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Microsoft and University of Illinois Launch Accessibility Lighthouse Program

6/4/2018 11:16:22 AM

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is partnering with Microsoft on a new program to promote digitally accessible classrooms, encourage the creation and use of accessible software, and provide a pipeline to careers in technology for Illinois students who have autism.  Microsoft is investing $200,000 into the Accessibility Lighthouse Program, which launches today and will run through June 2019. 

The funding will go towards building a fully outfitted, digitally accessible classroom using Microsoft tools; increasing the number of CS students who can make accessible software; and supporting the use of digitally accessible tools across campus. The program will also help to build a clear path for students with autism to pursue STEM careers and increase the hiring pipeline of these students to Microsoft.

“The University of Illinois has long led the way in enabling students with physical disabilities to fully participate in college life and obtain university degrees. Our intention in partnering with the university is to enable it to aspire to be a lighthouse to students with a broad range of disabilities by exploiting the growing advances in digital accessibility,” said Harold Javid, a University Relations Lead for Microsoft.

CS Teaching Professor Lawrence Angrave
CS Teaching Professor Lawrence Angrave
In the Department of Computer Science, the Accessibility Lighthouse Program will support work on Class Transcribe, an open-source project that “utilizes crowdsourcing to quickly, reliably and accurately transcribe college lectures.”  Starting this fall, the tool will use Microsoft Azure-based services to provide real-time lecture transcriptions and text-searchable lecture content.

"By partnering with Microsoft we'll be nurturing undergraduate and graduate CS majors with keen interests in developing software that supports accessibility features, and creating new learning experiences in both on-campus and online settings,” Computer Science Teaching Professor Lawrence Angrave said.

"Myself, students, and faculty at Illinois Computer Science are excited to partner with Microsoft on this. We're going to create the next generation of accessible classrooms and provide new learning experiences and opportunities for our students," Angrave explained, pointing to ClassTranscribe project as an example of how Lighthouse can be transformational.

The program is a collaborative effort between The Autism Program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the College of Applied Health Sciences including the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES), Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering, and the Department of Special Education in the College of Education.

For more information about the Accessibility Lighthouse Program, contact Rashmi Tenneti, Office of Corporate Relations, rtenneti@illinois.edu, 217-300-4754.