Trace Center awarded five-year, $5 million grant to improve access to information technologies

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Vanderheiden observes kiosk in use

Professor Gregg C. Vanderheiden watches instrumentation specialist Neal Ewers demonstrate software developed by the Trace Research and Development Center. (large image)

The UW-Madison’s Trace Center, based in the College of Engineering, was recently awarded a $5 million Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center grant with a focus on accessibility and usability of standard information and interface technologies by people with disabilities.

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research provided the five-year grant. The Trace Center is one of 22 Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers in the U.S. Each RERC has a unique focus, but all conduct research leading to technology advances that directly benefit people with disabilities.

The $5 million grant will fund development of innovative technological solutions for universal access to current and emerging information technologies to provide a seamless integration of multiple technologies used by individuals with disabilities in the home, community and workplace.

The Trace Center is affiliated with the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Industrial and Systems Engineering, and is an internationally-recognized leader in the field of technology and disability access.

Founded more than 30 years ago by a group of engineering students, the initial work of the center was to develop early communication aids for people whose disabilities limited their ability to speak or write. With the advent of personal computers, the center pioneered development of techniques for making standard computers accessible for people with a variety of disabilities.

Over the past 15 years, the Trace Center’s research and development has focused on design of standard information technologies and telecommunications so that they are more accessible for people with disabilities. Key achievements have included development of accessibility features that are now built in to Windows, Macintosh OS, and other standard systems, and development of interface techniques for making public systems like fare machines, ATMs, and electronic voting accessible for people with disabilities.