University of Maryland


New IT Access Center Grant Awarded to Trace

September 29th, 2008

A five-year, $4.75 million Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center grant was awarded to the UW-Madison’s Trace Center by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. This funding will continue the Center’s broad program of research and development focused on improving accessibility of information technologies and electronic products.

The work funded by this grant will benefit people with disabilities by positively impacting their ability to use the technology products and online systems that are becoming essential to participation in work, education, travel, and the community. Of particular concern are people at lower socio-economic levels who are least able to afford assistive technologies, as well as those with more severe or multiple disabilities for whom a universal design approach to access is not sufficient.

The new RERC’s program has four focus areas:

  • Research on quantification of interface performance,
  • Research on pluggable alternate user interfaces,
  • Building access into the Internet for everyone, including people with disabilities, those who cannot read, and those with limited resources, and
  • Technology transfer and support of industry

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

Founded 37 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 severe disabilities. 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 20 years, the Trace Center’s research and development has focused on design of standard information and communication technologies so that they are more accessible for people with disabilities. Key achievements have included:

  • Accessibility features that are now built in to Windows, Macintosh OS, and other standard systems;
  • Interface techniques for making public systems like fare machines, ATMs, and electronic voting accessible for people with disabilities (now built into all U.S. Postal Service Automated Postal Centers and all new Amtrak Quick-Trak ticket machines);
  • Leadership and significant contributions to international accessibility standards (including Universal Remote Console standards and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

CONTACT: Kate Vanderheiden (608-265-4621;