Continuing the 12 gifts theme, I wanted to share some useful information and resources for accessibility. I read in PC Pro that Microsoft is one of the founding members of the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA), which also includes Adobe, Oracle, HP and Novell in its membership. One of the aims is to create a development standard which ensures that those using assistive technology - such as screen readers for the blind - can do so across all websites or applications.
There is currently no standard in place, meaning that those dependent on assistive technology are often forced to wait for upgrades before they can use the latest software. Among its initial efforts the Alliance will be establishing a set of keyboard shortcuts for users of AT, that will be uniform across all browsers. It is also seeking to extend current accessibility models, such as Microsoft UI Automation and IAccessible2 , to improve interoperability with current AT technology. The hope is that the collaboration will improve developer guidelines, tools and help create technologies with lower development costs.
That's a longer term goal - it's certainly not going to deliver anything in time for this Christmas. However, reading more on the AIA site, led me to the accessibility section on the Microsoft site (yes, I know I should already know about this, but given the millions of pages on microsoft.com, it isn't possible to know where everything is).
This section of the website contains information on accessibility across all of our products, with an index for specific products, as well as a number of guides and tutorials, including guides to accessibility by type of impairment, tutorials for accessibility in Microsoft products and a series of case studies featuring people with disabilities working in various industries. These case studies feature best practices and lessons learned, and highlighted to me a number of new ways that technology can support different users.