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The Trace R&D Center was formed in 1971 to address the communication needs of people who are nonspeaking and have severe disabilities. The Center was an early leader and innovator in the field that came to be known as "augmentative communication" (a term first coined by the Trace Center), co-founding the Waisman Center's Augmentative Communication Aids & Systems Clinic (CASC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As the personal computer emerged, the Trace Center became a leader in making computers accessible to people with all types of disabilities. In 1984, the Center served as a coordinator for the nationwide Industry-Government Initiative on Computer Accessibility. The computer design guidelines developed through this effort were used as the basis for many industry guidelines and accessibility standards.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the Trace Center worked directly with the computer companies to integrate disability access features into their standard, mass-market products. As a result of this work, disability access features are incorporated directly into most operating systems and environments today.
As technology became more pervasive in the workplace, education, entertainment, and daily living, Trace's research and development focused on universal design of information and communication technologies, so that they are more accessible and usable by elders and people with disabilities. Key accomplishments:
- Trace developed the first set of accessibility guidelines for Web content, as well as the Unified Web Access Guidelines, which became the basis for the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
- The Center's EZ Access® techniques have been implemented directly in public information systems and have influenced the development of more accessible ATMs, electronic voting systems, and phones.
- The Trace Center developed the accessibility features like Sticky Keys and Screen Magnification, and worked with Microsoft, Apple, and others to build these features into Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.