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PR: Sun Announces Plans to Establish Accessibility Lab and Works with GNOME Foundation to Establish Fund

Sep 21, 2000, 19:35 (3 Talkback[s])

PALO ALTO, CA -- Sun Microsystems today announced it will establish an Accessibility Technologies Lab to work on technology development for people with disabilities. The lab will work to develop an assistive technologies framework for utilities, device drivers, and voice interaction capabilities for the upcoming GNOME 2.0--a free, open-source, and easy-to-use user environment. In addition, Sun also announced it will be working with the GNOME Foundation, an organization of open community developers and leading high-technology companies, to establish the GNOME Foundation accessibility development fund that will be used to provide grants for projects that provide research and that develop assistive technology for the GNOME user environment. This fund will be managed by the GNOME Foundation.

The announcements were made today in Flint, Michigan where President Clinton traveled to announce commitments that the Administration, companies, universities and non-profits are making to create "digital opportunity" for people with disabilities.

"The White House is delighted that Sun is working to make the GNOME open source user environment accessible," said Thomas A. Kalil, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Economic Policy. "The commitments that Sun and other companies and non-profit organizations are making today will help ensure that the 54 million Americans with disabilities are full participants in the Information Age."

"Sun Microsystems has always promoted the tenets of Universal Design, which hold that products, solutions, and services should be developed to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without adaptation or specialized design," said Marco Boerries, vice president and general manager of webtop and application software at Sun Microsystems, Inc. "Our help in making the GNOME user environment accessible to people with disabilities is simply a continuation of our desire to create accessible products and technologies. Through the formation of our new lab and establishment of the GNOME Foundation accessibility development fund, Sun is committed to building the tools and infrastructure to make it easy for the developer to deliver on the promise IT holds for people with disabilities."

Sun is establishing a Sun Microsystems engineering lab which will focus on the establishment and delivery of accessibility technologies. Sun's Accessibility Technologies Lab will work with the GNOME Community to establish a project which will deliver the design of the GNOME Accessibility Technologies Framework and deliver it into the GNOME user environment. This framework will provide developers with the necessary platform support to develop a wide range of products-- from Internet appliances to supercomputing desktop products-- that will be fully accessible to people with disabilities. The lab is scheduled to begin its work with the GNOME community before the end of calendar year 2000, with the goal of having the GNOME Accessibility Project available in GNOME 2.0.

"We will ensure that accessibility support is built right into the GNOME user environment so developers can easily integrate accessibility into all the applications they develop," continued Boerries. "Providing this integration makes it easy for developers to create a wide range of products, which ultimately expands the reach of computing and network services to everyone."

Sun will also be working with the GNOME Foundation to establish a fund that will be used to provide grants for projects that provide research and that develop assistive technology for the GNOME user environment. The fund will be administered by the GNOME Foundation, which will accept submissions for grants from corporations and individuals.

Later in the year, Sun is planning on sponsoring a summit meeting that will bring together experts, partners, and contributors to kick off the GNOME open source accessibility. This summit will focus on understanding the opportunities for developing and extending accessibility technologies for compting and the network. It will also run a workshop to establish coordination of the development projects. Leaders in the field of accessibility will be invited to participate.

About GNOME and the GNOME Foundation
The GNOME project has built a completely free and easy-to-use desktop environment, as well as a powerful application framework for software developers on Linux and other operating systems similar to the UNIX platform. The GNOME Foundation will provide organizational, financial and legal support to the GNOME project, and help determine its vision and roadmap. Present members include Compaq, Eazel, Free Software Foundation, Gnumatic, Hewlett Packard, Helix Code, Henzai, IBM, Object Management Group, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, TurboLinux and VA Linux. Collab.Net, the leading provider of collaborative software development services based on open source principles, is helping to organize the GNOME Foundation. GNOME is part of the GNU project, an effort to build a completely free operating system better known as GNU/Linux or Linux, which will be similar to the UNIX platform. Additional information is available at www.gnome.org.