology Center that will offer access to cutting-edge technology for people with disabilities and other members of the community. He will see 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; an online physics course that is accessible to people with disabilities; and electronic talking books that are accessible to people with disabilities.

PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL MAKE ANNOUNCEMENTS AS PART OF 5 KEY GOALS TO EMPOWER AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES IN THE INFORMATION AGE: At a speech at Mott Community College, the President will announce concrete actions by the Administration, companies, universities and non-profits to help ensure that people with disabilities are full participants in the Information Age by:

  1. Increasing the accessibility and usability of existing information and communication products and services for people with disabilities;
  2. Improving the state-of-the-art of assistive technology;
  3. Ensuring that existing efforts to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity are accessible to people with disabilities;
  4. Using information technologies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and
  5. Increasing access to technologies for people with disabilities who cannot currently afford it.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGIES: Ensuring that information and communications technologies are usable by the 54 million Americans with disabilities is critical, since it can increase their ability to participate in the workforce, allow them to gain new skills using online learning, and improve their quality of life:

  • Only 23.9 percent of people with disabilities had access to a computer at home, compared to 51.7 percent of those without disabilities (Department of Education, July 2000)
  • Only 31 percent of Americans with so-called "severe" disabilities are working (Census Bureau, June 2000)
  • 48 percent of adults with disabilities believe that the Internet has significantly improved their quality of life, compared to just 27 percent of adults without disabilities (Harris Poll, June 2000)


  • CEOs of over 45 high-tech companies including AOL, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems -- will pledge to adopt "best practices" on accessibility, such as training their workers to develop accessible products and services, and identifying and fixing accessibility problems in new versions of their hardware and software.
  • Presidents of 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 worth of free access to its online training material to at least 5,000 people with disabilities per year for the next three years.
  • President Clinton will create a task force to examine Medicare/Medicaid coverage of assistive technology.
  • Americorps will provide $9 million in grants to support 1,200 AmeriCorps volunteers to help close the digital divide, including projects that help people with disabilities.
  • The President will call on Congress to reauthorize AmeriCorps and include an "E-Corps" dedicated to bridging the digital divide.
  • The Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) will provide over $16 million in grants to promote the accessible information technology through research and loan programs:
    • $2.5 million, 5-year grant to the Web Accessibility Initiative to help ensure that the Web is accessible to people with disabilities;
    • $7.5 million, 5-year grant to Georgia Tech for a new center on universal design;
    • $3.8 million to expand or create loan programs for assistive technology in six states;
    • $2.8 million, 4-year grant for a University of Kentucky institute to conduct research on assistive technology for children

  • The Department of Education will provide $1.8 million for an initiative by the National Center for Accessible Media and industry to develop standards for accessible online learning.
  • The Mott Foundation will help establish a blue-ribbon commission to develop additional policy recommendations for expanding access to assistive technologies.
  • Microsoft, Community Options, and other partners will create a New Jersey-based business incubator with an emphasis on the needs of entrepreneurs with disabilities.
  • Sun Microsystems will create a lab to make free, "open source" desktop software accessible for people with disabilities.
  • The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities will expand its High School High Tech program to 4 new cities and 3 new states, including Michigan. This program allows students with disabilities to explore high-tech careers through site visits, mentoring and internships.
  • The Department of Commerce's Technology Opportunity Program will award a grant that will help small community-based organizations provide Web-based services to people with disabilities.
  • 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.

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