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Telecommunications Access RERC Grant Awarded to Trace Center

The UW-Madison's Trace Center, in partnership with Gallaudet University, has been awarded a $4.25 million Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) grant with a focus on advancing accessibility and usability in existing and emerging telecommunications products for people with all types of disabilities. This five-year grant is provided by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

The Telecom RERC is a partnership between the Trace Center and Gallaudet University's Technology Access Program. It is one of 23 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 Trace Center is also funded as the RERC on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access.

A large part of this new center grant will fund research and development directly related to the rapidly emerging Voice over IP (VoIP) technologies and other IP-based systems, to ensure that they are accessible and usable by people with hearing impairments, blindness, and other disabilities. Other projects address emergency communication accessibility, problems faced by individuals using hearing aids or cochlear implants with digital phones, visual communication technologies, and phone accessibility and usability for people with cognitive impairments.

The RERC's research and development program addresses telecommunications accessibility along all three of its major dimensions: user interface, transmission (including digitization, compression, etc.), and modality translation services (relay services, gateways, etc.). In addition, the RERC provides technical assistance to government, industry, and consumers, and is in fact frequently called upon to provide expert testimony for the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Access Board, and numerous U.S. and international industry standards groups.

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

Founded over 30 years ago at the UW-Madison by a group of engineering students, the initial work of the Center was to develop early communication aids for people with disabilities that limited their ability to speak or write. With the advent of personal computers, the Center pioneered in development of techniques for making standard computers accessible for people with a variety of disabilities.

Over the past fifteen 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 standard technologies (including cell phones and public systems) more accessible and usable by people with all types of disabilities.

CONTACT: Kate Vanderheiden (608-265-4621)

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Trace Research & Development Center
College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
Room 2117 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing
4130 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742
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Tel: (301) 405.2043
Fax: (301) 314.9145
Trace Center